‘Induction over the history of science suggests that the best theories we have today will prove more or less untrue at the latest by tomorrow afternoon.’ Fodor, J. ‘Why Pigs don’t have wings,’ London Review of Books, 18th Oct 2007


Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Dignity and Bioethics

Thanks to Barry Arrington over at Uncommon Descent for alerting me to this; Undignified Bioethics - uncommon descent

The abstract - Undignified Bioethics in the forthcoming issue of Bioethics says this;

"The concept of dignity is pervasive in bioethics. However, some bioethicists have argued that it is useless on three grounds: that it is indeterminate; that it is reactionary; and that it is redundant. In response, a number of defences of dignity have recently emerged. All of these defences claim that when dignity is suitably clarified, it can be of great use in helping us tackle bioethical controversies. This paper rejects such defences of dignity. It outlines the four most plausible conceptions of dignity: dignity as virtuous behaviour; dignity as inherent moral worth; Kantian dignity; and dignity as species integrity. It argues that while each conception is coherent, each is also fundamentally flawed. As such, the paper argues for a bioethics without dignity: an 'undignified bioethics.'

Alasdair Cochrane seems to be arguing that value comes from 'moral status' not from a God given inherent value for all humanity. This is similar to the ethics of Peter Stringer who argues that some animals have greater worth than some human beings. But there is though something worrying about this sort of argument in that it leads to a loss of value in society, as exemplified for instance by the horrors of Nazi Germany where Jews and others were denied their moral worth by a godless system. Perhaps it is logical for materialistic humanists, but even T.H.Huxley saw that there had to be a committment to ethical values despite the lack of scientific support for ethics. Clearly science isn't a good foundational basis on which to build ethics, and those who deny any higher authority are lost in a web of confusion. Humanity though is the loser.

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