On Using Godwin’s Fake “Law” To Silence Ethical Debate

Godwin’s Law ought to be enshrined next to Newton’s Laws or Kepler’s Laws for all posterity. For the uninitiated, Godwin’s Law states, “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” The concept was devised by Mike Godwin in 1990 and officially codified into law in a Wired article in 1994. Since then, the evidence for this law has only gotten stronger.

Because of the unquestioned veracity of Godwin’s Law, it is perhaps inevitable that a journalist will, eventually, be compared to a Nazi.

via RealClearScience

Let us start with what ought to be obvious: Godwin’s “law” is not a law. It is an Internet joke that was funny the first few times you heard it, then started getting kind of annoying.

If someone is comparing you to a Nazi for frivolous reasons, don’t “call Godwin’s Law”, the way a five year old “calls” the front seat as he and his sister race for the car. Confront them! Trivializing the Holocaust is a serious thing, and you should make that case forcefully.

But this is not an obviously frivolous comparison. It might or might not be correct or “right” or “valid” or “legitimate”, but the author absolutely intends to make the case that the new “good” eugenics is not different in kind from the old “bad” attempts to control that which is currently viewed as beyond mankind’s control.

It’s a serious argument. It raises valid questions. Are we prioritizing the “purity” or “health” of the race is prioritized over the rights of individuals? Are we overreaching, using, exploiting, seeking to take more than we’re actually able to handle? Do we know what we’re doing? Are some of us going to benefit at the expense of others?

Are we compromising ethics in the same way that Nazi scientists did – and for similar reasons?

That argument deserves better than playground taunts about Godwin cooties.

A man voices opposition to reckless human experimentation on ethical grounds, and the science guy spews forth a stream of emotive invective laced with ad hominem attacks. Raise a question about the proper use of an applied science, and you don’t have a legitimate avenue of discussion. You are anti-science. But are you?

from Celebrate Life Magazine

Really, what this is about is whether a parent has the right to a “perfect” child – or whether society has reason to demand that action be taken against the birth of imperfect children before birth – even if that means stealing something of value from the child in order to “give” something of value to the parents, or to the larger society – or to the scientists who have the most to gain (while of course they aren’t the ones taking any of the risks).

The stakeholders differ – parents, not “The State”, are viewed as the ones who can and should decide when it’s justifiable to experiment on one’s own descendents. But this distinction is not significant from a logical point of view. It is only significant – very significant – from an emotional point of view, because we idealize parents and we don’t like to think about even the possibility of a conflict of interest between what a parent wants and what a child might want or need or have reason to value.

And the language is changed; we use language that suggests the child is the beneficiary. This is how our culture handles the taboo regarding the conflict of interest between parent and child that isn’t supposed to exist.

The only way to honestly balance the rights of all stakeholders is to do just that: balance the rights of all stakeholders. After taking out the exaggerated promises of success, and the equally exaggerated tendency to minimize (or outright deny) risk, what would a child in such a situation want?

I was an IVF baby. Given this intimate connection with technology and test tubes, you might think I’d be a cheerleader for all developments in the field. But a new technique under consideration has broad and troubling implications, not only for hopeful parents-to-be and their potential future children, but for all of humanity.

This new technique, called mitochondrial replacement or “three-parent IVF,” would make genetic changes to IVF embryos and thus to every cell of the children born as a result of it. And these changes would be passed down to future generations. Human inheritable genetic modification of this kind is currently prohibited in over 40 countries and by several international agreements due to numerous problems and concerns. But proposals that would break this long-respected international consensus are now under consideration in the United Kingdom and the United States.

The goal of the new technique is, in one sense, the same as with all IVF procedures: to allow parents to have an (at least partially) genetically related child. But mitochondrial replacement requires genes from three people, and a biologically radical process to combine them. It is being proposed for a small number of women who suffer from a particular kind of severe mitochondrial disease (many kinds are actually caused by nuclear DNA, which this procedure would do nothing to help.) The idea is that replacing the unhealthy mitochondria in an affected woman’s egg with the healthy mitochondria of a donor’s egg could produce a disease-free child (that could have Dad’s eyes and Mom’s bone structure).

It’s an enticing story, and some insist that the technique should be made available as quickly as possible. Unfortunately for the families whose hopes have been raised, the feel-good story of a “life-saving treatment” covers up critical safety and efficacy problems, and hugely important social and ethical considerations.

On the safety front, there are a number of concerns for the women involved….

…There are also profoundly worrying safety and efficacy concerns for any resulting children, which a growing number of scientists are speaking up about.

This ethical dilemma would only be compounded by the fact that an effective, less invasive option already exists.

via Huffington Post (emphasis mine)

It cannot be argued that it is self-evident that any child would want to be experimented on in such a way.

