Dawson has taken the de-bait! He writes:
While I’m not certain I have the requisite skills to engage Will, (not to mention that I have several papers on film theory and lit. crit. to write in the next two weeks), I accept the challenge with the following caveat: Abortion=killing a viable human being. The argument would then be, “Is cloning abortion?”. If we don’t agree on that posit, we’ll have to back up and debate the ‘abortion is murder’ posit before we discuss cloning. I will ask Will to formulate the argument, and will accept his challenge.
Dawson clearly has the required skills of engagement. But can he triumph?! Perhaps all that training in film theory and lit crit will develop fearsome skills of brilliant obfuscation.
First it isn’t obvious what cloning per se has to do with abortion. If we are speaking of cloning for the purposes of creating stem cells, then I see it. But if we’re speaking of me cloning myself for the narcissisitic enjoyment of raising mini-Will, then abortion is completely irrelevant. But let’s see where this goes.
I accept Dawson’s caveat with a caveat. Abortion is sometimes killing a viable human being. I accept that all embryos are in some sense human beings (having human DNA). I do not accept that all embryos are viable in the sense that they could survive outside the womb. But if by ‘viable’ all that is meant is ‘could one day become independent,’ then fine.
Next, not all killing is murder. Murder is wrongful killing. Now, persons are the category of beings that have full moral standing (that are subject to being wronged), but not all human beings are persons. Namely, clusters of 2,4,8,16,32, …, n (choose your n) human cells are not persons, thus are not subject to being wronged, and therefore cannot be wrongfully killed.
Pre-emptive argument: Objection: But embryos are potential persons. Yes, and so they potentially have moral standing. And I am a potential airline pilot, but I am not therefore licensed to fly large aircraft. (Five year-olds are potential voters, but they are not allowed to vote, etc.) The difference between potentiality and actuality makes all the difference. To say that something is a potential x is to admit that it is not x.
As to the “Is cloning abortion?” question (assuming we’re talking about cloning for stem cell harvesting) the answer is definitionally “no.” Abortion is termination of pregnancy. There is no pregnancy involved in cloning embryos for stem cells.
In any case, we certainly won’t be aborting mini-Will! The wee lad shall get nothing but the most vigilant prenatal attention from his amply-wombed, Mozart-listening, dietician surrogate mother. So what’s the problem?