Who’s right? Who’s wrong?

By Barbara Simpson

If I needed a lesson why so many people today have no sense of right and wrong, I got it. But that wasn’t what I expected when I went to the lecture.

The speaker was a Catholic nun who teaches at a local college. The subject was the ethical aspect of embryo-stem-cell research. Since the woman teaches ethics, it could have been a great presentation – it wasn’t, and it certainly wasn’t ethics.

However, I got a clear example of the dumbing-down of academics and how moral relativism has permeated everything.

When I studied ethics in college, it was presented with the concept that there are things that are right, and things that are wrong. We were taught that ethics provides the framework for what we deal with and is the measure against which we weigh good and evil – good and bad. Skill in logical, ethical thinking enables us to evaluate situations and reach moral, ethical and yes, good, decisions.

My college professor taught us the intellectual skills to evaluate situations, make ethical choices and judgments and ultimately (if the right choices are made) live a good life. (If you’re interested in this, read the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. Be certain you get a pre-1965 edition – I wouldn’t trust the post 1965-post Vatican II versions.)

Our professor presented us with ethical dilemmas and, using the guidelines of thought, enabled us to see the cause, actuality and effect of situations and make wise decisions about them. Underlying was the knowledge that there is indeed a “right” and a “wrong” and it’s up to us to discern the difference. It was good training for the mind but, more importantly, good training for life.

But I’ll tell you this, if what this woman said in the lecture is how she teaches her college students, they’ll have no idea of right and wrong, or good or bad. They’ll only learn that everyone has his own ideas and all of them are “OK”!

In other words, it’s just different choices. Two sides of an issue may be argued and debated, but neither is right. One may be a “little right” or even a “lot right” but it can’t be flat-out “right” because, of course, the other side is “right” too. It’s all relative and besides, we shouldn’t judge.

The lecture presentation about stem-cell research was pitiful as to the biology, and the moral argument fell flat on its face. She missed the point!

The real debate in stem-cell research is not whether there’s a potential of medical benefits somewhere down the road. That is not the issue. It is deeper than that. The debate is ethical and moral: If the embryo is the very beginning of a human life, then to intentionally destroy it for laboratory experimentation is intrinsically wrong. (Darn, there I go again, being judgmental!)

What did we get at the lecture? Simply the statement of two points of view: “The Church says it’s wrong to intentionally destroy the embryo; moral theologians say there’ll be great benefits if the experiments work.”

Notice her words. “The Church” – carries the image of strict narrow-mindedness; “moral theologians” implies those people are equal to the Church in their conclusions. She never said which is correct, just that there are different views.

The impression is that since there are different views, the Church is probably wrong and will eventually change. Wrong. But, that’s the lesson we got. What a disappointment. I wanted some challenging arguments on both sides to see how each defends their position.

The only good part of the evening was that it didn’t cost me anything. Not so her college students. They’re getting ripped off twice. First, educationally because they’re not being taught properly. Secondly, financially – they’re paying for an education but not getting it.

As a result, they can’t think logically, they don’t know they can’t think logically and, they don’t even know what ethics means! Essentially, they’re taught: If it feels good, do it; if you don’t hurt anyone, do it; never make judgments; there’s good in everything, therefore nothing is bad; there is no flat-out right and wrong.

What a recipe for disaster! And if you doubt it – think Enron. I wonder if anyone has considered the ethics of destroying real education in favor of “feel-goodism,” misleading students, ripping-off parents by charging an arm and a leg for tuition and pretending you did your job?

Hmmm. Why do I doubt it?