With an executive order, President Obama made official what many scientists had long anticipated and many religious conservatives had long feared—he lifted his predecessor’s near-total ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
Philosophers Mary Midgley and Judith Hughes have observed: “Individualism, like salt, is a very good and necessary thing. . . . But how about a diet of salt alone? . . . Unmitigated individualism is a death wish.”
News that South Korean scientists have successfully cloned the first human embryo in order to extract stem cells for medical research has drawn sharp criticism from religious and ethical groups in the U.S. and abroad.
When people remember the 1960s they usually think of Vietnam, cultural upheaval and assorted liberation movements. But the ’60s should also be remembered as the time when postwar medical technology blossomed.
I have a dim recollection of Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarian philosophy from a course in college. Utilitarianism appealed to me at a time when I was more certain of myself intellectually and more academically confident that I have been since. It had something to do with being a sophomore, I believe. For utilitarians, moral behavior is that which increases happiness and reduces human suffering.
You could make the case that Peter Singer has done more good than anyone else alive. A professor of ethics at Princeton University, Singer is the author of Animal Liberation (1975), which instigated the modern animal rights movement. Singer didn’t give us cruelty-free cosmetic production or vegetarian restaurants, but he has done more than anyone else to popularize such ideas.
When Kentucky was considering a ban on all cloning of human embryos this year, the debate struck close to home for legislator Jim Reynolds. His father suffers from Parkinson’s disease and dementia—the sort of diseases scientists hope to cure through the use of the versatile stem cells that can be extracted from cloned embryos.