And there is the conflict. Do we value some concept of scientific knowledge and/or genetic purity as a good in its own right, engineering perfect humans as an inherent good, or do we value the rights of people – all of whom are currently born imperfect, as measured against the current and future ideals of those who would “improve” us all?

Here is the quotation that caused all the trouble:

The empirical sciences don’t speak to principles of right and wrong. Those must be supplied by the human practitioners of science, or short of that, people of conscience with the moral clarity and will to hold them accountable. The conflict between Smith and Berezow, then, was not a case of anti-science versus science, but of science informed by conscience and directed for human good versus science barreling on, ignorant of good and evil. That kind of science was to novelist Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; to Lewis, The Abolition of Man; and to Jews in Nazi Germany, the death camps of Buchenwald and Auschwitz.

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“Caesar, Coercion, and the Christian Conscience: A Dangerous Confusion”

Those pushing for the legalization of same-sex marriage are relentless in their insistence that these bills would violate the civil rights of same-sex couples. They brilliantly employed arguments from the civil rights in their push for same-sex marriage, and they now employ similar arguments in their opposition to bills that would protect the consciences of those opposed to same-sex marriage. They claim that the rights of gays and lesbians and others in the LGBT community are equivalent to the rights rightly demanded by African Americans in the civil rights movement. Thus far, they have been stunningly successful in persuading courts to accept their argument.

That sets up the inevitable collision of law and values and Christian conviction.

via AlbertMohler.com

The problem, of course, is that it’s a lie. The idea that gay marriage = interracial marriage*, I mean. It’s a knowing, deliberate, sleight-of-hand “let’s pretend gay is a color and make that our logo” sort of lie. It’s a lie meant to confuse passive with active, “to be” with “to do”, racial rights with disability rights with religious rights – because of course the entire argument for same-sex marriage is based on gays skimming the best of all three (racial, religious, and disability rights) while rejecting the constraints of each type of legal right.

And it’s so in-your-face illogical. Putting aside the obvious – that there was never a compelling reason why the government should value separation of the racial gene pools – I think it’s very insulting to blacks that gay rights advocates choose to piggyback on their arguments

But blacks were able to prove that there is no significant or relevant difference between black and white skin. Gays can’t prove either that men are the same as women, or that same-sex couples are the same as hetero couples. How could they? They already have equality**; what they really want is not equality of opportunity but equality of outcome** – that is, they want accommodations, which is why I think their argument should rightfully be classed not as a racial argument but as a disability claim***.

The problem, of course, is that disability claims necessarily involve clashing rights – which is probably why gay marriage advocates are so intent on minimizing and justifying the horrible things they’re doing to the children they’re using (children are the real civil rights victims here), and of course demonizing and “Othering” anyone who objects to the lies.

does this baby make me look straightBased upon their biblical convictions, they do not believe that a same-sex wedding can be legitimate in any Christian perspective and that their active participation can only be read as a forced endorsement of what they believe to be fundamentally wrong and sinful. They remember the words of the Apostle Paul when he indicted both those who commit sin and those “who give approval to those who practice them.” [Romans 1:32]

___________________________________________

* If it were true, why wouldn’t pedophile marriage = interracial marriage? Yes, that’s a slippery slope – but isn’t that precisely the point?

**Nobody is checking for ‘gay genes’ before issuing marriage licenses. They are not being discriminated against based on a passive trait. They are demanding rather that they be allowed to cherry-pick rules, for the purpose of accommodating their disability – yes, disability: it is only their sexual defect that justifies their claim that it can somehow be ethical to use a member of the opposite sex for breeding purposes, then “transfer” custody of the child to a third party. Ordinarily, the only time custody can be transferred is when doing so is in the child’s best interest – but, let’s be honest: we don’t pressure little kids into the “two mommies” fantasy mythos because it’s in any way good for the kids. But, of course, we all know everyone is lying when we pretend that marriage “is not procreative” – because, of course, if gays really believed that marriage “is not procreative”, then there would be no reason for any child to ever be bullied into confusing real with fake, parent with stepparent, male with female.

***Which also explains why they insist their lives are miserable – so much so that gay  teenagers need to be sheltered from ever hearing certain words so powerful that it will drive them to suicide – even as they simultaneously hold themselves to be “proud”. Of course it cannot be both; they cannot both be as powerful as they claim and yet as fragile and needy as they demand we recognize them as. But it’s clear that, while they want the accommodations that go with disability law, they do not want the constraints that normally accompany such accommodations. Imagine if every bodily defect granted the victim a right to write one’s own list of “necessary” accommodations, and we see why “gay rights” so often seems drunk on its own power.

