Fantastic editorial in the Wall Street Journal on the shrill voices from both the left and the right. David Gelernter notes that James Dobson of Focus on the Family recently compared embrionic stem cell research to Nazi death-camp experiments. Comparing someone you don’t agree to the Nazis seems to be the insult du jour:
Dr. Dobson’s analogy is grotesque. It’s not just that embryos (as he himself noted later) feel no pain when they are destroyed. Not just that they leave no grief-stricken survivors in the sense that full-fledged human beings do, and rip no comparable hole in the community and the universe when they are murdered. Just as important is the gaping difference in the actors’ motives. Stem-cell researchers want to help “mankind,” defined to exclude embryos. Nazi experimenters wanted to help “mankind,” defined to exclude Jews. If the first definition is wrong, it might nonetheless be proposed by morally serious persons. No morally serious person would go anywhere near the second, which epitomizes Nazi evil.
In arguing for the rightness of our war in Iraq, I often encounter left-wingers who insist that Saddam killed Iraqis and America’s war does so, too–so what’s the difference? It’s tragic when any part of a national community grows incapable of moral distinctions. Drawing moral distinctions is what human beings are for. But Dr. Dobson’s analogy is far more simple-minded than the pacifist position on Iraq.
Great point too on public apologies:
Besides which, the whole business of demanding apologies is out of control in modern America. The constant clamor for apologies suggests young children demanding the Mommy-kiss that magically heals. Those who think Dr. Dobson wrong should concentrate on explaining why he is wrong, not on extracting a worthless, grudging “I’m sorry.” An apology ripped loose by the tightening rack of public opinion is worth exactly what any extorted concession, compliment, confession or retraction is worth.