Friday, March 18, 2005

Assessing the Bioethics Field of Play - Part One

I’m just not sure about what to call the various sides taking part in the discussion on bioethics. I’ve been a browsin’ and a browsin’ and findin’ a gol’ mine of stuff on beliefs I wasn’t familiar with (judao-christian driven approaches to bioethics) and it’s been rewarding, but am having even a tougher time of cataloging these beliefs.

The recent labels (e.g., conservative, judao-christian, liberal, etc.) don’t seem to me to be doing any justice in conveying what the sides are really about. Clearly, there is some overlap between any group and the labels are simply a means of conveying the dominant theme, but once labeled, they tend to mislead. Applying the label liberal and then in the same document mentioning conservative automatically polarizes the concepts to an extent not entirely necessary. As Orac pointed out in a recent post, scientists hold religious beliefs as well that may not overly bias their judgment. So the difference in beliefs has to lie somewhere else…perhaps it’s a spectrum consisting of holding as central guiding principles the literal text of some belief system (e.g., bible in whatever version, the Koran, etc.) on one end and on the opposite side a non-teleological system of belief (i.e., mechanistic). But I don’t want to digress on the linguistic weakness inherent in any philosophical system building, we had Wittgenstein for that and I wouldn’t measure up to his ankles.

In this vein, I’m having trouble labeling the sides involved in the bioethics field of play. No duh, huh? So on the one side, let’s call it the zero degree mark, we’ll have the Edict Driven Approach (EDA), then in the middle –covering a huge swath in the middle (absolute skeptics, natural theologians, me?)—will be the Moderates, and then finally, at the 180 degree mark we’ll have the Mechanistic Approach (MA).

What are the prima fascia implications of this? So folks we’d list near the EDA spectrum would be Judaeo-Christians near the nadir mark (proximity near the zero degree mark is determined by reliance on the literal meaning), then near the zenith of the spectrum on the MA side, we’d have researchers doing research in se (e.g., cloning for the sake of cloning). So in my preliminary assessment of the bioethical field of play I have and will continue to ignore beliefs near the zero degree mark and near the 180 degree mark. I want to emphasize this as much as possible for the sake of future reading; that is, that most of the controversy is near the middle (e.g., loosely, say between the 60 to 120 degree mark).

Some observations:

-One degree of this spectrum I haven’t found anything on are Islamic interpretations of bioethics…
-Man oh man, is the definition of human complex and so damned central to this whole controversy. I’ll cover some of it briefly later on in this vein when I provide some web sites and reflections, but also feel another theme coming on…:-)
.......Right now I hate Blogger, this post was supposed to go up at noon YESTERDAY!


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