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Bloody Pragmatist

Virginia Postrel:

If there's one thing Leon Kass isn't, it's pro-life.

Heh. You go, girl.

Postrel refers to a Washington Post article (annoying registration required) outlining The Luddite General's new "offensive" on cloning and human embryo research. She comes to the above rather startling conclusion by pointing out that Kass is more interested in preventing life extending therapies from being developed than he is in protecting the lives of human embryos.

Admittedly, that's a pretty odd stance for a "pro-life" leader such as Kass to take. And far be it from me to leap to the defense of perhaps the biggest Buzzkill of our era.


This paragraph kind of got my attention:

But Kass and others have concluded that Brownback's approach has been a strategic mistake, causing the debate to degenerate into endless discussions about whether a cloned human embryo is a cloned human, and whether an embryo in a lab dish has the same moral standing as one in a womb. Kass advocates separating the issue of cloned embryos for research from related issues of technological baby-making.

So apparently Kass is trying to do what good he can (from his point of view) while avoiding getting dragged down a particularly nasty rat hole which I have dubbed The Tiresome Argument. While I don't agree with Kass's motives or tactics, much less his ends, I can certainly understand that impulse.

But here's a warning for you, Leon Old Friend. If you try to take anything like a pragmatic approach to these kinds of issues, you risk subjecting yourself to the scorn of the those who question your definitions. Moreover, it's only a matter of time before some blogger or one of his buddies accuses you of being an advocate of slavery, a nazi, a guy who eats babies for breakfast, etc.

Actually, I've just checked both of those sites, looking for an outraged condemnation of Kass and his bloody pragmatism. Nothing so far, but just you wait. After all, for the sake of consistency if nothing else, these guys are bound to come down pretty hard on their old hero.

<crickets-chirping> So I'll just keep checking back to see what they have to say...</crickets-chirping>

via Rand Simberg


Umm, Phil, I'm not so sure what it is that I'm supposed to be outraged on Kass about. That he's separating from the ultra-conservative religious right? But I Kass's objections have always been based on dignity of humanity and human life - not, necessarily, on a conception of god or religion. I share this sort of thought with him. I do think that cloning embryos is different from cloning babies (though, perhaps, somewhat related). And, though Virginia Posstrel may not think so, Mr. Kass has always been perhaps the biggest pro-Human lifer.

Points taken, Daniel. Presumably there's nothing for you to be outraged about, seeing as you occupy the same "slippery slope" that I do, where one can dare to suggest that a zygote might not be exactly the same thing as a newborn.

Wow -- you, me, and Leon Kass. It's cozy on this here slope.

Mr. Kass has always been perhaps the biggest pro-Human lifer.

Um, right. He's all for human life as long as it doesn't change too much or last too long. What's interesting to me is that he bases his arguments on his own personal notions of what constitutes the "dignity of humanity." So the arguments don't come from religion, nor would they appear to come from science, which shows the human organism changing substantially over time, and human life getting longer.

The argument may be "tiresome," but Kass better stay in it. Otherwise he has cut out from under himself the only logical rationale for his position.

If the ethical question of "is it a baby or isn't it" is discarded by Kass and company, all the anti-life extension guys have left is an old geezer mumbling, "why in my day we dropped dead at 45 and we were dang proud to do it!"

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