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Engineered Babies Save Lives, Destroy Embryos

By imrdkl in News
Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 12:52:57 PM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

An In-vitro fertilization company in Australia is criticizing the board of a Melbourne hospital for the long delays in granting approval for two separate designer babies during the last two years. These designer babies are being engineered specifically to provide healing stem cells for a sibling, from their umbilical cords. Last year, while waiting for a decision from the hospital, a local couple naturally conceived a genetically-matching son. His stem cells were recently implanted in his dying sister, who is inflicted with Fanconi's anaemia, and her fate should be known within a few weeks.

The more recent delay has been over another couple's child, who is believed to have sickle-cell anemia. Authorities have sought opinions from theologians, ethicists, and reproductive scientists while debating yesterday's decision to approve the procedure, after a year of discussion and hearings.


Presumably, the hospital considered the previous case in it's most recent debate, because the natural conception of a genetically-matched baby is still preferable. However, according to hospital's medical director, "many people were more comfortable with destroying three-day-old embryos that carry a genetic abnormality than terminating a pregnancy." An "abnormality" in this case means a mismatch with the sick siblings genetics. Indeed, the head of the Infertility Treatment Authority in Australia insists that, "There will be no carte blanche given for this procedure." However, the head of the fertility company is now hopeful that, "Epworth Hospital's decision was likely to make it easier for other couples to use the technology. "

A young American girl who also suffered Fanconi's anaemia, has fully recovered since receiving stem cells from the umbilical-cord blood of her genetically engineered baby brother in 2000 - she was the first child in the world to receive the controversial treatment. Numerous attempts were made, and as many twenty-nine embryos were rejected and/or destroyed, to find the perfect match for her. In defense of the procedure, fertility doctors point out that, "embryos are regularly discarded by infertile couples undergoing IVF", and that using the procedure in this type of case is "morally justifiable" because the intent is to save life. Other organizations see it as the beginning of a eugenics era.

While Australia is cautiously allowing the procedure, it has been ruled out recently in England. In the US, designing babies has also been a limited effort since 2000, due in part to the Administration's inconsistent definition of the difference between an embryo and a fetus. As reported here last year, a fetus is now considered an unborn child for pre-natal care eligibility.

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Poll
Designer Babies?
o Never 23%
o Only to save a sibling 12%
o For any reason the parents deem sufficient 39%
o Other (see my comment) 7%
o Bah 16%

Votes: 78
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o long delays
o designer babies
o Fanconi's anaemia
o few weeks
o approve
o American girl
o Numerous attempts
o twenty-nin e embryos
o point out
o eugenics era
o ruled out
o inconsiste nt definition
o reported here
o Also by imrdkl


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Engineered Babies Save Lives, Destroy Embryos | 193 comments (173 topical, 20 editorial, 1 hidden)
Too opinionated (1.66 / 3) (#9)
by Hyppy on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:10:46 AM EST

a trollish piece of flamebait

GM Babies (4.75 / 4) (#12)
by gleesona on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:51:09 AM EST

An interesting subject, that invariably ends in a flame fest. it is worth objectively discussing, and we need to think how for we should go with this technology.

The problem is, the emotional nature of this issues makes it unlikely that any government will introduce sensible legislation to control the modification of embryoes.

A +1 from me
______________________________________________

In short, a German spy is giving away every one of our battle plans.
You look surprised, Blackadder.
I certainly am, sir. I didn't realise we had any battle plans.
Re: GM Babies (none / 0) (#27)
by Jman1 on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 01:23:30 PM EST

"The problem is, the emotional nature of this issues makes it unlikely that any government will introduce sensible legislation to control the modification of embryoes."

Actually, the problem is that people disagree on what "sensible legistlation" entails. What's sensible to you may not be sensible to me.

[ Parent ]

That's why we all have to learn to compromise (none / 0) (#74)
by wierdo on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 05:56:10 PM EST

even when it's something we feel strongly about. Between that and a general "live and let live" attitude wrt personal choice/freedom, we'd all be a lot happier, even if most of us weren't as happy as we would be had we gotten purely our own way.

