Archive for March 2006

Kant and Hypothetical Judgments

March 29, 2006

The logical form of a hypothetical judgment is “If P, then Q.”  This does not refer exclusively to cause-and-effect situations which are temporal in nature.  The statement “If P, then Q” merely states a necessary connection between P and Q.  If P is true, then Q must also be true.  Note that the example which Kant gives of a hypothetical judgment is not one of physical cause and effect: “If there is perfect justice, then obstinate evil will be punished.”  This hypothetical statement does not say that perfect justice causes the prosecution of evil; rather, it says that the two states of affairs are equal, and we cannot have one without the other.

Many hypothetical judgments are synthetic.  Here are some examples: (1) “If I drop an object, it will fall;” (2) “If I do not drink water, I will become thirsty;” (3) “If Romeo loves me, he will ask me to marry him.”  All these judgments are based on facts, not definitions, and they state that if the first proposition is true, the second must also be true.  We can also use the form “If P, then Q” for analytic judgments which are based on definitions.  Kant’s example of a hypothetical judgment, in fact, is analytic: “If there is perfect justice, then obstinate evil will be punished.”  Since the definition of “perfect justice” is a state of affairs in which all wrongdoings are punished, it is necessarily true that obstinate evildoers would be punished in such a world.  Note the difference between this judgment and the synthetic judgments which I offered above: all 3 of those judgments are dependent on other empirical facts for their validity.  (1) is dependent upon gravity, (2) on biology, and (3) on Juliet’s knowledge of Romeo and her expectations of love.  It is possible to imagine a state of affairs in which we do not have gravity, or humans do not need water, or love does not require a marriage proposal.  It is impossible, however, to imagine a world in which all wrongdoing is punished, but at the same time, wrongdoing is not punished.  Some other analytic hypothetical statements are “If I have gold, I have a yellow metal” and “If I own a dog, I own a mammal.”

Not all hypothetical statements are causal in nature, but the concept <cause> is still intricately linked with hypothetical statements.  To Kant, <cause> refers to a state of affairs in which each phenomenon A is necessarily connected to some phenomenon B which precedes it or succeeds from it.  “If I drop an object, it will fall” is a perfect example of a causal statement which is also a hypothetical judgment.  In this statement, the two connected phenomena are my dropping of the object and its falling.  Because the proposition outlines events which happen in succession and are linked such that one cannot happen without the other, we call it a causal statement.

I think that Kant derives the categories of pure concepts because he is uncomfortable with the uncertainty which pervades empiricist thought.  For instance, Kant denies that the causal law is empirically proven on the grounds that the causal law states that each phenomenon necessarily has a cause.  Inductive, empirical observation can never achieve this 100% certainty.  (Hume himself admitted that we have no good (or certain) reason to believe the sun will rise again each morning.)  Kant also disagrees with Hume’s claim that people are blank slates who learn everything from experience.  Kant thinks we must start with some substance in our brains – not facts, necessarily, but “programs” or strategies of thinking.  These strategies are the pure concepts or categories, and one such strategy is to link propositions through hypothetical judgment.  Because we have always had these concepts, we must be able to use them to learn about the world.

So, Kant thinks that <cause> cannot be derived from experience.  He also thinks that causal relations are rule-governed.  The rule which governs these relations, then, is this: every event must have a sufficient cause.  There are no exceptions to this rule.  If something appears to happen for no reason, we simply don’t understand the cause yet.

Therefore, it is possible (and necessary) to gain knowledge about the world using hypothetical judgments, and each proposition of a hypothetical informs us about the others.  In a two-part hypothetical judgment, the first proposition is the “ground,” or causal foundation, for the “consequent” second proposition.  For instance, if we split the judgment “If I drop an object, it will fall” into two statements, “I drop an object” and “An object falls,” our understanding of the situation noticeably decreases.  We know that if I drop an object, there must be some consequent result from this action, and if the object falls, there must be some ground (cause) for its fall.  If we causally link the two with a hypothetical, we lend clarity to both statements.

