Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What happened to responsibility?

The last few days have seen some major ethical issues being debated in Parliament.  I am generally disappointed by the way in which the voting has gone, if I am honest; something which probably won't surprise you.

I'm worried about potentially dangerous precedents which have been set, and wonder where the line will eventually get drawn (particularly regarding such things as hybrid embryos).

I think that Kester makes a fair point here about the IVF issue, and the fact that the father is no longer seen as important.  Children aren't a commodity and should ideally be brought up by a parent of each gender.  We all need a good male influence and a good female influence.

I was also disappointed by the abortion ruling, and one MP really wound me up when she put forward the argument that she'd "had an abortion at 21 weeks and it was so important for her because she just wasn't in a position in life to bring up children".  I have no sympathy for her in that situation.  Contraception isn't 100% effective, and if you're not prepared to cope with kids you shouldn't be having sex.  Simple as.  I despair at the number of people these days who can't look beyond their own 'needs' and could probably do with a dictionary to define responsibility.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have to say i totally disagree with you there on the male and female role model thing. I've turned out alright haven't I? Or maybe not....
Maria x

alasdair said...

Where are you worried that the 'slippery slope' is heading with regards to hybrid embryos?

The new legislation allows hybrid embryos to be grown for 14 days, the same limit for human embryos since 1990.

If an embryo is less than 14 days old, and has no hint of a nervous system, I don't see why working on a hybrid embryo is any worse than a human embryo.

What are your thoughts on the saviour sibling issue? That's a more interesting ethical question; I'm not sure if it is fair to bring a child into the world for the purpose of saving another's life.

dave said...

JP, I'm the kinda person who likes to wear who I am right there on my sleeve, for all the world to see. I like other people to do this as well, no hiding your opinions because you're scared you might offend... However, as a pointer, and please understand this advice is given with the best of intentions: The next time you're on a date with a girl DO NOT say this "I have no sympathy for her in that situation. Contraception isn't 100% effective, and if you're not prepared to cope with kids you shouldn't be having sex. Simple as.". I don't give this advice because of shallow "You won't get your end away" reasons, I give this advice because 99% of women might actually lean over the table and stab you in the heart. It sounds that ignorant.

JP said...

Ooh. Firstly, hello Maria. You make a very fair point, and much as I'd like to be rude, I can't disagree; you have certainly turned out alright, as it were. I think that perhaps I should tone my point down slightly, though I will continue to say that I don't like the implied sentiment in the new ruling that "a father figure is unimportant".

When it comes to your point, Alasdair, it's the pushing of boundaries on the basis of "what we do at the moment is OK" which creates the potentially slippery slope. You may be right when you say that "If an embryo is less than 14 days old, and has no hint of a nervous system, I don't see why working on a hybrid embryo is any worse than a human embryo," but the more boundaries we push the harder it is to draw a line.

Admittedly, I'm honestly not sure what I think of using human embryos for research in this way, and that's perhaps one reason I'm uncomfortable with this latest ruling. As I find it hard to get a grasp on the arguments (ethical and otherwise) for purely human based research I struggle to sanction anything more controversial.

I'm with you on the idea of saviour siblings as well, in that I don't think it's fair to bring a child in to the world for those reasons. Interestingly though, stepping back from such emotional arguments and considerations of how the sibling might feel later in life it's perhaps less ethically controversial than some of the items debated in the last week.

And so now we come to Dave. Thanks for the advice. I shall make sure I heed it, especially as I'm beginnging to wonder if it's my unfortunate habit of blurting such things out on a date which underpins my current bachelor status. I had wondered where I'd been going wrong...

I'm not sure that 'ignorant' is the term I'd use, but given the number of people who spend their Saturday nights sharking the nightclubs with the purpose of "getting their end away" with anything that looks good after a few drinks I'm well aware that a lot of people would disagree with me.

Howevever, that isn't going to stop me from sticking to my line. A lot of things in life come with responsibilty, and the number of people who don't take that responsibilty seriously is actually quite scary. I'm going to draw a parallel you might find slightly bizarre, but it makes the point. A while back I blogged about the fact that I found it disgraceful that some people were suing BA after the recent crash landing at Heathrow. Flying is ultimately very safe, and of course, everyone expects to get to their destination unharmed. But the fact is, no-one can 100% guarantee that something won't go awry. If you buy a plane ticket, you accept that, and it's your choice to fly. In the absence of gross negligence I have no sympathy for those who seem to think otherwise.

Incidentally, when it comes to sex, I also have little regard for blokes who knock someone up and then refuse to have anything to do with it. As the saying goes, it takes two to Tango...

dave said...

"Incidentally, when it comes to sex, I also have little regard for blokes who knock someone up and then refuse to have anything to do with it. As the saying goes, it takes two to Tango..."

This is a completely different point to the one you originally made, for a start, I agree with it.

What you must understand (and I'm sure you do) is that EVERYTHING we do, not just sex, has the potential to create massively resonating consequences. If a parent lends their car to their child, they may have to make the decision to turn off their life support machine. The chance is minimal, the consequences are massive, and no one would try and deny the parents anguish, despite it being their decision and ultimately, their responsibility.

