Can someone explain to me why, exactly, it is so obviously absurd to grant human rights to a human embryo? I've had people explain this by means of reiteration, as though mantric repetition would prove persuasive, but it hasn't. I don't hold that view, but I'm at a loss for any really good reason why I can reject it. President Bush's inconsistency on this is, quite frankly, irrelevant. We don't oppose him when we agree with him simply because he's inconsistent; we oppose him because we disagree with him. So, leaving ad hominem arguments and mantric repetition behind, can someone explain to me why, exactly, an embryo is so obviously not a candidate for moral consideration?I think that this is a very important question, and deserves more exposure than it'd be likely to get deep down in a comments thread on my blogspot blog, so I thought I'd bring it up as a new post. Admittedly, I haven't yet thought this one through as rigorously as I might like. So, following are a few considerations I think are relevant. I'd like to see discussion of these, and more considerations on both sides as well.
- The most important argument for me against the personhood of embryos relies on a burdon of proof sort of move: why should we think they're persons? And no response to that question seems compelling. Every instance I've encountered of an argument from "potential to become a person" seems to be very metaphysically confused. And I really haven't seen many other arguments.
- Embryos are not sentient. They have no experiences, and there's "nothing that it is like" to be an embryo. One can make arguments to this effect, if need be, but for now I'll assume that we agree about this claim.
- Destroying an embryo hurts no one. This is formally question-begging, but it seems to me at least to be obviously true.
- Here's an attempt to turn my ad hominem argument into an argument on the merits of the view: President Bush & co. are not morally concerned about the widespread practice of fertilizing many more eggs than a given couple needs, and destroying leftover embryos, and they're right not to be concerned about this morally innocent practice. If embryos were persons, they would not be right about the acceptability of this practice. Therefore, embryos are not persons.