Last week, James Dobson of Focus on the Family proved that he lacks sufficient control to be pitching in the major leagues of public discussion and ought to be sent back to the minors. He compared embryonic stem cell research to Nazi death-camp experiments. I too (and millions of others) oppose broadened federal funding for stem-cell research, but Dr. Dobson has damaged rather than helped this cause. He has made conservatives look bad by suggesting that some are just as incapable of moral distinctions as the Howard Dean left–and just as unable to treat their opponents like human beings and not wicked moral dwarfs.
Meanwhile, those who popped up on cue to demand an immediate Dobson apology–such Jewish groups as the Anti-Defamation League, political groups like ProgressNow.org and many individuals–look silly and childish. Rarely has one wild pitch knocked so many people on the head. Thank you, Dr. Dobson; you can sit down now.
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.