Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Monday, August 22, 2005

Arkes vs. Gelerntner vs. Dobson vs. Embryonic Stem-Cell Research

Hadley Arkes is highly critical of David Gelerntner's criticism of James Dobson's comparison of embryonic stem-cell research to the Holocaust. As anybody following this blog knows, I'm critical of embryonic stem-cell research (ESR). On the other hand, there are some strong differences between genocide and ESR. First, the intent of the Nazi genocide was ensure that there would no more Jews. The intent of ESR is not to eliminate all embryos. Second, some of the arguments for ESR are part of old traditions. Before embryology was developed in the 19th century, it made some sense to adhere to the belief that early embryos only possessed a vegetable soul. Third, ESR is not necessarily centrally planned. A state government or private foundation can also get involved.

I think slavery is a better analogy on all three counts. First, the intent of slavery was not to eliminate all slaves, but to exploit them. Second, there were defenses of slavery that went back to Aristotle; it wasn't something made up out of whole cloth. Third, slavery was also usually decentralized.

There's another reason to beware of Nazi analogies. They have been overused to such an extent that it makes sense to treat anybody using a Nazi analogy as a crackpot or even as the victim of a brain-eating zombie. You may think you have a valid analogy and I may think you have a partly-valid analogy but anybody else will think you sound like a nut. I don't think slavery analogies have been overused yet.


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