By now everybody has seen Michael J. Fox’s ads for candidates, such as Claire McCaskill, who support stem cell research.Â And pretty much everybody has heard about Rush Limbaugh’s attack on Fox as a faker.Â Limbaugh is disgusting as usual; the man has no interest in truth or decency, but only in spewing his own prejudices.Â Fox, as it turns out, is on a medication, levodopa, which helps counteract muscular rigidity, but causes involuntary movements as a side effect.Â Limbaugh offered one of those “non-apologies” that are so universal these days — “If I was wrong, I apologize” — but then the next day reaffirmed what he had said.
Limbaugh seems to think that it’s appropriate to mock and denigrate someone with a very serious disease because he holds an opinion different from Limbaugh’s.Â That’s not political discourse; it’s just slander, and it’s shameful.Â David Kuo, former advisor to George W. Bush on “faith-based initiatives”, and author of “Tempting Faith”, takes other religious leaders to task in his blog for failing to criticize Limbaugh over this incident.
Of course, Limbaugh can say whatever he wants.Â But his behavior is symptomatic of the real problem with political discourse today; instead of a dialogue about the issues, we get personal attacks.Â The same is manifestly true of political advertising, in which both candidates use smears and half-truths to slander each other.
Here’s the real question: what’s the ethical status of a blastocyst?Â
A blastocyst is a pre-embryo, source of embryonic stem cells.Â It’s a hollow ball of a few dozen cells, some of which (in the inner cell mass, marked “ICM” in this illustration) will go on to form an embryo if the blastocyst implants in the uterine wall.
If it’s a person, then sacrificing it for the sake of research is clearly improper; it can’t be justified to kill one person for the potential to save others.
If it’s not a person, but rather something with the potential possibly to become one, then its ethical status is less than that of a person, and maybe it’s appropriate to sacrifice such a “possible future person” for the benefit of full persons now alive.
Probably most people, when pressed on the issue, don’t actually think that a blastocyst is a person.Â Others do, generally on religious grounds.Â However, the issue never seems to be approached in this way.Â If only it were, we could have a genuine discussion, instead of a mud-wrestling match, and that in itself would be a very good thing for the health of the nation.