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5/25/2005

Compassion

Recently I posted on the silliness and hypocrisy of the Right's opposition to stem-cell research. Reader Dan B. commented:
It just burns you up for the president to be compassionate on an issue.
To which reader Becky Dagley gave the appropriate reply:
It isn't compassionate to forsake the many ill people who will benefit from research on embryos that would otherwise be trashed anyway.
The opposition to stem-cell research really shouldn't even be a live issue; it should serve as a reductio ad absurdum regarding the anti-abortion view. But regardless, the idea that opposition to this research is 'compassionate' simply serves as a demonstration that some people don't understand what compassion is. Presumably, one can only be 'compassionate' towards some kind of conscious, person-like entity--a human, a dog, a cat, a mouse, etc. Hell, throw fish and bugs in there if you want. But can you be 'compassionate' to an embryo?

This image, via Bob Freedland, is a three-day-old embryo, which is the type usually used in stem-cell research:



Can one be compassionate to that thing? (The image, of course, is many times magnified.) That thing doesn't have feelings. It doesn't have awareness. It's not a 'baby'. It is literally a clump of cells. The idea of being compassionate to it is almost as absurd as that of being compassionate to a booger.

On the other hand, as Becky points out, there are actual, real people who could greatly benefit from this research. Doing everything possible to help these people--people suffering from diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, burn victims, quadriplegics--that would be compassionate.

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