Bioethics Discussion Blog: Bioethics Thinking Small and Missing the Big Picture

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Bioethics Thinking Small and Missing the Big Picture

I received the following e-mail today by an author who presents a view that would lead me to wonder whether those of us in bioethics are spending too much of our energy of philosophical thought and discussion on what are in fact minor issues and are actually missing the important “big picture”. Read below what H.F.Matare reminds us. I would be most interested to know what you all think.. ..Maurice.



The strong condemnation of the combination of Bio and ethics by a number of people has its base in the philosophical consideration of "human dignity”. Stem cell research e.g. is considered as a manipulation with human embryos, irrespective of the status of development. Frozen, fertilized oocytes are considered "humans" by some ethicists. Such opinions may be conceived as ethical. But can such ethics be considered real, in view of the actual human situation on this planet, where millions of humans flee from overcrowded and underdeveloped regions into the industrial countries, because their multiplication of more than 4%/annum (with doubling times under 17 years) has led to untenable misery. Can one talk about dignity when millions lead a life in squalor and poverty while multiplication continues unabatedly. Or is it dignified to save deformed babies for a life in misery. Are the millions of deserted children in the main towns in South America e.g. who live of theft a life of hopelessness, a sign of the dignity of their parents?- J.Diamond has aptly described human collapse in his recent book under this title and clearly described the untenable human situation, when procreation is religiously sanctified and churches further support multiplication in areas where brain development is missing, to cope with the problems of survival.(SCIENCE 9.9.05 pp 1717-1721: Microcephalin for brain development, uneven distribution)-It is dignified to consider the boundary conditions for a satisfying human existence on this planet. Diamond points out e.g. that a growth of humanity by the same factor as prevailed since 2000 years, for another such period would lead to a human mass greater than the mass of planet earth!!!!-- The general boundary conditions for humanity have also been discussed in H.F.Matare;"Energy, Facts and Future" CRC Press 1989 and in my recent book on Bioethics.
H.F.Matare

2 Comments:

At Tuesday, July 11, 2006 8:07:00 PM, Anonymous Moof said...

Dr. Bernstein ... I can only speak to this subject in bits and pieces. It's far too extensive and broad to hope to encompass it in a thread, on a blog.

Who is going to decide what "a life of misery" is? And even more importantly, who is going to do it before the life even has a chance to begin?

What arrogance that any of us can believe that we can decide for another human being that their life will be bereft of what we consider to be "dignity," and so should never be allowed to begin ...

Even the most dismal life and the most deprived human sees sunshine and rejoices in it ... smells the air on a spring day and feels a rush a gladness for being alive to experience it ...

How can anyone decide for anyone else that existence is not worth it?

Yes, when there are too many of us, none of us do very well. Epidemics run rampant, striking down large populations ... wars are staged, taking an untold number of lives ... and humanity, through its own unrest and inherent discomfort, redresses the unpleasantness.

And who's to say that we should try to forestall any of that? Isn't that a more natural way than making arrogant decisions about who will have enough "quality of life" to be allowed to live?

I'm sorry. I may not have completely understood the post. Please forgive me if my response is only partially pertinent.

 
At Wednesday, July 12, 2006 8:18:00 AM, Anonymous Jaine said...

“Frozen, fertilized oocytes are considered "humans" by some ethicists…But can such ethics be considered real, in view of the actual human situation on this planet, where millions of humans…”/ Big picture versus small picture.

I’ll jump right in and display my ignorance. In order for a person to care about millions living in undignified conditions/big picture issues, there must be some sense of control over the small picture. People who have no difficulty meeting basic needs are free to spend energy on philosophical debates. People who live in poverty don’t have the luxury… Keeping in mind, there are very impressive examples of individuals accomplishing wonderful things despite an adverse environment.

Typically, however, the two groups may as well live on different planets…so is the big picture how to make it one planet? How to draw a line between frozen oocytes and deserted children and ask some embarrassing questions about how evolved human beings are if we can’t find a balance? The development of the science behind frozen oocytes is the upside of human nature (the drive to no longer live in caves). The acceptance or indifference to deserted children is the downside of human nature (clan mentality/we are better off because we did something right and they didn’t.) Big gap to bridge. In education, in the US, the concept of not accepting poverty as an excuse to dismiss children is summed up as: “No Excuses Schools.” [http://www.gppf.org/default.asp?pt=newsdescr&RT=1&RI=935] Is it possible to develop a “No Excuses” approach at a global level in all areas?

 

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