It's not good enough until it pisses everybody off equally. :)

-Nathan



[ Parent ]
That's precicely the problem. (none / 0) (#158)
by Verax on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 01:18:56 AM EST

Between that and a general "live and let live" attitude wrt personal choice/freedom, we'd all be a lot happier

The problem is that there is a class of human beings (those not yet born, and even, (in the view of Peter Singer) those who have been born but are only some number of weeks old) which are not extended the courtesy of the "let live" attitude.



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
A Tough Choice (4.00 / 1) (#16)
by qhill on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 10:12:43 AM EST

I am definately pro-life, but this article raises a tough choice.

In my mind, abortion is murder, and "growing" embryos that will never live is also murder. Seems relatively straight forward, yesno?

However, can't letting someone die be considered murder, when I could have saved their life? Even if that method to save them is something I don't agree with?

What is a poor schmuck to do? Or am I not thinking clearly, only being awake for the past ten minutes?


---
The greatest trick the devil ever pulled, was convincing the world he doesn't exist.


No, it *is* a tough one. (none / 0) (#21)
by graal on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 12:09:49 PM EST

If you believe that the ends cannot justify the means, that it's morally illicit to commit evil even for the purposes of doing good.

Inaction would seem to be equally illicit. If I walk by someone hanging over a cliff, and see some rope, but do not offer to help, and that person falls to his death, I have some responsibility.

--
For Thou hast commanded, and so it is, that every
inordinate affection should be its own punishment.
-- St. Augustine (Confessions, i)
[ Parent ]

Ends and Means (none / 0) (#58)
by mberteig on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:06:12 PM EST

This is always a fascinating issue. Personally I've decided that the means justifies the ends. That is, I try to live my life on the basis of principle rather than pragmatically. The saying that the end justifies the means is really a recipe for total chaos. The only problem, and it's a doozy, is to figure out by what principles to live.




Agile Advice - How and Why to Work Agile
[ Parent ]
Yes, well.... (none / 0) (#65)
by graal on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:53:58 PM EST

The only problem, and it's a doozy, is to figure out by what principles to live.
...that's the $64,000 question, isn't it?

--
For Thou hast commanded, and so it is, that every
inordinate affection should be its own punishment.
-- St. Augustine (Confessions, i)
[ Parent ]

Personally... (none / 0) (#69)
by mberteig on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 05:09:34 PM EST

I don't think humans are capable of discovering principles of moral conduct in the same way they are capable of discovering scientific principles. There is no accepted science of morality despite centuries of really fabulous effort. To me, the only obvious answer is in the power of faith. Specifically, the world's great religions such as Christianity, Buddhism and Islam demonstrate that Inspired spiritual teachings have a special power far beyond the power of human generated philosophies. Religions are beyond "popularity" - they create civilizations based on principles through the force of the Word alone.

... yes I'm a religious nut :-) ...




Agile Advice - How and Why to Work Agile
[ Parent ]
Your comment... (5.00 / 2) (#75)
by wierdo on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 06:06:17 PM EST

You seem to have failed to account for the false god of advertising, which seems to me to be more worshipped than any Gods of the religions you mentioned. Christianity, for example is given attention on only one, and in rare cases, two days of the week by most (in the US), while Pokemon or craze-of-the-month gets more attention the other six, and sometimes, seven days of the week, even by most self-professed religious people.

You also did not mention the numerous failed "religions" of history, popularly known as cults.

-Nathan



[ Parent ]
yesno?sorta. (none / 0) (#157)
by Verax on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 01:13:19 AM EST

In my mind, abortion is murder, and "growing" embryos that will never live is also murder. Seems relatively straight forward, yesno?

Yes. Mostly. But when you say "embryos that will never live" you're glossing over something. A human embryo is already alive. If it were dead, it would be of no value for the purposes described in the story.

