October 17, 2003


Who Will Be the Joe Coors of Bioethics? (Daniel McConchie, 10/17/03, The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity)

There are two general types of constituencies. First are those constituencies who have a natural reason to care and support a cause. For example, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has a natural constituency—millions of gun owners who want to defend their right to keep and bear arms and to have a better experience with their hobby or craft. Gun owners already know that they need to be educated about types of firearms available, what uses certain firearms may have, how to use one safely and productively, as well as the legal or political threats to their continued freedom to own guns. The NRA doesn’t really have to teach gun owners that they need to care about their issue. In fact, many gun owners not only know that they need to learn, they want to learn.

Other issues or movements don’t have a natural constituency. Instead they consist of individuals who are trained to care and support a cause. The conservative movement of the 1970’s is a good example of this. The public wasn’t being very supportive of limited government or more economic freedom or a stronger national defense because they didn’t know to be. Without think tanks and activist groups educating the public on the issues, they didn’t understand enough to support the cause.

Unfortunately, bioethics is one of those issues that doesn’t have a natural constituency even though the current and coming technologies may redefine the nature of human dignity, radically altering what it means to be human. Today we can genetically screen out “undesirables”, harvest the parts of living human embryos, completely de-link children from their genetic heritage, wire people’s nervous systems to the Internet, and mix human and animal DNA. Tomorrow we will be able to genetically modify our children, add processing power to our brains with computer chips or enhancing drugs, transplant most animal organs into people, and maybe even see the rise of artificially intelligent beings. These technologies will effect everyone. Yet before the public will support an ethical engagement in these issues, it will require teaching them to support such engagement.

Thirty years ago Joe Coors, the head of the Coors Brewing Company, bought into the vision of some Congressional staffers in Washington to establish a new conservative think tank. The Heritage Foundation became Joe Coors’ legacy. Through Heritage, Joe Coors helped spawn the early building of a conservative constituency. Millions of dollars were spent over the years promoting the vision of limited government and economic freedom to both policy makers and the public. By educating the public, people began sharing the vision of Joe Coors and started to promote it. Through financially supporting Heritage and other like-minded organizations and political candidates, the constituent base of the conservative movement grew and grew. New constituents began using their resources to help Heritage and other groups train more potential constituents, until the movement became one of the most undeniable forces in U.S. politics.

But it took the capital of Joe Coors to make it happen. His personal intellectual involvement as well as his financial support gave the necessary help to raise a generation of supporters. Joe Coors died on March 15, 2003. But the conservative movement he helped spawn continues boldly on.

Just like the conservative political movement flourished because of the involvement and support some ardent backers, bioethics is in need of a Joe Coors today.

Unfortunately, when it comes to bioethics issues, the culture of death is far better funded (including government funds) and organized than are those who value human dignity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 17, 2003 3:45 PM

Human dignity? Not strong enough. How about the culture of life, in all its burdensome glory? Le Chaim!

Posted by: Peter B at October 17, 2003 8:21 PM

I fail to see how abortion is the face of genetic engineering and cyborg creation. Neither belongs to the "culture of death", unless you'd like to argue that any effort outside the spiritual is a carnal, and thus mortal, distraction.
Both genetic engineering and cyborging are intended to extend life, and make it more pleasurable. This is the opposite of death.

Thomism is indeed a wonderful concept, but in no way do any of the procedures mentioned by Mr. McConchie come between a human and God. Does a surgically transgendered person give up their ability to communicate with God ?

As an aside, equating Libertarianism with anarchy is both rude, and not very true.

It does seem as though a person of great faith, no matter the religion, would have to be Thomistic. This is the one way that I can see Muslim societies being superior to the West.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 18, 2003 9:15 AM