While hypothetical judgments can be both analytic and synthetic, Kant thinks that the causal law is only synthetic.  This does not seem problematic because all analytic hypothetical judgments are tautologies (If I have gold, I have yellow metal).  They do not establish a necessary succession between separate phenomena A and B; rather, they expand upon the definition of some proposition A.  Meanwhile, countless synthetic hypothetical judgments, including the three I mentioned earlier, are causal statements.  We can derive <cause> from the logical form of hypothetical judgments without committing to an analytic causal law because logical forms are neither analytic nor synthetic.  They are merely formal relations which belong to an independent epistemological class.  Therefore, we can freely derive exclusively analytic or exclusively synthetic principles from any logical form.


The Prayer Talk

March 25, 2006

James Smyth
Hugline Song: Jackson 5, “I Want You Back”
Reflection Song: CRYPT Youth Ensemble, “Your Very Own”

My name is James Smyth. I’m a sophomore from Carmel, Indiana, Josh McRoberts’s hometown. (They say I taught him everything he knows.) I am here to talk to you about Prayer. I suppose this means that I’m an expert on the subject. That’s the way talks usually work, right? You bring in Colin Powell if you want to learn about foreign policy, or Stephen Hawking for physics, or if you want to know about poetry, you ask J. J. Redick. But prayer? It would be like asking for an expert on walking, or breathing, or eating. Prayer is something fundamental. Every city has houses of worship. Every culture has priests. God made you to pray, and the more you do, the happier – and the more human – you will become.

Prayer, by definition, is communication with God. You can do this at any time, whatever you’re doing, to express any emotion. Do you remember the cute posters that your school nurses and elementary school teachers put on the walls, the ones with kids or cartoons making all sorts of faces, with emotions listed under them? In case you don’t remember, I brought one of those today. (Put up poster.) These kids have a lot of emotional range, and believe it or not, your communication with God can have even more. When you’re happy, you can pray in thanksgiving; when you’re sad, you can pray for hope; when you’re tired, for strength. How about adoring and contemplative prayers? I don’t see those faces on here – how do you tell a 6-year old to look contemplative? – but these, too, are types of prayer. You can communicate anything – anything! – with God.

I bring this up because there’s something ironic about calling God our father. Our parents always tell us that we can go to them with anything, and they’ll love us all the same. It’s a generous opportunity, and I hope the rest of you accept it…but I have trouble with it. I don’t like telling my parents about most things. The school stuff is boring, and the emotional stuff is private, and telling them about my problems would mean telling them about my mistakes, and I hate doing that. And as time goes on, our parents become distant figures who live upstairs and provide money, shelter, and permission to go on field trips. Those are supposed to be secondary things about our relationships with them, but instead, they become the main focus, and because of that, our relationship is incomplete. The same thing happens with God. He becomes a magical ATM machine that never runs out of money or favors. God loves to answer our prayers – some communication is better than none at all – but He also wants to know about everything else, too, and most importantly, He wants us to know Him. He wants that more than we could ever know.

If you’re willing to open up, there’s so much you can receive. What better friend could we have? For that matter, what better father or brother or lover or lord? (He created love and relationships, and so He is all of these things.) God may not walk on the Earth in physical form anymore, but I’d say that’s an advantage. If you had to see God with your eyes, hear Him with your ears, touch him with your hands, where would that leave the blind, the deaf, and the cripple? This God can never abandon you, no matter where you are, no matter what happens to you.

I said before that prayer is a fundamental part of being human. That’s because it fulfills the three cardinal virtues: faith, hope, and love. These are the things which make us happy to be alive. What is a person who has nothing to believe in, who has no hope for the future, who does not love anyone and who is unloved? Prayer is not the only way to learn these virtues, but it is an important one.

Every prayer we say is a test of faith, for the “wise men” of our times do not think much of prayer. At best, it’s a cute psychological trick we play on ourselves to boost our self-esteem, like having an imaginary friend. At worst – and if you’ve ever read an Ayn Rand novel, you know how harsh the criticism can get – prayer is a total waste of time and a contemptible abandonment of reason. If you want to solve your problems, they say, don’t wait for some lonely god in the sky to do it for you. Do it yourself.

