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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Why Has No One Yet Tried To Argue That Cooperation With JAX's Evil Is Morally Permissible?

A commenter in this post brings up an important point: Publix provides Plan B abortion pills in its pharmacies and so, when you shop there, you are cooperating with evil. Why are people not protesting and boycotting Publix?

This is important, and it gives me an opportunity to explain my current problem with the Jackson Labs debate.

Many institutions do evil: Publix sells Plan B pills, McDonalds donates to Planned Parenthood, shoe company X uses slave labor, etc. Can I associate with these institutions even though I am cooperating with the evil that they do? Can I invite them to my town and buy their products?

These are important questions which should be examined closely, using proper analysis of the principles of material cooperation with evil. Thankfully, the answer to the question will often be "yes, you can associate with this institution because your cooperation with evil is sufficiently remote." For example, in the case of buying from Publix, it is most likely permissible moral cooperation with evil because (1) I don't intend the evil that Publix engages in by selling Plan B pills; (2) I have an important reason to be involved with Publix, namely, getting food from my family and I don't have any other better options; (3) my connection to the Plan B abortion is sufficiently remote."

But here is my problem with the Jackson Labs debate:

No one has yet attempted to conduct a similar moral analysis with regard to Jackson Labs.

Maybe JAX-Florida is morally permissible cooperation with evil, just like Publix. I'm sincere when I say that I'm open to the possibility of being persuaded that the Jackson Labs deal is morally permissible. But why hasn't anyone tried to conduct this moral analysis and explain it to me and the rest of the community?

Remember, the NCBC's explanation was embarrassingly faulty: The NCBC argued that since HESC research is not currently being done by JAX, JAX therefore isn't engaged in any evil. And since JAX is not engaged in any evil, then the land sale can't possibly be a cooperation with evil, because evil is non-existent. The clear error in this analysis is that JAX is currently engaged in evil, contrary to the NCBC's premise.

Now, Professor Waldstein has tried to give an explanation for supporting the JAX-Florida deal. He argues that the JAX-Florida deal is good idea because of the opportunity to dialogue. But this argument is defective too.

Are those the only arguments in support of Jackson Labs? Why has no one tried to seriously argue, using the principles of material cooperation with evil, that supporting the new Jackson Labs facility in Ave Maria is morally permissible cooperation with the evil that Jackson Labs is engaged in?

Fumed by Thales at 3:13 PM. |

Final Thoughts On The Jackson Labs - Ave Maria Forum

Some final thoughts about the Ave Maria forum on Jackson Labs.

The Jackson Labs representative, Mike Hyde, admitted on several occasions that Jackson Labs would never agree to ruling out certain immoral scientific practices. I don't know why this doesn't give JAX supporters more concern.

Now, one interesting point in the forum starts around minute 54. Hyde begins saying "We are not a center for human embryonic stem cell research. ... It's not what we do. If for some reason we decided to become center of human embryonic stem cell research, why in the world would we come down here...." At this point, a couple of people begin clapping, because I think they were thinking that Hyde was going to end his point right there. At first, this sounds like a compelling argument: We don't do HESC research, and if we were serious about wanting to do that in the future, why would we move to Ave Maria? That's silly! We know Ave Maria is against HESC research! So don't worry!

But Hyde is not done. He continues ".... why in the world would we come down here when we have 3/4 of a million square feet of laboratory available to us where we are?" By then, the clapping has stopped. Later in the forum, Hyde said the same thing with regard to research into contraception: why would they do it in Florida, when they can do it elsewhere?

And so we come to another moral issue that I don't think has been adequately addressed by the JAX supporters. Suppose JAX guarantees that nothing immoral will happen at the Florida facility but decides to do HESC research at its other facilities. Isn't that a big problem? Wouldn't supporting JAX-Florida then be material cooperation with JAX and its HESC research at its other facilities? Is it possible to financially support and encourage the morally acceptable or neutral work happening in JAX-Florida (which clearly facilitates the gravely immoral work happening elsewhere), while still claiming that one doesn't support or condone the immoral work by JAX? Because of this, I don't think Hyde's promise "don't worry, we won't do HESC or contraceptive research at JAX-Florida because we have plenty of lab space to do it elsewhere" should be a comfort.

My opponents might respond and give the faulty answer put out by the NCBC: that because JAX doesn't currently do HESC research, JAX currently doesn't do evil and therefore there can be no cooperation with evil at this moment, and who can be culpable for someone's future evil acts? My response: But JAX does currently do evil in the form of marketing and providing resources specifically for HESC research and by conducting HESC workshops. Hyde had to admit that at the forum (starting at about minute 120) when pressed by Marielena. Unfortunately, Marielena did not immediately turn to Prof. Waldstein and ask him whether this marketing and providing services and resources specifically for HESC research and this conducting HESC research workshops, admitted by Hyde, is moral or immoral.

