What kind of respect are we talking about?

We keep hearing about public objections to or fears about the creation of human-animal embryos for research purposes, but the objections and fears that are cited are, frankly, rather pathetic. They also seem to be very much in the minority. In fact it looks as if the news media are creating and inflating these objections and fears, more than they are reporting on their existence. Oh, well that’s a surprise, that’s never happened before. Surely?

The Indy offers some background, including on the opposition.

There are many pressure groups and religious organisations who have voiced their opposition on the grounds that it is unethical or immoral to mix germ cells from humans and animals to create potentially viable embryos. They believe that it undermines respect for human life, and some believe it is also demeaning to animals.

And…that’s it, at least as far as this article goes. It undermines ‘respect,’ it’s ‘demeaning.’ Sounds familiar, doesn’t it – sounds like the wack objections to gay marriage: it undermines respect for the institution of marriage. How and why it does that is never spelled out – what that even means is never spelled out. People who oppose the opposition ask and ask and ask to have the reasoning made plain, but…if they’ve had much success, the results are being carefully hidden.

Why, exactly, does the creation of a certain kind of egg, which will be destroyed within fourteen days, undermine respect for human life? I want to know. What’s the thinking here? That thirteen-day old embryos might end up being dressed up in little outfits and enrolled in school? That they might start marrying people’s children? That they’ll make all the buses and movie theatres and supermarkets too crowded? That they’ll jostle us off the sidewalk and humiliate us? That they’ll want to spend the night in our houses and have their horrible unthinkable disgusting squelchy sex right there with us in the next room listening in fear and horror?

That’s it, isn’t it. It’s sex. The many pressure groups and religious organisations are afraid that they will want to have sex with each other where we’ll be able to hear; they’re afraid they will want to have sex with us. They’ll seduce us, they’ll lie down on top of us in the night when we’re asleep and impregnate us with their horrible hybrid pinkish fibrous mucousy slimy – oh, jesus, help me.

Okay maybe that’s not it, maybe I’m being unfair, as usual. But what is it then? What, exactly, is it? What is it about some embryos in a lab at Newcastle or King’s College London that causes respect for human life to be undermined? Perhaps it’s that potential murderers will, as soon as such embryos exist, no longer think ‘No, I mustn’t, it would be wrong,’ but instead will think ‘Hey, there are those little embryos at Newcastle, they have some cow DNA mixed in – not very much, admittedly, but still some, so what is human life worth? Not much, obviously; therefore I will murder that co-worker who gets on my nerves, because why not?’ Is that it? Well, if so, could it be that the worry is ever so slightly far-fetched and, as it were, strained? That the likelihood of that looks no more robust than the likelihood of any other random fanciful absurd scenario one could come up with? Maybe the next time I take the 74 bus one of the passengers will decide the existence of tomato paste in tiny cans makes life not worth living, and so get off on Stone Way instead of 40th Street.

Why do pressure groups and religious organisations get to ‘voice their opposition’ on worthless empty meaningless grounds that way, and be considered a serious and worth-heeding opposition? Talk about undermining respect – they’re the ones who undermine respect, if you ask me: they undermine respect for human ability to oppose things for good reasons as opposed to completely factitious whimsical made-up ones. This isn’t just messing around, after all! This isn’t like old Coke versus new Coke; this is medical research that could cure horrible diseases. What business do people have opposing it for silly frivolous worked-up reasons? It’s revolting if you look at it hard enough. Is it just for the sake of the self-righteous glow? The little aura of piety? Well – that’s a crappy reason. A crappy, vain, narcissistic, beside the point reason. If we want to fret about respect for human life, why not fret a great deal more about the lives lost or ruined by Parkinson’s or Motor Neurone disease than about some mysterious vague unspecified general ‘life’ that belongs to no one in particular but would be less respected because of those eggs? Respect for human life, indeed. Pull the other one.

42 Responses to “What kind of respect are we talking about?”