Friday, 21 March 2008

How many standards have You got?

This double-standard thing is very tricky!

David Cameron has been caught out cycling across a red light, the wrong way down a one way street, and the wrong side of a mini-roundabout.

Naturally he had to apologise, and Boris Johnston declared that his London would be a zero-tolerance zone regarding traffic laws.

I saw the clips. There was no-one else around and there was not the slightest chance of anyone being injured. Anyone else of a normal disposition might well have done the same.

Clearly politicians have to adopt double standards in order to survive, and anyone who makes a fuss about this particular breach is nit-picking, or trying to make a story about not very much. I am not a Cameron supporter, but I like my politicians to be human.

Unfortunately, in this kind of situation, the tabloid press are inclined to become extremist: in other situations, the politicians become a little extreme. And when extreme thoughts creep in they are liable to appeal to emotion rather than rationality, and the concept of ‘balance’ evaporates.

Take the example of churchmen.

And consider the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill and its implications.

In the surprisingly emotive rant by Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the language he uses is worthy of the most extreme journalist or politician, and I have to assume that the rational argument supporting his view doesn’t stand up – if it did, surely he would use it, instead of phrases like:
Experiments of ‘Frankenstein proportion’
‘This Bill represents a monstrous attack on human rights, human dignity and human life’

As I understand it, this Bill will allow scientists to place minute clusters of human cells into animal eggs for a brief period in order to produce stem cells, which can then be used to research cures for some of our most insidious diseases. The alternative is to use human eggs instead, which are not readily available, and whose retrieval is invasive, uncomfortable and risky.

To use language which implies that we are set to create hybrids, monsters, or chimeras is clearly nonsense; to suggest that we are toying with human life is equally irrational.

Although I am not religious, I hold life to be sacrosanct – I won’t even kill a spider – but the proposed research doesn’t offend my sense of morality.

I would find it far more offensive if this research was to be forbidden.

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