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No comparison?

David Gerlertner says Dobson was wrong, and so are those who are demanding an apology:

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 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.

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Chris Sullivan

posted August 10, 2005 at 1:24 am

He has made conservatives look bad by suggesting that some are just as incapable of moral distinctions as the Howard Dean left

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?

Mr. Gelernter is concerned that Dobson makes conservatives look bad. It doesn’t matter how many innocent human beings we slaughter, as embryos or in Iraq, but whatever we do don’t make conservatives look bad.
Good grief !
God bless James Dobson and all the good work he and Focus on the Family does.

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posted August 10, 2005 at 1:31 am

Stem-cell researchers want to help “mankind,” defined to exclude embryos. Nazi experimenters wanted to help “mankind,” defined to exclude Jews.
And both these exclusions are based not on substance, i.e. on the fact that these are human beings, but rather on accident. Both should be unthinkable actions for “morally serious persons” to consider.

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Donald R. McClarey

posted August 10, 2005 at 6:20 am

Like the Nazis, proponents of stem cell research are utilizing the “raw material” of the victims. “If Jews are going to die anyway in the camps, why not use them for soap, skin for lampshades, hair for stuffing, removal of gold teeth, etc.”, I can imagine an SS official arguing to a squeamish member of Speer’s industrial organization. How many times have we heard that if embryos from in vitro fertilization clinics are going to die anyway, why not “harvest” their stem cells?

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posted August 10, 2005 at 6:56 am

Gerlertner says:
embryos . . . . rip no comparable hole in the community and the universe when they are murdered.
I really am not sure about the right/wrongness of Dobson’s analogy but to me our (meaning our nation’s) disregard for life does in fact rip a HUGE hole in the community an the universe.

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Gerard E.

posted August 10, 2005 at 7:37 am

With all due respect to Gerlertner, Dobson should be allowed to pitch his way out of his troubles. To use a baseball phrase. And another one- he’s making too much money for a trip to AAA. I’m tired of people on all sides of religious and political issues use analogies to the Third Reich. But Dobson’s too valuable in the major league of ideas to ship down to Sticksville. Maybe a few sessions with the pitching coach and he’ll get his curveball back again. Without Nazi analogies, of course. Then again, perhaps Gerlertner is showing a bit too much New Haven bias against a public figure based way out in Colorado Springs. AKA the minors. AKA Flyover Country.

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posted August 10, 2005 at 7:47 am

You know…everytime people whine about using this analogy I have to think – why the instant flash of anger and demands for apologies?? Is it because the comparison is so dead-on, so accurate, that it chills our hearts? Is it because we know, deep down, that in half a century, people will have the same reaction towards us as we have now towards what happened in Germany not so long ago?
– “Let me tell you a story, Sarah, about a time when human beings were slaughtered for their stem cells.”
– “Oh no, Dad! Did people actually do that here? Hundreds of millions of people were murdered because they weren’t considered persons. How could everyone just stand around and watch?”
– “I don’t know. Propaganda, a corrupt government – people just didn’t realize what was going on.”
The comparison is there. Except we’re going to put Hitler to shame.

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Dan Crawford

posted August 10, 2005 at 8:40 am

Gerlertner didn’t listen carefully to what Dobson said – I suspect he didn’t listen at all to the entire program. He willingly allowed himself to be fed by the very same media he ought as a conservative to suspect.
What Dobson said was not outrageous – nor was his analogy inappropriate. Those who rise to such heights of outrage against Dobson ought to read Robert Jay Lifton’s “The Nazi Doctors” and the host of other books about the Nazi agenda. They would be hard pressed to deny the similarity of much of what is happening in this country to the eugenics, euthanasia, and the attempts to create a master race of Nazi Germany.
I am no great fan of Dr. Dobson – much that he says and a lot of what he advocates (politically) chills me – but in this matter, he was absolutely right on. That his remarks provoked the outrage they did suggests he was correct.

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c matt

posted August 10, 2005 at 9:11 am

If the shoe fits . . . .

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posted August 10, 2005 at 10:04 am

11th Commandment: Thou shalt not compare any other deliberate mass murder to the Holocaust.
But comparisons to Hitler are okey, dokey.