I don't wanna get into religion, but your original point is fine if we live in the bible. But you're a clever guy, you know that most people don't believe in God and even less believe in the bible. Years ago, when you had sex, people expected to get pregnant. Now we're all popping pills to make us sterile and wear socks on our cocks. Very few people who have sex now (in this country) do so with the intention of having kids. This is where we come to the question of...but surely they should be prepared to? To which I (and all those women that you go on dates with) would argue that should be prepared to either bring up the child or take the very difficult decision to stop the foetus developing. For most people in this country, that is the responsibility that they face. For you, perhaps not. Democracy etc.

Gareth P said...

The problem with the abortion debate is that the reality is that whether it is legal or not there will still be a call for it. Unfortunately there will be various reasons for unwanted pregnancy and the fact is that a large number of women will choose abortion. If abortion limits were lowered or abortion made illegal it would just drive desperate women to unscrupulous and poorly trained individuals who would most likely do more harm than good. I think it's important to remember that for most women having an abortion will be the most difficult decision they will ever make and attacking them for there lack of responsibility is hardly a compasionate approach. I know you well enough JP to know that if someone did come to you and say they were thinking about having an abortion you would be compassionate and perhaps you should think about what you would say to that individual rather than make a sweeping generalisation about societies collective lack of responsibility.

I have to say my personal view on hybrid embryos (as the media have rather crassly termed them) is very much in the positive - as I understand it the genetic material is the nucleus of a human embryo in using an animals egg with its nucleus removed. Certainly if one of these embryo's were brought to term it would be no less human than you or I and I fear that those against the proposals are speaking out of ignorance and fear rather than a well thought out scientific and moral postion.

I think the saviour sibling argument has been cover and I'm with Alasdair and JP on this one. I also aggree with JP on the IVF thing - for natural conception a parent of both genders is required so it isn't a great intuative leap to say that natures intention was for a child to have a male and female parent. Whilst it isn't a necessity for a good healthy upbringing and there are many instances where have both a male and female parent results in a poor upbringing it would be my contention that in general positive role models of both genders can only be a good thing and something that should be encouraged and protected.

Oh and one last point to Dave. Most people actually do believe in a god or higher power of some sort considering two 3rds of the worlds population would decribe themselves as (In no particular order) Muslim, Christian or Jewish and a good portion of the rest Hindu. Atheism is as valid a faith as any other - it's just not the only one and certainly no more "right" than any other - a fact alot of the other religions would do well to remember.

dave said...

I was talking about this country. And in fact any other country with a decent education system.

Gareth P said...

The census data suggests otherwise:

http://www.statistics.gov.uk/census2001/profiles/commentaries/ethnicity.asp#religion

Perhaps this countries education system needs work, although i'd suggest we save that debate for another day ;-)

dave said...

On the census I'm down as a Christian, as is everyone else in my family. There is only my mum who believes in God and that's only because she's so petrified of dying.

Of all the Christians I've met, not one believes the Bible to be the word of God.

A Christian once convinced me to turn to God 'just in case'. It's a fair point, if it turns out there is a heaven and hell, and I'm doomed for hell then well shit I should have listened to him. I fear there are a lot of people that believe in God 'just in case'.

JP said...

Dave, you do come out with some interesting things from time to time.

From some of the discussion we've had in the past, I was under the impression that you definitely didn't believe in God. Further more, the implication of some of your comments, this one included, is that educated people have no reason to believe in God anyway.

Yet now you tell me that you "do believe in God, just in case". At least, I assume so, given that you were apparently 'convinced' by a Christian to do so. In fact, I remain to be convinced of your belief, but as I would now place you in the agnostic bracket (if push came to shove) it makes a further mockery of your own argument that few people in a country with a decent education system believe in God.

I wonder, also, if you feel any sort of shame for not being honest in the census. After all, you seem pretty adamant that there is no God, so why could you not bring yourself to tick the atheist box?

What is interesting about your comment though is it is further proof that there are a great many misconceptions about what it means to be a Christian. I'm not a Christian because I am afraid of dying, and if I was afraid of dying I don't think that some vague "I'll say I believe in God" would be the answer. Christianity is not a 'get out of Hell free card', to hold on to in the hope that all will be alright. Furthermore, belief and action very much go hand in hand. The book of James in the New Testament sums this up very nicely (even putting any sort of pre-conception about the Bible and its relevance aside, some good points are well made). Ultimately, if you truly believed in God you would demonstrate that in your words and your actions.

This brings me on to thinking a bit about what Christianity is, rather than simply spouting what it isn't. It's about a relationship with God, and although the premise is that we've all soured that relationship and cannot right it by our own actions, as we accept that God loves us anyway and move to enjoy that relationship with him it becomes appropriate to try and live the way he intended, to be good stewards of this world and - if you like - to bring his Kingdom to Earth.

Finally, thinking about what you said about Christians who believe that the Bible is the Word of God, you first need to put your observation in context. You say that you don't know one Christian who believes that it is the Word of God, but are we talking "Christians" like your good self (according to the census, at least), or genuine, believing, practising Christians? Giving you the benefit of the doubt and assuming the latter, how many do you know? More than the one who convinced you to believe in God "just in case"? Secondly, you need to think carefully about what it means for the Bible to be the Word of God. If you mean that it was effectively dictated word for word by God, and that because your English translation talks about the world being created in seven days then it must be seven days as we know it, then I would count as a Christian who does not believe it is the Word of God. If on the other hand you see it as being inspired by God, as a book through which God speaks, and being in accordance with God's standards and plans for creation then I hold my hand up and say "yes, it's the Word of God".