And so my final impression of the townhall is that there were many lost opportunities by the questioners to ask the right questions. Hopefully participants at future townhalls will consider my advice.

Fumed by Thales at 1:52 PM. |

Why Waldstein's Defense of Jackson Labs Fails

So I listened to the Ave Maria forum on Jackson Labs, and Michael Waldstein, a Catholic theologian and Ave Maria University professor, spoke in defense of the Jackson Labs deal. Up until now, I thought highly of Professor Waldstein considering his good work on the Theology of the Body translation, but I was deeply disappointed in his performance at the forum.

Waldstein tried to frame his position as the middle ground between two equally valid and reasonable positions: namely, assuming that Jackson Labs engages in immoral conduct, there was a good argument to be made for a duty to protest the coming of Jackson Labs, but that it was also reasonable to think that there wasn't a duty to protest (ie, if you didn't protest Jackson Labs, you probably wouldn't be formally cooperating with evil).

But Waldstein is misstating the issue. This isn't a situation where Jackson's move to Ave Maria is inevitable and unavoidable and we are debating whether one should protest against it or not. The issue is whether people should actively invite, support, and encourage Jackson Labs to move to Ave Maria, as Tom Monaghan, Eugene Milhizer, Nick Healy, and many other Catholic people and organizations are doing.

During the forum, there was one clear instance of Waldstein's obfuscation on this issue: someone asked Waldstein whether the community should invite Planned Parenthood, just as Jackson Labs is being invited. Waldstein answered by saying: "There is a good and subtle discussion about what material cooperation involves. If Planned Parenthood came to this area without being invited, would you have a duty to protest their coming and attempt to prevent it? Maybe so, I think a good argument could be made. If you didn't protest it, would you be formally cooperating with evil? I don't think so." Unfortunately, the questioner didn't follow up and point out that Waldstein had just dodged the question, because the issue is not whether someone should protest or not protest an uninvited PP but whether someone should invite or not invite PP in the first place.

From this faulty premise, Waldstein then made two arguments in support of the Jackson Labs deal, even when assuming that Jackson Labs is engaging in all the immoral conduct alleged. His first and primary argument was that this was a good opportunity for dialogue with a scientific culture that we, as Catholics, often disagree with. Several times, Waldstein gave the example of his own attendance at Harvard Divinity School as a similar instance of engaging the culture. Waldstein also observed that we should not automatically reject things that come from people we disagree with, just as universities and Aquinas didn't reject Aristotle's writings which came from Muslims. Neither of the examples are on point. Waldstein again ignores the difference between simply engaging those people in our community with whom we disagree, and inviting those with whom we disagree into the community to expand their business. One is a much greater cooperation with evil than the other. Does Waldstein have a good answer to the question "If an opportunity for dialogue is good, why not also invite Planned Parenthood to set up next door to Ave Maria, since that too would be a good opportunity for dialogue?"

Waldstein's second argument in support of the Jackson Labs deal is that Jackson Labs is not as bad as some other institutions, like the current presidency for example. On two separate occasions, Waldstein brought up the fact he thought the current presidency was an institution much worse than Jackson Labs. I think Waldstein was trying to build a foundation for countering the argument that inviting Jackson Labs is like Notre Dame inviting Obama to its commencement for a "dialogue" on abortion, but this comparison was never brought up during the forum.

There are several problems with this argument:
-The fact that there are other institutions worse than Jackson Labs is irrelevant to Waldstein's first argument that we should dialogue with people and institutions with whom we disagree as Catholics. Actually, it cuts against Waldstein's first argument because isn't there even more reason to dialogue with those "worse" institutions with which we disagree to a greater extent?
-Waldstein offers no explanation for distinguishing between immoral institutions. Why is it alright to dialogue with immoral Jackson Labs, but not alright to dialogue with the current president?
-Waldstein's position that the current presidency is an institution much worse than Jackson Labs, is, in my opinion, quite untrue, considering the president is not in the business of directly supporting HESC research through marketing products and conducting workshops.

And that is why I think Professor Waldstein's defense of Jackson Labs fails.

UPDATE: I forgot to commend Waldstein for his statement that he was in complete agreement with the local bishop and whatever stance the bishop takes. (Unfortunately, I think the bishop and his office has been too reserved and unclear when speaking about the Jackson Labs deal.)

Fumed by Thales at 9:06 AM. |

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Advice For The Next Jackson Labs - Ave Maria Forum

I watched the entire video of the recent Jackson Labs - Ave Maria forum. I was disappointed with Prof. Waldstein's responses - but I was even more disappointed with the questions posed by the Jackson Labs opponents to Prof. Waldstein and the Barron Collier and Jackson Labs representatives. I'll say more later, but first here is my advice for future participants at Jackson Labs townhall meetings:

1. Print out and bring copies of this Jackson Labs marketing flier, this 2010 conference overview and this conference schedule, this 2007 conference schedule, this 2006 conference schedule, and this 2008 course on how to culture and manipulate human embryo stem cells.