A Step Forward in Mass-Manufactured Human Beings

Cutting-edge research around the world will soon launch a new era in human procreation – a world in which embryos can be ‘brought to term’ in artificial wombs, replacing traditional pregnancies.

via IEET

And rendering women superfluous. What was that about men being obsolete?

Babymaking will move further from being a human activity to being a mere manufacturing process – the Industrial Revolution meets “biological colonialism“.

The question of manufacturing human beings via industrial processes is addressed in the IEET article:

However, ethicists voice concerns that this technology could endanger the very meaning of life. Mother-child relationships, the nature of female bodies, and being ‘born’, not ‘made’ all play a role in defining how most people around the world view this magical state of existence called life. Artificial wombs will enable both men and women to reproduce entirely alone, removing intercourse from the reproductive equation.

But proponents believe people will reason, “Why risk gestating the baby in a biological womb, when this new science can produce a child with our exact genetic makeup, perfect personality, and zero flaws.

We are already seeing ethical questions coming from the use of surrogates – for instance, people who would not be able to find and marry an appropriate mate are using artificial reproduction technologies to bypass that problem, putting children into the hands of people such as the infamous case of the Israeli pedophile who contracted with an Indian surrogate mother (and the Israeli government has no power to remove the child, but must wait until there is evidence of harm).

We are already at the point where people are literally suing doctors who allow imperfect babies to be born. As we define what it means to have “perfect” personality and “zero” flaws, we will confront the question of whether there is in fact any difference at all between having “ideals” vs. merely “following fashion”.

When all the Down’s, autistic, and “sick” kids are removed from the gene pool, will that be enough? No – already there are those who define being too short, tall, skinny, fat, etc. as “flawed”.

Do we really want an entire planet full of people who look like Britt Ekland (circa 1978)? And when we have that, are we going to experience monocropping failures?

Harsh Words

It’s important to note that Woody Allen was never prosecuted in this case and has consistently denied wrongdoing; he deserves the presumption of innocence. So why publish an account of an old case on my blog?  Partly because the Golden Globe lifetime achievement award to Allen ignited a debate about the propriety of the award. Partly because the root issue here isn’t celebrity but sex abuse.

via NYTimes.com.

It’s obvious why the NYTimes is writing about this now.

Because they are hoping to circumvent the part about a fair trial.

Some people believe that, trial or no, Woody Allen should be presumed guilty – enough so to preclude him for winning career awards. He should be shunned from society.

The case could be made that this is true: Woody Allen’s relationship with the girl who eventually became his wife could be the basis of such a claim.

But sex abuse charges from people who refuse to take it to court are not.

If you want this thing public – and you want him shamed – then you’ve got to do it via due process; you can’t use your as-yet-unproven status as victim to circumvent his right to testify on his own behalf & face his accusers.

It isn’t that I like or approve of Woody Allen. I think he’s despicable.

And it isn’t that I approve of what he did, or even doubt his guilt. I’m sure he’s guilty of doing something slimy, and I heartily disapprove of doing slimy things to children.

But if you have the chance to put a criminal behind bars, and you don’t want to do it – you don’t want to face questioning; you don’t want your details to be made public; you don’t want the accused to have a chance to defend himself – then you don’t have the right to banish this person just on your say-so.

That right goes hand-in-hand with the right to endure cross-examination.

Even if you’re a crime victim.

Also: someone needs to tell Dylan Farrow’s mom that it’s unhealthy to obsess over the past, and it’s even more unhealthy to use one’s kids as weapons against one’s ex-husband. If the Farrow family wants justice, there’s only one right way to go about it, and it doesn’t involve using a son and a daughter in ways that are guaranteed to wreck everyone’s life – not just his but all of yours.

Revenge is the temptation of evil. It is different from justice. That’s exactly why due process was invented in the first place. If you want revenge, leave me out of it & take your public spectacle somewhere else.

“Belgian Senate to vote on child euthanasia next week”

Far from affecting only the terminally ill or the person in extreme suffering, euthanasia has become a free-for-all.

Consider recent cases that have shocked the world. There was a transsexual euthanized after a sex change operation, because he didn’t want to be a monster. Belgian twins were euthanized, not because they were suffering or dying, but because they were going blind. And at least two women suffering from mental illness – anorexia and depression – have been killed as well. These are just the stories that have made international news.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that the Belgian Senate is going to be voting on a bill next week that will allow the euthanasia of children, where it is expected to pass.

via Live Action News.

