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Where do you guys stand in the scientific/medical ethics debate?

  1. Jun 7, 2010 #1

    I came across this article earlier today and I posted it on my facebook status because I thought it was interesting. After about an hour, I had a few people commenting who seemed concerend that I would post such an article since the catholic church is opposed to stem cell research. (I come from a catholic upbringing)

    So, I am wondering what do you guys think? Does the end justify the means?

    I am also interested in any books that people have read about medical/science ethics.
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 7, 2010 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Unfortunately that site appears to be unmoderated and contains crackpot articles on transhumanism, so be careful, some of the stuff is nutty, otherwise it contains good information. I hope you know the difference.

    Stem cell research is vital and needed, IMHO. Religion should never interfere with science. Religion is merely a personal belief system, if those people do not want to take advantage of the technology, they do not have to.

    They can believe whatever they wish as long as they do not try to impose their personal beliefs on others.

    Is this the link you meant to post?

  4. Jun 7, 2010 #3
    Yes thank you, that is the correct link.
    Its tough to agree with you in that religion shouldn't interfere with science. I don't like that it prevents development of technology but at the same time I can understand why a religion would stand up against technology that infringes on its beliefs, especially when tax dollars fund a lot of research. In another forum the topic of induced pluripotent somatic cells came up, which seems to be somewhat promising in capability and also clearing up a lot of controversy on the topic.

    Also, thanks for the warning about the website. The article listed a peer reviewed journal so I assumed the information in the article was good.
  5. Jun 21, 2010 #4
    What is that supposed to mean? Have you taken time out to think how the end even differs from the means? A popular and by no means original quote on television is: "When you choose the action, you choose the consequences." The end can no more justify the means than it can justify itself; the means constitute part of the end, in other words, part of what your moral choices are, part of what happens through your action. Among evils, you should choose the least that you can manage within your scheme of values.
    This means among other things, that inaction, as a chosen course (as opposed to impotence, which is by definition ethically neutral) is simply one of a number of possible courses of action. It has its own consequences and accordingly its own responsibilities. Having chosen it as your course of action you have chosen any praise or blame, any guilt or reward, entailed by that action.
    Justify? All that "justification" amounts to in your own system of ethics is the accordance of the consequences (both within "means" and within "end") with your personal system of values. To the extent that you are happy with the outcome, including emotional consequences of doing things that upset you or go against your better judgement perhaps, to that extent your action was justified. If I personally disapprove your judgement because of a conflict between our judgements, I might equally justifiably commit your soul to eternal damnation, or some similarlarly virtuous admonition always assuming that it lay within my power. Conversely, in the eyes of your contemporaries, associates or successors, it would be unjustified if they disagreed with your values (or in turn, mine).
    Of course, there is the question of ethical logic. It is common for people to deny the role of logic in ethics, but that is universally stupid and wrong.
    "Universally stupid and wrong? How do you prove that?"
    Simple. If anyone says to you that you are wrong to base your conclusions on logic, simply say: "why do you say that?"
    The reply is likely to take some form of: "because..."
    Now, the very word "because" is an indication of implication as an argument. It might not be a valid argument, in fact it almost certainly will not be a valid argument in the circumstances, but an argument based on a logical operation anyway.
    The only alternative open to them would be something along the lines of "Blah blah blackberreep!" It is virtuously logic-free, as nearly as value-driven action might be, but not really persuasive to most people, I feel...
    Of course, the logic of ethics can be fairly tricky but the main principle apart from abstract logic in general, is that in the logic of ethics the main point is ultimately to establish the values associated with a given choice of action, in other words a given imperative in the relevant ethical system. Now, the catch is that one cannot validly deduce an imperative (in other words a command or commandment) in a conclusion without some form of imperative in the premises.
    Get that clear, and a lot of other questions simply go away. They don't all go away of course; most religions, not only Catholicism, (in fact I can't think of any exceptions off hand, except some are simply too incoherent to evaluate meaningfully) impose imperatives, many of which are mutually conflicting if not downright incoherent.

    It is not clear to me that you need any such book. The medical and scientific questions are technical. The ethical questions are considerations in moral philosophy, namely the modes of thought involved in the application of value judgements and choices of action. If you cannot present these in a cogent form, for example if the dogma on which you base your arguments proves on analysis to be logically flawed, meaningless or self-contradictory, then you may conclude what you please, and behave as you please, but in that case if you call your behaviour ethical you are living a lie. In particular if you are an adherent of any of the Abrahamic sects, then you are living a lie in the name of the God of truth (it says so repeatedly in the old testament, so don't blame ME!) It is surprising how many people do not find the idea uncomfortable; I certainly expect that it would bother me.
    The medical and scientific questions, that is to say the technical questions, have to do with matters of fact. Medical applications go further in that medicine is an applied branch of scientific endeavour, and thereby if you like, of technology. It therefore also has intimately to do with choice and therefore ethics. It is intrinsic to medical ethics that the underlying values are intimately connected with the interests of the patient. (There are other parties involved as well of course, such as practitioners, experimental subjects, and many more, but ultimately questions concerning the patients are never far away.) But the other side of the coin is that any medical ethical consideration that conflicts directly with objective fact, is by that very conflict in violation of medical ethics. Of course we do not know all the facts, so we know that some of our decisions will turn out to be wrong, whether anyone ever realises it or not. But as long as we base our judgements on the information at our disposal it is not clear how we ever can do better.
    There are several good sources of generally fairly readable and useful information on philosophical matters on the web, and you can find a great deal by googling appropriate keywords. Apart from Wikipedia, two useful sites are:


    Last edited: Jun 21, 2010
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