2. Ask the Jackson Labs representative whether Jackson Labs currently markets services and resources specifically for human embryo stem cell (HESC) research and conducts workshops, courses, and demonstrations on HESC research. If the Jackson Labs representative obfuscates, show him the copies of the marketing flier and conference schedules. He will have to answer "yes."

3. Then ask the Ave Maria or Catholic supporter of Jackson Labs whether marketing and providing services and resources specifically for HESC research is moral or immoral, and whether conducting HESC research workshops is moral or immoral. He will have to answer "immoral" to both.

4. Finally, ask the Ave Maria/Catholic Jackson Labs supporter whether it is moral to invite or to support an organization which is currently acting immorally by marketing and providing resources specifically for HESC research and by conducting HESC workshops. Then wait for your answer.

Fumed by Thales at 11:36 PM. |

A Jackson Labs Debate at Ave Maria

The Naples News reports on the first forum in Ave Maria on the proposed Jackson Lab facility and says that the forum "nearly devolved into a debate."
The roughly three-hour event, held 7 p.m. at the town's coffee shop, The Bean at Ave Maria, was organized by a few town residents. It began with one audience member complaining that the panel was composed solely of Jackson Lab supporters and asking if he could become a panelist.

"All three of you are in favor of it. You have nobody up there on that panel that is against it. May I join you," town resident and Ave Maria University Professor John Jaroma said to applause from several in attendance.


After the forum, Jaroma reiterated his deep beliefs in how the project concerns those within the town.

"Ave Maria means something," Jaroma said, adding that worries over research that will be conducted near a place carrying "the name of the blessed mother," is difficult for some to comprehend.

Town resident Brian Lawe then confronted Jaroma.

"You are the rudest man I ever met. You came for your own self-centered gratification," Lawe said, then described Jaroma and others as "unreasoned people that will wish their own aggressive position on others, irrespective of reason or logic."
I don't know anything about Professor Jaroma, but this is the first time that I've heard of a Ave Maria faculty member speaking out against the Jackson Lab deal. Bravo, Professor! Please keep up the fight!
The panel consisted of a representative of Jackson Lab, a representative of project developer Barron Collier Cos., and theologian, author and Ave Maria University Professor Michael Waldstein, who began the opening remarks.

Waldstein said his thoughts were not focused on the project's finances, which is not his background, but were instead on how the project should be thought of from a Catholic perspective.
Oh, this is good, right? I generally have a positive impression of Professor Waldstein, due to his good work on the new translation of JPII's Theology of the Body.
If allegations that Jackson Lab is involved with human embryonic stem cell research, developing male birth control or other projects considered immoral to Catholics were true, Waldstein said the organization is still less reprehensible then, say, President Barack Obama.

"He is in a different category," Waldstein said.

Catholics must do what is right for themselves first, Waldstein said. He said the actions of others are secondary, but later added that Catholics are justified in protesting acts they find immoral.

"This is a gift of God, this is an answer to prayer," Waldstein said of his thoughts on the project. "Why? Because we will have people to talk to who stand in the mainstream of American culture."
What!?!? What kind of nonsensical claptrap is this? Is Waldstein saying that Catholics shouldn't be concerned about the moral problems with the Jackson Labs deal because (1) Jackson Labs is not as bad as Obama and (2) this is a chance to engage the cultural "mainstream"? Don't tell me that a presumably thoughtful theologian like Prof. Waldstein is stooping to the level of the embarrassing NCBC and the hogwash it passes as moral analysis.

Maybe I'm being too hard on Prof. Waldstein, considering I wasn't at the forum and I'm probably relying on a unreliable news excerpt. Can anyone at the forum tell us what happened? Do I have to add Prof. Waldstein to my list of "Catholics who unsuccessfully try to justify the Jackson deal as morally acceptable"?

UPDATE: Ave Maria News has a video of the forum here.

Fumed by Thales at 3:09 PM. |

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Phoenix Bishop Threatens To Revoke Hospital's Catholic Status

You may recall a dispute from several months ago between Phoenix Bishop Olmsted and a Catholic hospital about the nature of an abortion procedure that occurred at the hospital: briefly, the bishop says that the procedure was immoral, while the hospital says that it was necessary and moral.

Recent developments is that the hospital refuses to agree with the bishop's position, so the bishop has threatened to revoke the Catholic status of the hospital. The bishop's letter is a must read. (Initially, the bishop gave a deadline of December 17, but he has extended it to December 21.)

UPDATE: The dispute was not resolved by December 21, so the bishop has now officially revoked the hospital's status as Catholic. More information here, including a full public statement by the bishop.

Fumed by Thales at 10:28 AM. |

Saturday, December 11, 2010

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye.

Fumed by Advocatus Militaris at 10:06 AM. |

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Fumed by Petronius at 11:20 PM. |