What Science Can And Cannot Do For Bioethics

How many times have I heard the clump-of-cells argument? Many times. How often have I seen, or read, people liken the fetus to a liver, a cancer, or an impersonal mound of tissue? Many times. The argument to dehumanize the fetus is still popular, though I think only popular, and not scholarly.

The recent past has shown me, as Matt Chandler and others have expressed, that though science be on the side of the pro-life movement, it hasn’t actually won much for us. Even though it is known within the pro-abort camp that the pre-born fetus is a human being, a living child, pro-choicers continue to suppress the truth that the child, born or pre-born, regardless of ability, age, or size, possesses the same value, the same dignity and the same fundamental rights that we do. The science of modernity and the revelations of embryology have not ultimately swayed a liberalized, progressive, hard-left nation.

In fact, let us ruminate over the meaning of hard-left. I always hesitate to use left-or-right political labeling dichotomies — there’s an infinite number of moral, philosophical and political positions we deprive people of by sticking to simple, easy group labeling and this leads to attacking straw men — but in this case there’s value in understanding what some would call a hard-left mentality. In Canada, especially, with Trudeau at the helm, if one does not agree on every area of ethics, your rights are limited. You cannot express opinions everywhere, all the time, if you differ from the Left on sexual ethics or bioethics.

Recently, for example, parents in Alberta were denied adoption because they disagreed with the government’s stance on sexual ethics and gay marriage. The couple were Christians. Scripture has clear teaching on sexual ethics and what are right expressions of sexuality and what are wrong expressions, though some would disagree. The couple were simply following what they believed. Yet, the court deemed they could not adopt because they are individuals who would supposedly (I’m inferring) endanger the kid if (all this for an “if”?) he or she is gay and they have a definite position on what is right and wrong. Even though the parents said their beliefs about sexuality do not obstruct their tenet that all people deserve respect, that their beliefs would have “no bearing on their ability to provide a loving, secure and happy home to a child”, still, their beliefs disagree with the “official position of the Alberta government”. And so they can’t adopt. If one disagrees with the government, one can’t adopt. The same left-leaning folks tend to accuse pro-life people of not doing enough to adopt. And yet, adoption is impossible unless one agrees with the left-leaning powerful on everything. “Right to choose.” “Don’t force your beliefs on me.” Ho hum.

Really, the science of abortion, while having the capacity to really sway a person who is undecided about the matter and to demonstrate the physical reality (zygote’s genetic individuality, evidence of life, torn limbs, crushed skulls, and so on), the science takes a back seat once we are engaged with the hard-left mentality. We enter that difficult realm of ideology. It is no longer about what the physical reality is, but about values, rights, identities, circumstances, morals, and choices — ideas and abstract things. Things that really direct a mind to act. The hard-left insists that the rest jump board with its sweeping progressive narrative (characterized by self-determinism, the subjective reality of morals, all inclusiveness, religious pluralism (yet belief always kept inside), feminism and socialism), despite forcing the religious to abandon their faith in doing so, or else. It’s like the unification of church and state all over again, if liberalism were a religious institution.

(Keep in mind, I don’t disagree with the Liberal on everything and I don’t think liberal ideas are necessarily bad ones. Liberal progressives are usually good at pointing out major moral deficiencies in our culture. However, my estimation is that the progressive worldview rests on too many internal contradictions and double-standards to be tenable or offer any meaningful solutions.)

The point of all of this is to suggest that science, math, and logic can easily change minds but rarely changes hearts. And so often the mind waits for the heart to move first, with the science and logic kept waiting at the door. The battle, thus, is one of presuppositions and prejudices. The area of bioethics is a fascinating one to me because it combines science with moral decision-making and I love thinking about these things. But it seems to me that in talking about abortion or euthanasia or genome editing or anything else, the science is a red herring. At least some of the time. Really, it’s about values. It’s about grounding oneself in some moral framework in order to make those decisions. Do all human beings share the same value? Do certain actions violate that basic dignity of the person? Does personhood even exist? Science doesn’t even begin to get there.

Photo retrieved from bioethics.com/general.

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