The embryonic thinking of liberals
By A. M. Siriano
William Saletan of Slate, in a recent article called "For the Benefit of Others," sees a contradiction in President Bush's promise to veto embryonic stem-cell research and his support of the death penalty. The logic goes like this: If the only justification for the death penalty is to "save lives," as Bush has apparently stated many times, then why isn't embryonic stem-cell research justified by the same rule?
Or reverse that, as Saletan has done: How can Bush not support stem-cell research, which purportedly save lives, but turn right around and support the death penalty, which is claimed to have a similar effect?
It's hard to know which subject is in question here, the death penalty or stem-cell research. Mostly likely it's both. One can't be sure about Saletan's position on either from this one article, but most garden-variety liberals are against the former and for the latter. The reality is, it is easier to explain Bush's supposed "hypocrisy" than the following very real contradiction:
How do liberals oppose the "immorality" of the death penalty, but find it ethical to take innocent life via stem-cell research or its birth-mother, abortion? Let's address each issue one at a time:
The death penalty
The key word in all of this is "innocent," a term that implies a justice that is inherent to man's existence, a justice that goes deeper than mere codification of the "social contract." Regardless of the scripted, politically correct explanation that the White House must give -- "The death penalty saves lives!" -- this is only one of many answers, the chief being, "It satisfies Justice." Secularists would be crying foul if Bush were to send out the real answer: "The death penalty is right and just because God has not only permitted it, he has demanded it."
A secularist cannot deal with that remark because he cannot believe in Justice with a capital J, anymore than he can believe in God with a capital G. Yet man's need for this Justice is borne out every day -- in our neighborhoods, in our streets, in our courts, for every situation by which people interact. As children we naturally find ourselves demanding that wrongs done be righted again; and our adulthood is entrenched in the ongoing battle for fairness and restitution. This isn't merely a "generated" effect of social order (indeed, it is not hard to make the case that our need for justice does society as much harm as it does good, as our out-of-control tort system will attest); it is an indication that we are born with Justice in us, and it must, must, must be satisfied, not only for the good of the individual, but for society at large.
It is true that one need not be a secularist to oppose the death penalty. It is the position of the Catholic church that all human life is sacred -- and many Protestants have bought into that idea -- but this is in direct opposition to the words of Jesus Christ and St. Paul. Jesus, whose focus was the individual and the need for personal forgiveness, stated no objection to a governing body enacting the death penalty as an act of justice, noting, "All who draw the sword will die by the sword." Paul's support of the death penalty is incontestable. In Romans 13 he extols the virtue of submitting to rulers (with a presupposition that they are good men, followers of God) and warns men to obey the law:
In other words, to recommend the death penalty, as happens often by jury (a temporary representative of the ruler, in our case the law) and to preside over its allowance, as occurred often when George Bush was Governor of Texas, is to act in accordance with God's will. To oppose it, is to refute Scripture.
I am not convinced that a human soul is created at the moment of conception. Scientists assure us that eggs are periodically seeded and get flushed out of the body, so there is room for doubt that each one is a human being. But, neither I nor scientist, nor pastor or priest, knows the truth on this issue, so it behooves us not to presume. All we can say is, at some point, whether at the very beginning or during gestation, that little person in the womb is endowed by his Creator with life -- which means, specifically, he is given a soul.
Atheistic man today hardly believes in a "soul." His faithlessness in this area is right in step with his denial of God's existence, which annuls any notion that man has within him the spark of the divine. If one wants to understand the many large-scale crimes of mankind -- the slave trade, for example, or the Holocaust, or Roe v. Wade, one need only recognize that behind them all is a profound discounting of the human soul. In this frame of mind, man can easily rationalize his actions. The Nazis justified human experimentation and extermination by assuring themselves that Jews were mere animals (Palestinians teach their children the same lesson). The abortionist who slices and dices a baby in the womb sleeps well at night by affirming his atheistic, materialistic creed that a "fetus" is merely a collection of cells. That's the game: If a living human being can be rendered soulless, he is nothing more than a bug that may be crushed beneath our feet (which helps to explain how the abortion can kill moving life: movement in the insect world doesn't stop us from killing bugs either).
Liberals are more than willing to sacrifice a few embryos to harvest cells because they don't believe human embryos are sacred. Convenience, instant gratification, and the quest for perfect health trump all antiquated notions that an embryo is a human being. It is not really alive, they will tell you, at least not until it takes its first breath. This belief, which ignores all evidence to the contrary, is so well-established that if we discovered that crushed baby head might yield cures for cancer, liberals would be saying, "Well, why not? Now abortions can do two good turns ..."
Again, the word "innocent" is the key that makes thinking about the death penalty and stem-cell research an apples-and-oranges consideration. We fight wars today doing our level best to kill as many guilty people as possible without harming the innocent. We do what we can for the poor and downtrodden because we see them as innocent victims of a faulty system or of life's cruel circumstances. We are incensed to the point of fury when an innocent child is raped and killed by a sex-fiend. Defending the innocent -- as comprehensively as possible -- is an American mantra, spawning all kinds of social programs and new laws designed to protect people in all stages of life. Thus, it is logical and natural to oppose stem-cell research, because we must assume it involves the murder of the innocent.
This explains Bush's reasoning quite well: Saving of the innocent is the goal, not saving of human life itself. Justice prescribes protection for those who have committed no crimes, and it demands punishment of those who transgress. There is no contradiction here, except to an underdeveloped mind.
© A. M. Siriano
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