We don’t just have to fight prevailing opinions. We have to fight ourselves. If the three most beloved apostles couldn’t keep their concentration when they were in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus, then how much harder it is for us with all our modern conveniences! How often do you sit down to pray and then suddenly remember something else you have to do? A lot of the time, it isn’t even something important…it’s something mundane like doing laundry or checking Facebook or watching a TV show. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down to pray, decided to check my e-mail first, then checked the news, and ended up not praying at all. The devil is a master of temptation, but he’s gotten really good at being distracting, too.
It takes a lot of courage to pray. It means putting off the immediate payoff, or as Christ put it, forgoing treasure on Earth for treasure in Heaven. More fundamentally, it means you believe in God; that you realize you can’t live without him, and that you’re willing to devote some of your valuable time to Him. It’s a sacrifice you have to make if you call yourself a Christian. There are times when you just have to lock yourself down in prayer and let God take care of everything on the outside. That is why Jesus said in the Book of Matthew, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

Prayer proves our faith. It also gives us hope. How often have you felt powerless to stop something that’s happening to your friends or family, or about a disaster that’s happening in another country? How often have you felt helpless about your own life? Sadly, we are living outside the Gates of Eden, and terrible things happen every day, but prayer can get us through it.

You may be thinking: “That sounds nice, but prayer has never changed anything in my life. If God listens to my prayers, he definitely doesn’t answer them.” I know what you mean. Even when I was a child, I felt like God was letting me down. All through junior high, I prayed for a girlfriend, but the girls all wanted the great basketball players instead. So, I’d pray that I could grow several inches and become a great basketball player, and here I am, still 4 inches shorter than Paulus with worse handles than Shelden. I prayed for the Pacers to win the NBA championship, but I guess the kids from Chicago were holier. Then there were the big things, like praying for my grandfather to recover from Alzheimer’s, or for my aunt and uncle to stop committing crimes so they could get out of jail and raise their children. That didn’t happen, either.

A few weeks ago, I learned that a friend of mine from high school was pregnant. She wasn’t sure if the baby was going to live, and besides that, she didn’t know whether she wanted it or not. She said she wouldn’t consider putting it up for adoption, and that she would do whatever she felt was right – regardless of what God thought about it. God, she said, would understand her decision because He knew what a good heart she had.

I told my friend that my family could take the child, and then I did the only other thing I could. I prayed for its life. I told some of my friends about the situation so they could pray, as well. For two weeks, I persisted…then I forgot about the situation for a couple days. The next thing I knew, the child was dead. She had aborted it.

I was stunned. How could such a terrible thing have happened? How could a person who was following her heart, a person who said she had such good intentions, have done something so horrible? Why didn’t my prayers change anything? I felt responsible because I let my vigil down. And here I was, two weeks from giving this talk, and whenever I sat down to pray, all I could think about was the child.

What did I take out of all of this? First, I remembered that people have free will. No matter how much I want something to change, no matter how much God wants something to change, He can’t make people’s decisions for them. My friend had adamantly stated that she was going to do what she wanted, regardless of what God or her boyfriend or I thought of it. The abortion was her choice and her responsibility.

Then, I reflected upon the nature of hope. Every intercessory prayer, in its most fundamental form, is a wish that things will some day be better. Sometimes, that means we get just what we ask for. I’ve seen friends’ Rosaries change from plastic to gold; I’ve gotten through countless tests, papers, retreats, even a 57-hour Basketball Marathon with no sleep, no preparation, no caffeine, nothing but prayer. This winter, a good family friend of ours came down with a terrible illness. He was losing weight, and the doctors didn’t know what was wrong with him. So my family and I buckled down and prayed, and almost immediately, he was on the road to recovery.

The rest of the time, things do get better…just not in the way we expect. My youngest brother, John, is 11 years old and autistic. He doesn’t talk, and he has to go to a special school. Most likely, he’ll always live with my parents. For years, we’ve prayed for him to miraculously recover. It’s never happened. Because he hasn’t recovered, though, my family has had to make constant sacrifices of money, of time, of attention for his sake. We’ve come together in a way we wouldn’t have done if he were healthy. God gave us what we needed…it just wasn’t what we expected.

I don’t know what will come out of my friend’s abortion, but I do know that God is good, and I now, I have hope again. The child is in Heaven, and my friend will come out of this all right some day…some day.
Prayer gives us faith and hope, and it also strengthens the greatest of these: love. The love between God and us is so intense that we have to express it somehow, and the more, the better. When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the crowd was so rowdy that the Pharisees came out and asked them to quiet down. Christ replied that if they were silent, the very rocks and stones would start to sing. I think the same thing would happen now if God’s people ever stopped praising him. That would be rather embarrassing for us, so let’s keep it from happening.