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David R.

posted August 10, 2005 at 10:31 am

Gerlertner’s attempt to distinguish the two is deplorable. No pain = ok to kill? Nobody will miss you = ok to kill? So, the only thing stopping us from killing anybody is to simply do it humanely. Also, why not kill all homeless people for science? Nobody will miss them.
His attempt to distinguish the motives makes no sense. Stem cell researchers and the Nazi’s alike assume that “mankind” excludes many.
If people don’t like comparison’s to Nazi doctors, the answer isn’t to silence those who make the comparisons but do something to make such comparisons unnecessary.

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posted August 10, 2005 at 11:40 am

Gerlertner’s attempt to distinguish the two is deplorable. No pain = ok to kill? Nobody will miss you = ok to kill? So, the only thing stopping us from killing anybody is to simply do it humanely.
Maybe if you kill someone “painlessly and humanely”, they’re not really dead?
Ever notice on Animal Planet’s Animal Cops series, no animal ever dies? “Humanely euthanized, humanely euthanized, humanely euthanized…”

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posted August 10, 2005 at 11:45 am

Continuation to the above:
When I was in high school, I was a really morbid kid. This being long before the whole Goth thing, I ended up doing the whole “Faces of Death” trip, researching the technical aspects of the death penalty in extreme detail.
I noticed something. Every fad in execution technology — the guillotine, long-drop scientific hanging, the electric chair, the gas chamber — was always championed when introduced as “instantaneous, painless, scientific, and humane”, then denounced as cruel torture when the next “instantaneous, painless, scientific, and humane” fad came along.
Now with “lethal injection”, we have finally perfected an Ozzie & Harriet method of killing — just give them a shot and watch them go sleepy-sleep, all done by automatic machine so nobody can say “I killed” or “I ordered the kill”, only “I just followed procedures”.
Real kicker if the Humane & Painless Death With Dignity (TM) ends up dumping you into Hell after “going sleepy-sleep”…

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Ed the Roman

posted August 10, 2005 at 11:59 am

Exactly. One advantage of the older methods is that it makes self-delusion much harder.
Either the guillotine or long drop hanging work for me. Actually, there was a wrestler in the 19th century that hanging WOULDN’T work on. He had VERY well developed neck muscles, and used to be hanged with a six foot drop as a stunt.

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john c

posted August 10, 2005 at 2:18 pm

Nuts! Drawing and Quartering: nothin’ better for the soul!

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posted August 10, 2005 at 2:42 pm

Don’t forget an upright, a crossbeam, and three or four railroad spikes. Or some of the ways Uday ibn Saddam amused himself when he visited Abu Ghraib.
An afterthought: “I’m only following the procedure.” Sounds a lot like “Ich habe nur meine Befehle ausgefert”.

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posted August 10, 2005 at 2:59 pm

I can see part of Gerlertner’s point, insofar as it applies to intentionality; some do intend to do good, though they do it in a morally obtuse way, in consenting to, or promoting, destruction of embryonic humans.
I suppose some, participating in the Third Reich, and the Final Solution, likewise intended to do good; and many were shielded from the full reality of what they helped make happen.
Gerlertner’s point partially is that it’s easier not to see the horror that pertains to embryo-destruction, than not to see the horror arising from full-grown-people destruction.
Because that’s true, it actually helps Dobson’s point, it seems to me–because that makes it easier to numb the conscience.
What would make the comparison more apt would be to link where we are now, to where the Final Solution started — before the Jews, before widespread extermination, there was “compassionate” extermination of “useless” people, whose lives were “not worth living”: the physically and mentally disabled, and the infirm. And it was justified as benefiting the rest of society.
In our case, our leaders say we’ll only destroy “a few” embryos destined to die anyway; why waste them?
But we know where this freight train is headed:
to the mass-production of embryonic humans, destined for destruction. An industry o cannibalize human beings for society’s benefit. A massive human-commodity industry–all hidden away, out of sight.
And that’s where Dobson’s analogy is dead-on.
And our holocaust is worse, because it is so much easier to hide away, in ordinary-looking businesses and universities, and “clinics,” and in annual reports to stockholders, far, far away from our consciences.
No special rail lines; no hard-to-explain plans for ovens, and huge orders of “delousing chemicals”; no neighborhoods, filled with stench; no guards going home, and drinking heavily to deal with what they witnessed; no mass graves, no rushing to apply the quick-lime…
Oh, how envious Hitler and Himmler must be.

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posted August 11, 2005 at 11:48 am

I’ve come to the conclusion that Concern and Compassion (TM) are the sure signs of a sociopath.
And the more they lecture you about their Concern and Compassion (TM), the more corrupt they are.

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