“New York Times writer mourns her friend’s lost opportunity to abort her child with Down syndrome”

Since October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Jane Brody wrote a piece for the New York Times detailing advancements in prenatal testing. And while I’ve spoken multiple times about not blaming prenatal testing for the disgustingly high Down syndrome abortion rate, the two will seemingly always be linked. Brody’s article serves as a perfect case in point: she starts off her piece lamenting that a friend of hers was not given the choice to abort her child with Down syndrome.

via Live Action News.

How sick is it to use “Down Syndrome Awareness Month” to talk about aborting people with Down Syndrome? Are people genuinely not aware that killing off a population is not the same thing as “curing” or “fixing” them? (Are they going to “fix” poverty the same way? What about obesity? Drug addiction? Do people have a moral obligation to be perfect enough to qualify for membership in our society? Is that really a precedent we want to be setting?)

We need more stories like this one:

 

“Does Faith = Hate?”

Will religious conservatives be seen as no better than racist bullies in the emerging settlement? Despite what you haven’t heard—the news media’s silence on religious liberty threats from same-sex marriage is deafening—this is not slippery-slope alarmism. The threat is real.

via The American Conservative.

What is the nature of kinship? Is it biological ties, or is it something you can “choose”?

People cite adoption,  but nobody “chooses” adoption. Adoption is based on the idea of finding the best possible home for a child who, for whatever reason, has no home. There’s no choice. There’s just what’s right or best – a value judgment.

But forcing everyone to embrace gay unions as equal to marriage does not mean, as gays insist, that marriage “is not procreative”. They have no intention of marrying their lover while raising their child with the child’s real other parent. They intend to take the child away from its real other parent and give it to their lover, because marriage is procreative. Example: in the courts Miller v. Jenkins, the courts upheld that Janet Jenkins being married to Isabella Miller’s mother means that Janet “is” Isabella’s other parent, because one of the benefits of marriage is the right to be presumed the parent of your spouse’s child. (Of course, traditionally that came with an obligation to refrain from adultery….)

People insist that the debate must be phrased in terms of equality for gays – specifically, in terms focusing on equality of outcome; gays deserve whatever it takes to make them as happily married as any other couple. That distinction is deliberately downplayed, but it is crucial, because it is biology that discriminates against them in this, not man. Giving them whatever it takes necessarily means taking away from others. We’re not talking about taking away artificial laws that are designed to be mean to a group of people for no reason; we’re talking about adding new stuff designed to compensate for biology’s cruelty. Fertility coverage for gays is already law in California, and multiple states are now teaching schoolchildren that ‘children can have two mommies’. That is not equality of opportunity. That is what disability rights law calls accommodations. Unlike most disability claims, however, there is no discussion permitted on what accommodations are actually reasonable, necessary, or required; there is no discussion of how much those accommodations will inconvenience those whose rights are in conflict. Gays are simply entitled to a blank check. If they need it, they’re entitled to it.

We will take from religious people the right to hold that kinship is sacred, that the ties between a mother and a father and a child are ties established by God, that family comes with sacred obligations. Those beliefs will be a crime, and the schools will teach our children that our holding those beliefs makes us a bigoted hater toward anyone who does not wish to honor the sanctity of those ties, or the obligations that come with them. These changes are already happening in some places.

But we’re also taking something away from the child – not just the right to have both mother and father, but the right to have custody decided according to the child’s best interest. Instead, child’s best interest can be sacrificed as we prioritize the rights of parents to purchase and consume parenthood as an experience.

“Build-A-Baby” Designer Baby System Patent

[C]onsumer genomics company 23andMe has developed a system for helping prospective parents choose the traits of their offspring, from disease risk to hair color. Put another way, it’s a designer baby-making system.

The company says it does not intend to use the technology this way…

The patent describes a technology that would take a customer’s preferences for a child’s traits, compute the likely genomic outcomes of combinations between a customer’s sperm or egg and other people’s sex cells, and describe which potential reproductive matches would most likely produce the desired baby.

Among the traits listed in the application as examples of possible choice are: height, weight, hair color, risks of colorectal cancer and congenital heart defects, expected life span, expected lifetime health care costs, and athleticism. The company, which has about 400,000 customers, offers genomic analysis of more than 240 traits altogether, from Alzheimer’s disease risk to breast shape and memory. Additional traits from this longer list could presumably be used the same way.

via Personal Genomics Firm 23andMe Patents Designer Baby System, Denies Plans to Use It – Wired Science.

If children are commodities, then it’s inevitable.

But are we really going to decide that children commodities?

I’ll ‘fess up…I don’t get what the big deal is. Granted, Build-a-Baby technology creeps me out when it comes to gender, because the societal implications are worrisome. But it makes more sense when applied to appearance and disease risk.

via PandoDaily.