So it boils down to deliberately killing a human embryo is morally equivalent to deliberately killing a human fetus is morally equivalent to killing a human infant. They are all innocent. They are all human. They are all alive. Allowing an embryo to die of exposure is not morally different from allowing an infant to die of exposure. The infant can tolerate a harsher environment, but that does not make the infant more human than the fetus or embryo.



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
I dont understand (2.66 / 3) (#19)
by rayab on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 11:48:03 AM EST

why people have such big issues with this. We are finally at the stage of our development where we can do amazing things with ourselves. I dont understand why some choose to focus on petty things like morality, thus hindering our development as a human race. Just imagine what we could have just twenty years down the road if we allowed scientists to freely research and experiment with genetics! Hell we could even find the cure for old age and live forever :)

Y popa bila sobaka on yeyo lyubil, ona syela kusok myasa on yeyo ubil, v zemlyu zakopal, i na mogile napisal...
Heaven & Hell (5.00 / 1) (#25)
by nklatt on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 01:21:14 PM EST

IANAC(hristian), but consider this from a certain perspective. If it was medically possible to live forever, people could keep themselves out of hell; no savior required. Of course, this wouldn't be acceptable. Plus, Xians would want to die, themselves, so they could go to heaven. But, would it be suicide to not accept the medical treatments to live forever? Assuming suicide is a damning offense (not held by all Xians, I know) then how do you get to heaven? Hope to get hit by a bus? If people could always be saved, it would then be impossible to get into heaven, no?

[ Parent ]
extending the meaning of suicide (5.00 / 2) (#30)
by Shpongle Spore on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 01:37:01 PM EST

I don't think this is an argument against developing the technology to become immortal. If refusing the medical treatment that would make you immortal is a form of suicide, then hindering the development of the treatment must also be suicide.

Besides, even if medical science could prevent you from ever dying of "natural" causes and you never have a fatal accident, AFAIK all Christians believe in Judgment Day, so you still don't get out of dying.
__
I wish I was in Austin, at the Chili Parlor bar,
drinking 'Mad Dog' margaritas and not caring where you are
[ Parent ]

Good Points <nt> (none / 0) (#44)
by nklatt on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 02:44:46 PM EST



[ Parent ]
It was tried. It didn't work out (5.00 / 2) (#37)
by hardburn on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 02:00:27 PM EST

What happend the last time a bunch of scientists were allowed to do as they please without that silly "morality" stuff? Ever hear of Dr. Mengele?

There are plenty of things we can do. There is plenty of things we shouldn't do.


----
while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }


[ Parent ]
live forever? (none / 0) (#64)
by joshsisk on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:39:07 PM EST

Hell we could even find the cure for old age and live forever

And just how long do you think the world could support a population that never grows old?
--
logjamming.com : web hosting for weblogs, NOT gay lumberjack porn
[ Parent ]

Ethics and Longevity (5.00 / 1) (#77)
by Valdrax on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 06:19:39 PM EST

I propose a little thought experiment for you:

What if research reveals that they key to curing old age is to kill a full-grown man every 20-50 years?  (Is your current body getting run-down and filled with aches and pains?  Get a new one!)  If it were possible to grow people from zygotes to adults in glass tubes, would it be okay to farm humans for new bodies?  Would it be slavery and murder if they were never allowed to develop or gain consciousness via drugs or surgical neutering of the brain?  Would society grow to accept it even if these "humane" techniques could not be developed and the procedure required using a person who had to be raised more conventionally?

In "The Long Arm of Gil Hamilton," Larry Niven anticipates some of these issues.  Since he never predicted medical cloning, he envisioned a society where people extended their lives by harvesting organs from convicted criminals executed by capital punishment and from cryogenically frozen people whose hopes for awakening into the future would be dashed by people who considered them merely "corpsicles."  Without reproductive cloning, his envisioned society becomes tolerant of applying the death penalty to even the smallest crimes, like jaywalking, so that the convicted may be harvested to keep others alive longer.  The lives of strangers became very insignificant if they could be used to extend your own.

