"Dobson's Embryonic Stem Cell Analogy With Nazi Atrocities Legitimate"

Dianne N. Irving
Copyright August 5, 2005
Reproduced with Permission

[See Irving Library at LifeIssues.net: http://www.lifeissues.net/section.php?topic=ir]

Dobson's Embryonic Stem Cell Analogy With Nazi Atrocities Legitimate

Several news media and critics have recently attacked James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, demanding that he apologise for his analogy between the millions of living human embryos (produced by IVF or by cloning) destroyed in order to derive their embryonic stem cells (ostensibly for discovering cures for diseases) and the millions of innocent victims of the Nazi Medical Holocaust. [See, e.g., "Ministry Slammed for Stem Cell Comments", WireNews Service (August 4, 2005), at: http://wireservice.wired.com/wired/story.asp?section=Breaking&storyId=1071792&tw=wn_wire_story.]

I don't know Dr. Dobson, or have ever communicated with him - and I am not a member of his ministry. But it is clear to me that Dr. Dobson owes no apology. His analogy is correct -- whether some people refuse to acknowledge, or like it, or not. In fact he is to be commended for courageously "telling it like it is", especially in a time of crisis -- which is a gift that not many other commentators seem to possess these days.

I have written, published and spoken on the issue of human embryo research for over 15 years now, and indeed am one of the few around with a Ph.D. doctoral dissertation on it (Georgetown University 1991). My statement of support for Dr. Dobson derives not just from that graduate work (Philosophical and Scientic Analysis of the Nature of the Early Human Embryo), but also from my earlier thesis as a biochemistry major, entitled "The Nazi Medical War Crimes" (1964). In that thesis, as a scientist, I analyzed for two long grueling years Dr. Mengele's bizarre research studies with twins for their scientific soundness (which, needless to say, was found to be almost totally negligible). It was that original thesis work on the Nazi medical war crimes which impelled me to write that doctoral dissertation years later -- and is the same that impels me now to support Dr. Dobson's recent statement as well. Some of us don't forget.

On both sides of the analogy noted by Dr. Dobson are real live human beings -- human beings who are knowingly and willingly destroyed and killed by other human beings for some perceived "greater good" -- especially some perceived "medical/scientific good". Medical scientists, it is argued, need human biological material in order to achieve this "greater good" -- even if it means killing some people in order to achieve it. In both cases this is absolutely morally wrong, intellectually insupportable, and flat-out barbaric. And it is long past time that we all acknowledge this - and do something concrete about it - before it is too late. History does repeat itself.

There was, and still is, no other memorable comment that has haunted me more after those 2 gruelling years of academic research into the Nazi medical war crimes so long ago than the statement, "Well, they're going to die anyway -- might as well get some use out of them." How illogical. Should we then freely experiment on prison inmates on death row, or on any of us at any age with progressive diseases without consent - for the "greater medical/scientific good"? As anyone who has seriously studied the Nazi medical war crimes knows with crystal clarity it is that such unspeakable horrors and backward logic that was perpetrated on millions of innocent people in Nazi Germany and its occupied lands were preceded by several years of deceptive and outrageous legislation (e.g., the euthanasia laws), as well as by the de-personalizing of all sorts of human beings whom the Nazi regime considered as being "less-than-human". Hence unethical laws crammed with fake mythological eugenic "science" became institutionalized across the legal and social spectrum, and those "untermenschen" who were considered by the Nazis as "less-than-human" and as "worthless eaters" were exploited, tortured and killed in merciless and barbaric ways for "the greater Nazi medical/scientific good". And this was done by Nazi scientists, physicians and other medical personnel.

That was only about 70 short years ago. Now how many among you have ever read a single page of the Nazi Medical War Trials (which are now on-line) which documents and describes these massive legal and medical/scientific atrocities, much less read them in depth? How many of you have ever starred at the millions of revolting photographs and video tapes of and documents concerning these desperate and vulnerable victims of "science" and "medicine" for months on end, or read the pathetic - pathetic - excuses of the Nazi defendants (including physicians) lined up in the court room docket? Not many. So who are you to judge the accuracy of the courageous observations of Dr. Dobson?

Then, as now, there was no scientific question whatsoever outside the Nazi regime that these poor unfortunate victims of the Nazi medical war crimes were every much as human and deserving of all the equal rights and protections as all human beings - especially the right to life and the right not to be tortured. In the real world there are no "sub-classes" of human beings, no human beings with a "reduced moral status". There are rather human beings with differing gifts, talents and physical/mental capacities -- but all possessing full inherent rights and full moral status as human beings. Then, as now, there is no scientific question whatsoever that living human embryos - whether sexually or asexually reproduced -- begin to exist immediately as single-cell organisms -- human beings -- and are every much as human and deserving of all the equal rights and protections as all human beings -- especially the right to life and the right not to be tortured.

On one side of the analogy are the "untermenchen"; on the other side of the analogy are the "pre-embryos". Scientifically, the analogy fits ... as do the politics.