Educated beyond their capacity

Earlier this week, the Boston Globe published an op-ed piece by a couple of philosophers who are trying to make a living using humor to introduce philosophy to the masses. They decided to turn their sights on President Bush in this column, seizing on his pronouncement that he will continue the ban on federal funds for stem cell research.

And they thought it would be extra clever to tie it in for his long-standing support of the death penalty.

Abortion, stem-cell research, and the death penalty are all valid subjects for debate. There are reasoned, sound, valid arguments on both sides, and it is entirely understandable that people of good conscience can — and do — disagree.

But that’s not good enough for the worthy wits. They decided that Bush’s stance was hypocritical — he cited the “sanctity of life” argument, and since he allowed the death penalty to be carried out while he was governor of Texas, he’s a hypocrite of the first order.

This is a remarkably superficial bit of reasoning for such highly-educated gentlemen.

Bush’s position is perfectly consistent: he believes in protecting innocent life, from the moment of conception until the individual has reached the point where they have demonstrated their own depravity and committed such heinous deeds that they have earned the ultimate sanction. If one operates under a few widely-held tenets — that life does, indeed, begin at conception, and that the state has the right to carry out capital punishment after due process has been followed — then there is absolutely nothing hypocritical about Bush’s stance.

In fact, by those same two tenets, the position of the good authors is the one that is truly incomprehensible. To them, the lives of the innocent can be sacrificed freely, for scientific research or the convenience of a woman — but the lives of those convicted of the most vile crimes are sacrosanct. It’s all right to kill people — as long as they’re not fully self-aware.

This argument also covers euthanasia.

I don’t fall into either camp. I agree with Bush on capital punishment, but I have few problems with stem-cell research, support euthanasia within certain bounds, and am squishily pro-choice. But unlike those twits the Boston Globe gave a (rapidly-shrinking) platform to, I do not mock and deride those who disagree with me.

I can’t blame them entirely, though. It’s a lot easier to mock and snidely condescend at one’s opponent than to actually rebut their positions — that approach is too much like work to them.

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