Considering the ethics of a technology is very important.  

A technology that makes people accepting of the killing of other adult human beings is generally considered reprehensible today, but current advances into fetal stem cell research and medical cloning may blur the line in the future.  Society will learn to marginalize certain classes of human being into non-persons to justify the technology.  Currently, due to the abortion movement, fetuses and embryos are considered by the larger class of people in western civilization to be sufficiently "non-person" to justify killing for the benefit of another being.  Similarly, excess zygotes and blastocysts have long been considered unimportant in the process of in-vitro fertilization.  

Currently, we are considering whether or not it is appropriate to create a child specifically for the purpose of saving another child's life.  There are numerous psychological issues to consider about the second child.  His primary purpose is to serve as a medical tool for his older sibling.  What if the treatment fails?  His reason for being born becomes a failure.  Serious issues of self-worth, questions of whether or not his parents truly love him for him, and a possible feeling of inferiority to the sibling he was created to save may face this child even if the procedure is a total success.

In the future, it may become acceptable to do just what I've mentioned earlier and fabricate brand new bodies for the elderly to be transplanted into.  If the technology allowing it is ever created, it will be done.  Ethicists and lawmakers must consider then what to do.  Has the patient or the doctor committed murder by replacing the mind of the donor body?  Is the being in the new body the donor, the patient, or neither?  Is the patient dead, and can he be tried for his crimes?  Do any of these answers differ based on whether this was done via a brain transplant or by rewriting the brain of the donor to contain the memories of the patient?  What if the transfer isn't 100% accurate?  Was raising the donor slavery?  Now that it's been proven to be possible, how long until the wealthy meddle in politics until they can be allowed to undergo the procedure?  I haven't even gotten into issues of gender, nationality, etc. if the donor and patient don't match on those subjects.

Back to the article...  

No matter what, the created child this article speaks of will live on and be genetically healthy.  He has that on his side.  This is a major benefit of what his parents are doing.  Designer children can allow couples with crippling genetic diseases lying dormant in their pedigree breathe a sigh of relief and know that their children and their children's children can be free of the genetic flaws of their lineage.  With an even better understanding of the human genome, our grandchildren may all be physically fit, beautiful super-geniuses who would still be able to outlive us if they were born in our grandparents time instead.  This is the promise.  This is the dream.

However, we cannot ignore the ramifications of a technology when researching it.  All major technological advances have come at a cost when people didn't care about the side-effects.  Industrial factories led to milltowns and brutal child labor.  Coal and steam power led to acid rain.  Fish farming has led to coastal devistation.  Cell phones have led to a slight increase in auto accidents.  Nuclear energy nearly led the human race to extinction and has been responsible for numerous deaths and illnesses.  Most of these technologies have had their down-sides cured or are being worked on.

Future technologies bring us more threats that we must consider so that we can cushion their impact on society.  A cashless society could create the ultimate surveillance state.  Genetic engineering could lead to a new form of caste-based oppression and a severe gap between haves and have-nots.  It could also lead to new biological weapons such as a contagious variant of the common cold virus that inconveniences most people but kills either a specific person or ethnic group.  Increased lifespans could start western cultures back on the path of positive population growth towards overpopulation.  Advances in augmented reality and ubiquitous computing could leave humans unable to accomplish anything without computer aid once access to a sea of virtual knowledge replaces learning.  Colonizing the solar system opens up new and terrible venues for warfare and terrorism such as throwing an asteroid at Earth at very high speeds or blanketing geosychronous orbit with high-speed shrapnel.

Am I suggesting that we recoil in fear from the future and never advance these technologies?

No.

However, we cannot do as you suggest and simply blindly charge forwards towards the future without ethical considerations.  All technologies have their down-side.  We must consider what a technology will make out of us and whether we want to pay the cost for it.  We are only now in the modern age playing with technology that asks fundamental questions of what it is to be human.  The answers it will bring will be subjective.  The will be up to society to determine.  The answers we find may be remembered by future generations as atrocities of our time, much like the milltowns of the industrial revolution, if we do not take care to think on the ramifications of our actions first.