We can’t express our feelings of adoration, thanksgiving, and praise in words alone. We’ve never been able to do so! We also need the energy and the beauty of music. The Israelites sang after Moses parted the Red Sea. David, their greatest King, wrote the psalms. The Levites knocked down the very walls of Jericho with nothing but trumpets! Today, we have the hymns of the churches and also songs of praise and worship. Whatever sort of worship music you like best, sing it.

Through prayer, we develop a loving personal relationship with God. We also develop our relationships with each other. Jesus told us, “Wherever two are more are gathered in my name, I am there.” So, pray with your family. Pray with your friends. Pray with strangers, if you can! That might be scary at the start, but when you’ve finished, you’ll look up at the other person and realize that you’re friends.

The ultimate community prayer, the ultimate prayer, is Mass. I know that Mass isn’t exactly a fan favorite. A lot of times, when we think about it, we only remember the sitting and standing and mumbled responses and trying to get out of carrying a collection basket for Jay. The next time that you go, though, listen to what’s being said! It contains every kind of prayer! We read Scripture. We sing Psalms – which are, by the way, some of the very best prayers every written. We have prayers of praise and adoration (Gloria and the Holy, Holy), of penitence (“I confess to Almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters…” and “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” We affirm our beliefs in the Creed. On top of it all, there is the Eucharist, in which Christ offers himself up as the Paschal Lamb for our sins, and we eat His body and blood so we might live forever. Just think about that! God is made flesh, and He lets us partake in Him! The Eucharist is the most audacious act, the most generous gift, the most incredible prayer in the entire world.

St. Paul bids us to pray without ceasing. That doesn’t mean we should be on our knees 24 hours a day – we can’t – but it does mean that we should always keep God on our mind, and that we should talk to Him throughout the day. Too often we say that we don’t have enough time to pray or that our prayer life is not good. This is a humble-sounding thing to say, but it should not be the normal state of affairs. If you know something’s wrong with your prayer life, change it! We have so many different resources. Muslims are famous for praying 5 times a day. Christians have a 5-a-day set of prayers of their own – it’s called the Liturgy of the Hours. Then there’s the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, meditation, Novenas, music – anything you think of, you can do. I remember one time – oh, man, I’m a dork – I went on Facebook, scrolled down a list of recently updated profiles, and prayed for everyone on it. It is good, also, to develop some quick prayer routines to keep God always in your mind. For instance, we could say “God come to my aid; O Lord, make haste to help me” when we face a trial, or do the sign of the cross when an ambulance passes by, or pray for a singer or speaker who is faltering and losing the audience’s attention during a show. If you always keep God on your mind, whatever you are doing, you’ll do it better.

I am no expert on prayer. I am merely a poor sinner. But I know that we could have a very prayerful community at Duke. There’s so much happening here…so many good works, but also, so much noise. We love to go out of town to get away from it, as we did during spring break, as we are here at Awakening, but if you want peace and quiet, you don’t need a scheduled vacation. You can go out into the night – I especially like the garden beside the Chapel – and talk with God. It’s what you were made to do.

God bless you all. Thank you.

My reflection song is called “Your Very Own.” Two youth ministers from my high school church, Kayser and Jane Swidan, wrote and recorded it.

Lyrics, “Your Very Own”

Right to love in the depth of my heart as your very own
There’s a void in my soul and a faith surrounded by thorns
Speak the Word through your spirit of truth, and guide my way
To be worthy of sharing your love, that’s why I pray

Make my life your own
Make my spirit whole
I place my will into your gentle hands

Lord, the sweetest forgiveness you gave upon the cross
And your mercy triumphant against the rage of death
Through this infinite blessing of life, I celebrate
Every deed of your heart that keeps love alive today

O Lord, I love you and glorify your name
You are my hiding place and healer of my pain
O Lord, I praise you and magnify your name
And to this weary world, your goodness I proclaim

Response to “The Sad Lot of Lab Chimps” by Jane Goodall and Ray Greek

March 9, 2006

Jane Goodall and Ray Greek wrote this editorial to protest the use of chimpanzees for medical research.  The latest field in which primates are used is comparative genomics.  In this field, as we learned in class, the genomes of different species are investigated in order to determine which genes are responsible for which physical traits.  Remarkably, all plants and animals encode their genetic material through DNA.  Scientists have already successfully experimented with the DNA of plants and lower animals, and they are now trying to do the same with several different types of primates.  Geneticists have already finished work on the rhesus macaque and chimpanzee genomes and have compared them to the human genetic sequence.

