J. P. MORELAND, Ph.D.
Suppose a serial rapist is active in a major city. As a result, many are needlessly worried because the odds of their harm are miniscule.
Due to unnecessary worry, scores of women needlessly limit their activities and a small number of divorces take place from the tension throughout the city. Under these conditions, it could easily produce worthy results (including saving lives) if the police caught and punished an innocent homeless man, kept it a secret and continued to look for the real criminal.
This would deter criminals by sending a message of police competency. It would calm numerous people who are needlessly worrying and, in turn, prevent other harmful effects like broken homes. Remember, the police will keep all of this a secret, continue to look for the real rapist, and if caught, frame him for a different crime. No one will know the difference.
Punishing an innocent man could produce the best outcome available. But no matter how useful, it is wrong to punish an innocent man in this way. When it comes to right and wrong, the end just does not justify the means and we all know it.
Now consider a second scenario. It is well known that the Nazis kept in storage various body parts from Jewish corpses, things such as hair, skin, and teeth.
After Hitler's defeat, suppose a cure for cancer could be found if medical researchers were allowed to experiment on these parts. Would this be right?
After all, think of the good that would result. But the end does not justify the means, and such research would be morally repugnant.
Why? If certain items are achieved through morally repugnant means, then those items are morally tainted. It is wrong to use them even for a good result.
Such an act is duplicitous, it brings benefit by means of great evil and it shows disrespect for the dead humans and their hideous murder.
Those of us who oppose stem cell research believe that proper ethical thinking is on our side, because those cells result from killing innocent, defenseless little boys and girls in the womb. Their parts are as morally tainted as those in Nazi storage.
The stem cell case is exactly analogous to the other two above.
Michael J. Fox notwithstanding, can you see how it doesn't matter ethically if those cells are put to good use?
Advocates of stem cell research cannot justify their position by citing the good ends of such research. They must break the analogy to the other cases by showing that the fetus is not a human person. Tell that to parents looking at an ultra-sound.
Sadly, many folks don't like to think ethically today. They listen to Hollywood celebrities because the make-up man is more important than the speech-writer.