Here, for instance. A moral issue (an issue because some people have made it an issue, though that wasn’t inevitable): a moral issue being discussed with arguments and reasons rather than with invocation of a deity or of Christian/Muslim/Hindu morality.

Last week British scientists announced a revolutionary screening process for inherited diseases in embryos. It will be quicker and more accurate than the existing method and it will detect thousands more genetic defects than previously possible…Those who don’t know about it can perhaps hardly imagine the drawn out suffering of Huntington’s disease or Duchenne muscular dystrophy or Prader-Willi syndrome or Fragile X, both for the people affected and for their families, until death puts an end to it…It will be easier and better in every way to get rid of a tiny collection of cells. This is indeed playing God, as all the usual campaigners were quick to point out last week. But…whatever we may think about playing God and defying nature, we are doing it already and even though we don’t necessarily recognise it, we approve of it…There will always be absolutists, who claim the right to life for even the most infinitesimal scrap of tissue. But there are others who oppose screening on what seem to me to be even more irrational grounds.

Which she proceeds to counter with arguments. Those arguments will fail to convince many – or perhaps all – of the people who oppose screening on irrational grounds. That’s how these things go.

Simone Aspis of the British Council of Disabled People said last week that she was opposed in principle to such screening on the grounds that it sent the signal that being born disabled was a bad thing…It sent a message, she said, particularly to young people with disabilities, that their lives were worth less than everyone else’s. This seems to me to confuse a disability with a person with a disability. (This is a confusion that people with disabilities normally resent, understandably.) To say that a disability is undesirable in itself is not to say that a person with that disability is undesirable in herself, or her life worth less than someone else’s. The disability is not the person. It is to say that her life would be better without that disability.

That seems right to me, but it seems a safe bet that it won’t alter the conviction of Simone Aspis. That’s unfortunate; if people who oppose the screening succeed in blocking it, that’s very unfortunate indeed, as it was (in my view) unfortunate that the assisted suicide bill got postponed again in the House of Lords a few weeks ago. But pointing to god wouldn’t help. All the theists would simply say that their god supported their view and not the other one. That’s how these things go.

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