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The value of tradition.

6/10/08
I read Wesley Smith's blog "Secondhand Smoke" and I occasionally comment on things that go on there. Smith is a bright guy, but I disagree with him on almost everything and that makes the discussions interesting for both of us.

The current argument I'm in started out with Smith's post regarding the distrust between the public and the medical community (perhaps including bioethicists) and has ended up as a 'discussion' between myself and another poster regarding the value of tradition.

I have argued all along that tradition does not provide much, if any, moral weight. If a policy is going to stand it will need more legs than the spindly tradition leg. He seems to think that if I (and all bioethicists) don't accept tradition as an important argument then I am dismissing it because it is tradition-based. That's just not the case. I merely recognize that tradition only means that you've done something for a long time.

Perhaps tradition is important. Maybe we've been doing things in a certain way for a long time because it works. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't question the things that we traditionally do. Traditionally black people were sub-human slaves and women lacked most of the rights that men had. Neither of these traditional conditions or beliefs could withstand the onslaught of rational argument, and neither should lots of other traditions.

What do you think? Tradition as a spindly-leg or unquestionable rock-solid pillar?
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