Lives sacrificed in war vs. lives sacrificed in medical research

Alright, was arguing with a person who holds two opinions which I think are mutually contradictory.
First: The civilian deaths in GW2 are regrettable but morally permissible, in that the rest of the Iraqis will be better off without Saddam and besides, removing him is a worthy cause.
Second: Cloning embryos and harvesting them for stem cells is morally impermissible, because each embryo is a unique human individual. NOTE: for the purposes of this discussion, we will assume that fertilized eggs are morally equivalent to people.

So, if you hold the first position, does it or does it not follow that it is morally permissible to kill people for a greater good (the really neat things we can do with stem cells)?

The cases would be more analogous if, in the “Saddam” scenario, we Democracized[sup]TM[/sup] Iraq by killing civilians/innocent bystanders so that the act of killing one group led us to benefits for another. Unless I am misunderstanding you, the cases don’t immediately seem comparable.

Or are you simply trying to impose a means justifying the ends on your friend? If he holds that human deaths in one case are justifiable, then he must hold that juman deaths in all cases are justifiable. I think if you try and define your cases more concretely you might find that there are differences that “make the difference” for your friend.

On preview, erislover said it better.

What the hell are you talking about? The cases mentioned are immediately comparable. Killing Iraqi civilians for the Americans to fill their pockets with oil… sounds very much like the act of killing one group leading to benefits for another.

I think that the big problem with agreeing with your friend’s point of view is whether or not you not take a Utilitarianist type approach to morals (where the taking of a human life could automatically be justified if it is for the greater good), or if you take an approach that the intent of the action is the deciding factor of its morality.

Let’s assume the second for the sake of argument.

Your friend might be arguing that civilian casualties are the unfortunate but unavoidable outcome of modern war, but in order to vanquish a Great Evil[sup]TM[/sup] it is something that must happen. At every step along the way there is the specific intent to vanquish a Great Evil as opposed to a specific intent to take civilian lives.

Now, since you stated in the OP that for this debate fertilized eggs are equivalent to people let me go out on a limb and argue that your friend feels that the taking of stem cells from fertilized eggs is murder (which assumes your friend is using a definition of murder that is or similar to: “The intentional killing of an innocent life”) as those fertilized eggs will never have the chance to live out a life. In this case in order to achieve the desired outcome there must be somewhere along the way specific intent (end goal of the given action) to take an innocent human life.

If both of the above positions are assumed to be true, and the second morality I outlined in my opening paragraph is assumed to be true, than there is no inherent contradiction. While vanquishing a Great Evil it is not the intent at any step of the way to kill civilians; it is known it will happen, but for the sake of argument it is something that there are great lengths taken to avoid and minimize. The harvesting of stem cells however would specifically involve murder as one of its steps, and although that might achieve a great good for society you cannot in the belief structure outlined above perform an action if it has an evil intent.

Disclaimer: All of the above is hypothetical and assumes that the positions presented are true. I’m not advocating any of the positions, just arguing that there could be a moral belief structure that could harbor the conclusions Robert’s friend has without being self-contradictory. Also I’m currently waffling about my belief structure. IOW, don’t chew me out.