December 15, 2012
In today’s twisted ethical environment, the status of the human person increasingly depends on the opinion of the individual closest to the microphone, the person teaching the college ethics class, the individual making a personal “reproductive health” decision, or someone in charge of the surgical suite. It is objectively true that nothing any longer shocks most of us because nothing is objectively right or wrong.
Our culture is, for the most part, suffering from moral amnesia.
The qualities of the human person that might define him as such are subject to all kinds of caveats. Taking the life of someone may or may not be deemed a crime; using human beings for research may or may not be acceptable. Everything depends on the slide rule of human opinion.
Recently Rebecca Taylor addressed this subject in her article, “Human Caviar, Eating Human Embryos as a New Delicacy?” She was referring to an article by Jewish ethicist Leon Kass entitled “The Meaning of Life—In the Laboratory.” Kass does not argue that the human blastocyst is a human individual, per se. Rather he flounders, suggesting that this entity at his earliest stages of development “is not nothing.” Kass embraces the idea that this early human possesses “potential,” but he does not define him as a human being. He writes that the human embryo deserves our respect not because it has rights or claims or sentience (which it does not have at this stage), but because of what it is, now and prospectively.