‘Burger and beer’ discussion helps to open minds, clarify views

Faculty Columnist and Faculty Columnist

I recently had the good fortune to share a meal with someone who I greatly respect, although our viewpoints are seldom the same.

We talked about the Red Wings, politics, golf, the HHS mandate and just about everything else under the sun.

My dining companion is a person of goodwill who is highly analytical and can marshal facts and arguments better than anyone I know, myself included. So, it’s always an intellectually bracing experience trading viewpoints.

We spoke at length about the HHS mandate, and this individual noted the crucial distinction between contraceptives and abortifacients.

The point was made that contraceptives prevent fertilization. In this person’s view, there should be no ethical issues in their use because there’s no fertilization and, therefore, no new life.

This is certainly not the case with abortifacients.

In the discussion that followed, I had to re-examine my own beliefs. I didn’t have the mental ammunition at the time to rebut or refute my dinner companion.

On the drive home, I tossed around these ideas in my head and concluded that more research and thinking was necessary on my part.

I have come to agree with the view that there can be a great deal of difference ethically between a contraceptive and an abortifacient.

It can be a mistake to treat them identically from a moral point of view.

In the process of doing this additional research and reflection, I recalled a number of facts, e.g., some women don’t take contraceptives to prevent pregnancy, but to prevent or mitigate certain physical conditions by using the estrogen and progestin contained in the contraceptive.

There should be no ethical problem with this, assuming that contraception is not directly intended.

The purchase and use of a contraceptive can be ethically neutral, depending on user’s intent.

There’s an entire area of morality and ethics devoted to the principle of the double effect: how to evaluate an action that is either good or neutral, but produces both a moral and an immoral result.

The ethical problem with the wholesale use of contraceptives is that it can lead to promiscuous sex while avoiding its natural consequence, i.e. conception and procreation. Copulation then becomes a selfish act, and sex becomes a commodity, violating the dignity of both men and women.

What happened to me during and after the meal illustrates the need for us to always be open to new ideas. We can, and must, hold to our beliefs, but these beliefs should spring from informed thought processes and knowledge that has been distilled and reflected upon.

As a result of this dinner and subsequent rethinking, my views have been sharpened, clarified and refocused.

This is part of the ongoing journey in our wrestling with a complex world.

It’s good and important to exchange views with sincere people who hold views different from one’s own.

This is true diversity; not the faux diversity peddled nowadays that uses skin color, sexual preferences or gender as the sole criterion.

I’ve previously written about the merits of a “A Burger and Beer” discussion – a friendly exchange between people of opposing views with no name-calling, recriminations, or unpleasantness.

I hope to do it again.



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