THE EMBRYO ADOPTION DEBATE: GORMALLY VS. FINNIS

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One of the issues most heatedly debated by Catholic bioethicists addressed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s recent document on bioethical issues, Dignitas personae, concerned the morality of prenatally adopting abandoned frozen embryos. Some Catholic bioethicists had argued that such prenatal adoption is intrinsically evil and can never rightly be practiced, whereas others had concluded that it is not and can rightly be practiced.

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EUGENICS AND THE “NEW BIOLOGY” PART 1: HISTORICAL BACKGROUND; GLEITMAN V. COSGROVE…

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Introduction. This first part of a two-part essay addresses the matters identified in the title above. Part II will examine the thought of leading proponents of the “new biology’s” eugenic program.

Historical background
Definition and status during 19th, early 20th, and late 20th centuries
Eugenics is based on the  belief that it is possible to improve the human species by means such as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesired traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits (positive eugenics). Among early advocates of eugenics in the 19th century were Francis Dalton and Charles Darwin in England, and Margaret Sanger in the United States. A strong opponent of eugenics in the early 20th century was Gilbert Keith Chesterton, whose Eugenics and Other Evils unmasked this movement’s inhuman philosophy.  Hitler’s program of eugenics brought the movement into disrepute in the middle of the 20th century.

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EUGENICS AND THE “NEW BIOLOGY” PART 1: HISTORICAL BACKGROUND; GLEITMAN V. COSGROVE…

william_e_may.jpg

Introduction. This first part of a two-part essay addresses the matters identified in the title above. Part II will examine the thought of leading proponents of the “new biology’s” eugenic program.

Historical background
Definition and status during 19th, early 20th, and late 20th centuries
Eugenics is based on the  belief that it is possible to improve the human species by means such as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesired traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits (positive eugenics). Among early advocates of eugenics in the 19th century were Francis Dalton and Charles Darwin in England, and Margaret Sanger in the United States. A strong opponent of eugenics in the early 20th century was Gilbert Keith Chesterton, whose Eugenics and Other Evils unmasked this movement’s inhuman philosophy.  Hitler’s program of eugenics brought the movement into disrepute in the middle of the 20th century.

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EUPHEMISMS HAVE CONSEQUENCES

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“It is better to be fit than unfit.” Who could disagree?  Health is good and desirable, sickness is bad and repugnant.  Pursuing the former and avoiding the latter are eminently worthwhile goals. But merely stating them in the form of goals leaves us in an overly abstract position.  Some goals are so basic and common-sensical that they literally cannot be criticized.  Concreteness and hence criticizability enters in when we begin considering practical means to achieving our goals: “the devil’s in the details.”  This is why so many things said in a State of the Union Address are unobjectionable: “Everyone deserves access to healthcare!” “We’re after an economy where all who want a good job can find one!” “I’m committed to lowering the out of wedlock birthrate!” “Nothing will stand between my administration and equality for all!”  The devil indeed is in the details.  Constructing a euphemism therefore involves among other things placing rhetorical emphasis for controversial ideas on readily acceptable values: pro-choice, planned parenthood, therapeutic medicine, hereditary improvement techniques.  Eugenics is a fertile ground for the use of euphemisms.

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