[ Parent ]

Augh, Huxley. (none / 0) (#109)
by bjlhct on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 11:45:40 PM EST

Huxley's book was social critique and a story, nothing less or more. A society with the tech to make genetic classes wouldn't need them. Shrapnel in orbit already happening. Shepard tether sats solve this. Sling a asteroid at earth, you can divert it too.

The tech development isn't morally responsible for what happens - the users of that tech are. The issue here is the ethics of what is being done with the fetuses, not whether it's right or wrong to develop the ability to do something with them.

You are a fool.

*
[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
[ Parent ]

Who mentioned Huxley? (none / 0) (#122)
by Valdrax on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 01:16:08 PM EST

"Brave New World" is a fine book and all, but the promise of genetic haves and have-nots has long been thought to be a potential threat of eugenics and genetic engineering even outside of the context of his book.  While a society with the tech for genetic engineering may "not need" divisions, the technology will inevitably be first used by the wealthy who can afford it.  For at least one generation, the wealthiest will have genetically superior children on top of their usual social advantages.  Perhaps the word "caste" was too loaded, but there will definitely be a performance difference between those who can and will use genetic engineering and those who cannot or will not use it.  Whether this technology trickles down to the masses or stays out of reach of the majority of the population remains to be seen.  I believe it will, but I believe that there will be several generations of haves and have-nots before it does so.

The tether satellites you refer to can be overwhelmed and destroyed by a sufficent amount of debris.  Grind a kilometer-long asteroid down to pebble and sand size, and geosynchronous orbit can be made permanently useless.  At the very least, it can be wiped clean of satellite infrastructure for a few decades.  As for deflecting an asteroid, that may or may not be possible depending on future engine technology.  If you can get a one tonne asteroid or comet up to .001c, you can pretty much take out the planet's ecosystem.

You are picking nits over who is responsible.  Of course an event is not responsible.  I am not anthropomorphizing an event.  Of course the users of a tech are responsible for its use, and the issue is whether or not its right or wrong to develop a technology.

The core of the issue is whether it all right to develop the ability to do something wrong?  This question is inherently tied up in whether or not the action itself is wrong.  Is it wrong to create people for the express purpose of harvesting them to save another person's life?  Is it okay even if they don't have to do die to do so?  

If the answer to those questions is no, then it is not right to work on developing the technology to do so, much in the way that it's not right to develop biological weapons.  The use is wrong, so the research into the technology is wrong.  While weapons are a black and white issue, this technology is not.  Just because it's not obviously and blatantly wrong doesn't mean that we can simply ignore whether or not it is more wrong than right.

(By the way, name-calling is pretty much equivalent to Godwin's Law.  If you resort to it, you've pretty much already lost the argument.)

[ Parent ]

No, still not the issue. (none / 0) (#129)
by bjlhct on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 06:26:13 PM EST

This isn't a debate over whether it's right to develop genetic/bio/stem cell/whatever tech, but a debate over the ethics of using fetuses/embryos/whatever for such research and for treatment.

*
[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
[ Parent ]
The real issue. (none / 0) (#156)
by Verax on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 01:01:21 AM EST

This isn't a debate over whether it's right to develop genetic/bio/stem cell/whatever tech, but a debate over the ethics of using fetuses/embryos/whatever for such research and for treatment.

It's not a mather of the ethics of using, but rather the ethics of killing. It's also no the ethics for fetuses/embryos, but for human fetuses/embryos. If death wasn't involved, or the fetus/embryo wasn't human, I think you'd have much fewer people concerned with the issue.

In order to determine whether it is ethical to use human fetuses or human embryos for research, the central question is "are human embryos/fetuses human beings?" It becomes pretty straightforward after that. If they are not human beings, then who cares? And if they are human beings, then they are certainly innocent human beings, and it would be morally unjustifyable to deliberately kill them.



