Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Trimming the Trees

Pit easily exploitable emotions against deep philosophical convictions, and you get a glimpse of the debate over stem-cell research.

"Consequently," write Robert George and Thomas Berg, "we propose six facts on which people on either side of the . . . debate should be able to agree":

1. There is no “ban” on human embryonic stem cell research in the United States.
2. We are a long way away from therapies derived from embryonic stem cells.
3. The human embryo has at least some degree of special moral status.
4. There are non-controversial alternatives worth exploring.
5. Concerns about embryo destruction are not only religious.
6. [Omitted because it's nonsense.]

One of the best strategies for reasoned discourse—where the goal is enlightenment, not victory—is to begin with common ground. The above essay is a good example, since by trimming the trees, if you will, it shifts the discussion to the forest, like where life begins and what research taxpayer dollars should fund.

My proposal for the next such primer concerns another subject fueled more by ignorance and arrogance than by facts: global warming. Here's a start:

1. The earth is warming.
2. Human activity is partly responsible for the warming.
3. Environmentalists have a track record of alarmism.

From here, we can delve into the essential issue: will the warming be disastrous?