Comparative genomics is just the latest example of a long series of experiments on primates, including “infections with human pathogens, vital-organ biopsies, repeated inoculations for vaccine testing, and transfection for virus production.”  None of these, according to the authors, have affected health care for humans because environmental factors play such a large role in the expression of phenotype, as we discussed in class.  (Genotype is genetic code, and phenotype is the expression of that genetic code.)  Certain factors from our environment, such as drugs and pathogens, can mutate our genetic sequences.  Because the phenotypes of identical twins can diverge so much, the reaction of an animal from a different species would be even more different!  The authors note that primate experiments with HIV-AIDS and hepatitis C have added little to our body on knowledge.  Primate research helped lead to the hepatitis B vaccine, but scientists have created better methods for creating vaccines since then.

Goodall and Greek then argue that even if medical research on chimpanzees were effective, it would not be ethical because they are such close relatives to us.  The authors then make many efforts to anthropomorphize these beasts, including describing their behavior, their mental prowess, etc.  Surely, they say, scientists should find a better means of learning about humans than doing research on chimpanzees.  “If we look into the eyes of one of these [caged] chimpanzees, shall we not feel deep shame?”

I do not have much sympathy for the ethical component of the authors’ argument.  Jane Goodall has spent so much time among chimpanzees that she probably cannot judge this situation objectively.  Who else would look into the eyes of a monkey and feel such strong emotions?  Chimpanzees may be more similar to us than any other animal, but they are still far from human, and I am willing to give up some of their lives to save some of our own.  I agree with Goodall and Greek that we should abandon animal research if there are more effective scientific methods, but I do so for pragmatic reasons, not ethical ones.  Comparative genomics will be helpful.  I have heard that comparisons of human and fruit fly genomes have been quite informative; studies of primates, which share 99% of our DNA, should thus be even better.

Letter to the Chronicle Re: “The Road to Hell”

March 7, 2006

This is a letter I sent to the student newspaper in response to an editorial it ran last Friday. Due to the newspaper’s space limitations, I could only send the first half of this, but I worked very hard on the whole thing and wanted it to be available somewhere.

I am writing in response to Ms. Boston Cote’s negative portrayal of the Catholic Church in her editorial last Friday (“The Road to Hell,” 03/03/2006). Perhaps her theology teachers taught her incorrectly; perhaps she simply misinterpreted them. Either way, she has perpetuated inaccurate Catholic stereotypes, and I would like to set the record straight for her and for the rest of the Duke community.

Ms. Cote first says that Catholics are a people so buried in silly rules and regulations meant to “guarantee” access to Heaven that they have little regard for the most important aspects of faith. Unfortunately, many people go through this phase at some point in their lives, but I deny that this legalism is an exclusively Catholic problem or that the Church endorses it. Traditions are meant to add depth to one’s faith experience, not to subtract from it, and if properly understood, they should not seem so silly. For instance, the prohibition against meat on Fridays of Lent stems from a long-standing spiritual tradition, shared by many faiths, of fasting to better focus one’s mind on God. These practices are merely suggestions, so if a believer considers them superfluous or negative, then he (or she) should follow his conscience. More often than not, however, Catholic traditions simply serve as a scapegoat, and other worries, such as school, or entertainment, or sloth, are keeping a person from improving his faith. (By the way, there is no set of actions which guarantees access to Heaven; God’s mercy alone saves us.)

The author also claims that Catholics believe all non-Catholics are going to Hell. She contradicts this statement in the very next paragraph, in which she depicts the path to Heaven as a cosmic wristband line: practicing Catholics get in first, then non-practicing ones, then Protestants, then other religious people, and so on and so forth. Neither of her visions is correct. God does not put people into demographic boxes for sorting. He judges each person on the quality of his soul alone. Indeed, the Church teaches that practicing Catholics will have a harder time passing God’s test than the rest of mankind does, because to whom much is given, much is expected.

