28 Jul, 14 | by Iain Brassington
It’s only a few days since Richie’s paper on providing IVF in the context of global warming was published, but already there’s been a couple of lines of objection to it that have been fairly widespread; I thought it might be worth nodding to one, and perhaps offering an attempt of a defence against the other.
The first objection is that there’s no justification for the claim about same-sex couples in Richie’s paper – that she shouldn’t have treated homosexuality as a lifestyle choice and as “non-biological” infertility. I think that there’s significant merit to this objection to the paper; and though neither Dominic nor I mentioned the objection explicitly, I think that it’s there between the lines of each of our commentaries. (It’s certainly an aspect of the paper that’s picked up by the Telegraph‘s coverage of the paper, and it’s been mentioned a couple of times on Twitter and Facebook by people I know and follow. (I note that the Telegraph also gave a highly bastardised version of my post here. Ho hum.)) I think that Richie’s argument would have been at least as strong if she’d talked about providing IVF to anyone whatsoever – the qualifications about different “sorts” of infertility and lifestyle, I suspect, weakened the paper, inasmuch as that a paper with unnecessary and argumentatively weak aspects is more vulnerable to objections generally than one in which those aspects have been left out. So, yeah: I think that that might count as having been – at best – a strategic error on Richie’s part.
Here’s the other claim that I’ve seen a few times about the paper: that it’s weakened by a conflict of interest because of the author’s affiliation. This isn’t directly a claim about the quality of the argument in the same way that the previous objection is. Rather, it’s a claim that there’s something unreliable about the very fact of the argument’s having been put. (I’m not articulating the distinction very well, but I think you can see what I mean.) In essence, the worry is this: Richie works for a Jesuit Institution; this isn’t clear from her affiliation in the paper; there’s something iffy about this; this iffiness is some form of conflict of interest and her argument is likely to be biased.
I’m not sure what to make of this. more…