Making Bioethics One Step Easier

Alan's monthly letter for April 2008

Dear Friend,

Thirty-one high schoolers looked me straight in the eye. And they looked nervous...for good reason. I was about to barrage them with 60 minutes of bioethics training for their government class. I’d cover embryonic and adult stem cell research, reproductive and therapeutic cloning, and embryonic development up to the blastocyst stage. By the end of the hour, they would have to not only determine which practices are moral or immoral, but also graciously articulate a compelling scientific and philosophical case for their position. Although it seemed impossible, it wouldn’t be for them.

Even though they only had basic pro-life training the week before, I knew there was significant carryover of arguments against abortion to the arguments against, for example, embryonic stem cell research (ESCR). Though the students were worried, I was confident they would be equipped after the short training. They just didn’t recognize how easy it would be to make sense of bioethical issues.

To see the carryover, you must first understand the basic pro-life view:

  • It’s wrong to kill innocent human beings.
  • Abortion kills an innocent human being.
  • Therefore, abortion is wrong.

That’s straightforward. The key premise, of course, is to prove that abortion kills an innocent human being. But the students had learned scientific and philosophical arguments for this the week before. That was the hard part.

Applying this to bioethics was easy. How? Once you learn the simple fact that ESCR kills an unborn human being, the parallel becomes obvious:

  • It’s wrong to kill an innocent human being.
  • ESCR kills an innocent human being.
  • Therefore, embryonic stem cell research is wrong.

And so the arguments used to argue that the unborn, from the moment of conception, is a human being can be applied in exactly the same way to ESCR. Indeed, they can be applied to any procedure that kills human beings at the earliest stages of development.

The training was successful. As anticipated, the students saw the logical and moral parallels between abortion and ESCR. The event host, herself a teacher, was excited I made the seemingly complex issue of bioethics simple to understand. She said, “[Alan] made complicated issues very manageable for high schoolers…I will have [him] back in the fall of 2008 to teach my next set of government students.”

The event host was grateful to have clear and straightforward teaching on bioethics. Her thanks, however, are not just directed towards me, but also to you. Your prayers, encouragement, and support are what drive this work. Without you, many Christians are left unequipped to deftly articulate their faith and values. Thanks to you, though, we are changing the face of our culture by sending out trained believers to the frontlines.

Equipping believers for service,

Alan Shlemon

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Alan Shlemon