This takes me to a larger point. Ms. Cote seems mortified of the common Catholic practices of evangelization and religious education. I do not share her sentiments. Her professor who prayed for the conversion of Jewish people did something perfectly natural, as natural as a Jew praying for the conversion of Christians to Judaism or a Muslim praying for the conversion of Hindus to Islam. If you believe that something is true, you will want your brothers and sisters (and sons and daughters) to understand this same truth so they will no longer live in ignorance. They can decide for themselves whether they agree with you, but there is no good reason to stay silent. Nor should parents refrain from teaching religious beliefs to children. It’s no more harmful than “indoctrinating” them with beliefs about anything else, from “Don’t talk to strangers” to “The earth revolves around the sun.” (What could a child do with a systematic proof of either of these edicts? He takes them on faith.)

The author mentions several incidents from her childhood to explain why she is no longer a practicing Catholic. If these are truly the reasons for her separation from the community, she would be well-served to distinguish between the actions of these few Catholics and the Church as a whole. Catholics can be cruel; they can be legalistic, and they can be hypocritical. (I have been all of these things.) Yet, they can also be generous, compassionate, and heroic. Consider the works of the many Catholics who have devoted themselves to the poor and needy, such as Franciscans, Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, Catholic Relief Services, and Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Consider the Church’s defense of human rights worldwide. On our own campus, Catholics run mission trips to other countries; serve at elementary schools, nursing homes, and soup kitchens; buy coats and clothing for the poor; help to run 58-hour basketball marathons for charity…the list goes on. Such actions do not spring from nowhere. They are the product of a serious commitment to the demands of faith. Perhaps if Ms. Cote looked at the Church with fresh eyes, she would not be so willing to tear it down.

Response to Anti-Cloning Article “A Bad Investment” by Wesley J. Smith

March 6, 2006

Bibliographic reference

1.      “CBC Summary.”  The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network.  <;.  Accessed 2007 Mar 4.

2.      “Discovery Institute – Wesley J. Smith.”  The Discovery Institute.  <;.  Accessed 2007 Mar 4.

3.      Smith, Wesley J.  “A Bad Investment.”  National Review Online.  <;.  Accessed 2007 Mar 4.

Main Claim of the Article

Wesley J. Smith argues that therapeutic human cloning is too expensive and impractical to merit federal funding3.

Support for the Main Claim of the Article

Smith argues that if therapeutic cloning were as promising as its proponents claim, then venture capitalists, a somewhat amoral lot, would see its economic value and would invest in it so they could reap the benefits of the drugs and treatments it produces.  Yet therapeutic cloning has received little support in a bull market ($100bn invested with negative returns) for biotechnology.  What these investors have realized is that therapeutic cloning, besides its dubious moral status, is not financially feasible.

The most damning problem with therapeutic cloning is supply and demand.  Unlike sperm, eggs are difficult to harvest: each one costs $1000-$2000, and as we all know, a woman can only produce one per month.  At the moment, cloning is so difficult that there are about 100 failures for each success, so the cost to open a stem cell line for one person is $100,000-$200,000.  This prices the vast majority of consumers and businesses out of the market.  It would be a Herculean task to save 100 people with therapeutic cloning, let alone 100 million.

Smith notes in passing that embryonic stem cells still cause tumors in animals; cloned embryonic stem cells would not be any less problematic.

Finally, the author writes that research into adult stem cells has progressed at an “astounding” pace; helping humans to repair various ailments such as neurological conditions, heart disease, cycle-cell anemia, and Parkinson’s.  Adult stem cell research is cheaper, and there are no moral objections to it, so it is a far better candidate for investment and federal funding than therapeutic cloning of embryonic stem cells.

Your Evaluation of the Quality of the Information Provided in this Article

The first evidence of this article’s quality is its publisher: National Review is one of the nation’s most respected conservative magazines; National Review Online is one of the most popular conservative websites, and the magazine and website alike publish articles from some of America’s leading thinkers.  If this article is credible enough for such a publication, it should be credible enough for a Chem 83 report.

National Review cited Wesley J. Smith as a senior fellow at The Discovery Institute and a special consultant for the Center of Bioethics and Culture.  I double-checked both of these organizations and found that they were reputable2,3 and that both included Smith in said roles.  The CBC boasted C. Ben Mitchell, Ph. D and editor of the International Journal of Ethics, and William Cheshire, M.D. among the members of its Board of Directors.  Furthermore, Smith’s biography at the Discovery Institute revealed that he is a well-respected writer: the National Journal called him one of the nation’s foremost bioengineering experts, and he is a winner of the Independent Publisher Book Awards.

