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Beware of rationalization

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You can't have it both ways.

In recent correspondence, Sen. Orrin Hatch has urged the Bush administration to support controversial stem cell research, and this in light of its unquestionable scientific potential for widespread health benefits. Accordingly, he contends this is a justifiable, even laudable, usage to be derived from "spare embryos" that would otherwise be discarded. This stance has surprised many, considering his outspoken anti-abortion stand.

Once we start down the slippery slope of rationalization, we often find ourselves arguing that the end justifies the means.

Sen. Hatch says he personally doesn't consider an embryo a being until it is implanted in the womb. Others don't wish to consider it a being until it emerges from the womb, and hence, rationalize the act of abortion. Some take it a step further and justify partial-birth abortion, as long as the head is still in the birth canal at the time life is (euphemistically speaking) dispatched. Where do we draw the line between potential life and life itself? Or is there a line?

Arguing semantics and equivocating about the merits of scientific research as weighed against nascent life are all part of the ethical morass we find ourselves mired in as we enter the so-called biological century. But lest we too glibly accommodate ourselves to the art of rationalization, it would behoove us to remember another technically advanced people who relegated a portion of their society to a subhuman status, and whose doctors and scientists justified their research (on otherwise discarded subjects) upon the merits of its potential benefit for the more privileged among them.

Rationalization, even for what are seemingly the most noble causes, always seems to end us up in a worse predicament than what we began with.

Kent Jackson Fetzer

Salt Lake City