The ?future like ours? argument and human embryonic stem cell research
Journal of Medical Ethics 2008 June; 34(6): 417-421
The most closely argued and widely discussed case against abortion in the philosophical literature today is Don Marquis's "future like ours" argument. The argument moves from an analysis of why there is a serious presumption against killing someone "like us" to the conclusion that most abortions are seriously wrong for the same reason: they deprive "an individual" of a future of valuable experiences and activities, a "future like ours". Julian Savulescu has objected that "preventing" such a future could not be as seriously presumptively wrong as Marquis contends for if it were, even contraception and failure to engage in reproductive cloning would be seriously presumptively wrong. Savulescu maintains that there is only a modest presumption against preventing a "future of value like ours" and that in the case of human embryonic stem cell research, it is clearly outweighed by "the enormous potential to save people's lives and to improve their quality of life". Marquis defends his strong anti-abortion stance against Savulescu's "contraception" and "failure to clone" objections but surprisingly says nothing about the implications of the "future like ours" argument for the controversy surrounding human embryonic stem cell research. I argue that key features of Marquis's response actually support the view that embryos used in stem cell research are not included within the protective scope of the "future like ours" argument. It is significant that the most philosophically rigorous anti-abortion case thus far presented does not entail that human embryonic stem cell research is even presumptively wrong.
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