This article was published June 4, 2004, inside the three-year window for Chem 83 reports.  Therapeutic cloning has not advanced significantly since then, so the information therein is not obsolete.

Los derechos humanos

March 1, 2006

Curso: Español 76, Profesor Joan Munné

Muchas personas oyen de violaciones de derechos humanos y la necesitad a protegerlos pero no entienden qué es un derecho humano o qué derechos tienen.  Miembros de un país como los Estados Unidos, con su tradición vieja de reconocimiento de derechos, deben tener este conocimiento.  Por tanto, he escrito esta composición a educar a estos ignorantes sobre las cuestiones más importantes con respecto a sus derechos.  Escribiré sobre los tipos diferentes de derechos, su justificación, su violación y la reacción adecuada a ésta, y finalmente, las amenazas contemporáneas a derechos humanos.

Me parece que los filósofos discutan dos tipos de derechos humanos.  Un tipo de derechos limita las acciones de otras personas contra al individuo.  Incluye los derechos de vida, expresión, religión, prensa, asamblea, petición, y propiedad.  Por ejemplo, la libertad de expresión evita al gobierno a sofocar opiniones, y la libertad de religión prohíbe al gobierno establecer una religión estatal (incluido ateísmo) y perseguir a “herejes.”

El otro tipo de derechos humanos exige la acción de otras personas al individuo.  Éstos incluyen los derechos a educación, salud, y comida.  Los padres siempre han tenido la responsabilidad a proveerlos a sus niños, pero ahora muchas personas piensan que el gobierno u otra organización tiene que proveer estos servicios a adultos.

Es fácil decir que personas tienen derechos inalienables; sin embargo, es difícil probarlo.  El argumento más popular es que Dios nos regala estos derechos, y por tanto ningún hombre puede restringirlos.  Como Dios regala el libre albedrío a cada persona, la sociedad no tiene el poder a negar las elecciones del individuo.  Como Dios manda que personas deban ayudar los unos a los otros, todas tienen la responsabilidad a donar dinero a los pobres, educar a los huérfanos, y asegurar condiciones sanas para trabajadores.  Este argumento es poderoso para creyentes en Díos, pero los ateos lo ignora.  Aun así, la prueba sin Dios es difícil.  Si no quiere regalar los mismos derechos a humanos y hormigas, necesita probar que la humanidad es fundamentalmente diferente de otros animales.  Entonces tiene que demostrar que los derechos que se defiendan, como el de educación, son verdad manifiesta.

Obviamente, los derechos humanos no incluyen el derecho a negar los derechos de otros humanos.  Por eso, la ley prohíbe crímenes como el robo, el homicidio, y el abandono de niños.  Es necesario parar a los criminales por evitar más crímenes, y así que los encarcele.  Esta acción no niega sus derechos humanos; en cambio, es un reconocimiento de las consecuencias de decisiones y de que la seguridad de todos es más importante que los caprichos de uno.  Por eso, es necesario luchar guerras por proteger derechos humanos, como hicimos en la II Guerra Mundial.  En estos casos, es aceptable hacer daño corporal a los enemigos para evitar el homicidio y la esclavitud de otros.

En nuestra época, hay muchas amenazas de derechos humanos, incluido el crimen, el aborto, la corrupción del gobierno, y la indiferencia de muchas personas al sufrimiento de otros.  Sin embargo, la peor amenaza es el fundamentalismo islámico.  En las propias naciones de estos musulmanes, las mujeres son ciudadanos de segunda, y no hay aun libertades fundamentales.  Además, estos radicales intentan unificar el todo el mundo bajo la ley del Islam.  Para realizar esta visión, han atacado docenas de países, incluido la España, los Estados Unidos, Inglaterra, e Israel, y han matado a miles de personas inocentes.

Es natural que discutamos los derechos humanos cada día.  Es una cuestión fundamental, extensivo, y relevante.  Por eso, espero que mi ensayo sea útil para novatos de este tema.  Una persona que sabe sus derechos, sus justificaciones, cómo los defiende, y los enemigos de derechos está cualificada a discutirlos con otros.