I debated Lee Silver last year at Princeton and reported it on this blog (for a video of the debate, go here). Silver is a Princeton bioethicist with a Ph.D. in biology. He and Peter Singer are soulmates.
Bad science, worse philosophy, and McCarthyite tactics in the human-embyro debate.
An essay by Patrick Lee & Robert P. George
We have in many places argued for the humanity and fundamental dignity of human beings in the embryonic stage of development and all later stages. In defending embryonic human life, we have pointed out that every human adult was once an embryo, just as he or she was once an adolescent, and before that a child, and before that an infant, and before that a fetus. This is not a religious claim or a piece of metaphysical speculation. It is an empirical fact. The complete human organism Ã¢â‚¬â€ the whole living member of the species Homo sapiens Ã¢â‚¬â€ that is, for example, you the reader, is the same human individual that at an earlier point in his or her life was an adolescent, a child, an infant, a fetus, an embryo. From the embryonic stage forward, all you needed for your survival and continued growth towards adulthood along the continuum of human development was a suitable environment, adequate nutrition, and freedom from grave disease.
In short, we have argued Ã¢â‚¬â€ though it is fairer to say that we have pointed out, since the scientific facts are not in dispute Ã¢â‚¬â€ that human embryos do not differ in kind from (other) human beings; rather, they differ from other human beings merely in respect of their stage of development. Embryos, fetuses, infants, adolescents, and adults are not different kinds of being Ã¢â‚¬â€ the way a human, an elk, a spider, a cucumber, and an amoeba are different kinds of being. Embryos, fetuses, infants, adolescents, and adults are the same kind of being at different developmental stages.
Still, Lee Silver in Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Biotechnology Culture Clash,Ã¢â‚¬Â published in Science and Theology News (July 18, 2006), and more fully in a new book entitled Challenging Nature, insists that our views about the humanity and dignity of the human embryo are grounded in religious beliefs. He accuses us of concocting a scientific sounding case against embryo-destructive research in an effort to impose our religious beliefs on others while evading the constitutional prohibition of laws respecting an establishment of religion.