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Thanks. (none / 0) (#163)
by bjlhct on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 01:51:53 AM EST

I take it by your replying that my comment was unclear. That happens a lot. But maybe that will make it clearer.

*
[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
[ Parent ]
hmm... my $.02 (4.40 / 5) (#22)
by Run4YourLives on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 12:22:33 PM EST

This is very interesting stuff. It's also another area that draws on a person's own personal moral code for guidance, leading to some crazy debates.

I will disregard those who exclude morality as unnecessary from the comfort of their middle class suburban lifestyles... as in all cases, it is easy to say something doesn't matter when it doesn't affect you in a negative way. I would presume that most of these same persons would not sit idly by an accept their deaths in the name of progress... and those that do are too stupid to be taken seriously anyway.

I digress. Aside from the "murder is wrong argument" my problem with genetic engineering (and abortion, for that matter) is that it begins to organize humanity into classes based on their apparent "worth" or "value". In this case, for example, the living sibling is more "valuable" than the unborn one. This is a dangerous precedent to set. (which was initially set of course, by abortion)

Why is it dangerous? Well, simply because it opposes the core values that our "enlightened" western societies are based on.  Mainly, the values of human rights, individual dignity and worth, and equal opportunity.

Now, if you don't like the democratic styled societies that we live in, I guess there is no problem, but I do. More importantly, I think we should be striving to improve these core values, not to undermine them.

More than "terrorism" and Iraq, I fear the near future where a society stands divided between enhanced democracy and equality, and a resurgence of the hierarchies of medieval or communist times, either in the name of the personal benefit or the greater good.  

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown

You aren't seeing it from the other side (none / 0) (#26)
by Jman1 on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 01:21:59 PM EST

"In this case, for example, the living sibling is more "valuable" than the unborn one."

I don't know what you are talking about. How does having a child designed to save his/her sibling's life devalue that child?

With regard to abortion, what you don't see is that most (many?) pro-choicers don't see a fetus as an "unborn child" with less value than an actual child, they see a fetus (certainly in the early phases) as NOT a child, and therefore inherently less valuable.

[ Parent ]

hmm... (5.00 / 2) (#34)
by Run4YourLives on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 01:49:25 PM EST

How does having a child designed to save his/her sibling's life devalue that child?

Assuming you're not trolling, the child is devalued because it's killed. It doesn't get a chance to live a life.

Ok, try this:

You should die because I need your heart. Sorry, but your objections do not matter.

Understand now?

...pro-choicers don't see a fetus as an "unborn child" with less value than an actual child, they see a fetus (certainly in the early phases) as NOT a child,

I can't really speak for pro-choicers, as I'm not one, but I'll assume that you are correct for the purposes of debate.

They can see it as whatever they want, I'm not about to get into the unwinnable argument about where life begins.

However, 50 years ago many people who have argued that Black people weren't really human, but more monkeys. 50 years before that, women were considered property of men. My point being that the denial of oppurtunity (in this case, to live) is contrary to our statments of Human Rights that we have chosen to live by.

We can say that a denial of life is equivalent to murder, which would elevate the "fetus" or "unborn child" to an actual life form, worthy of protection.

If we say otherwise, then we get into situations where we begin to weigh that denial of life (or, the "quality" of the life itself, in the case of genetic filtering) against a specifc set of rules that we have laid out. In effect, you then create a class system in which some are so low, they are not deemed to be worthy of life.

 I argue this system is contrary to the values of democracy that we strive to live by, as laid out in constitutions/human rights codes etc.


It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

When haven't we? (none / 0) (#38)
by Happy Monkey on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 02:04:05 PM EST

In effect, you then create a class system in which some are so low, they are not deemed to be worthy of life.

Living human bodies are routinely killed when there is no mental activity. Not long ago, a teenage girl was removed from life support, over the objections of her family, when she suffered brain death. So we've got a class system already, based on brain activity.
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Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
yes, we do... (none / 0) (#41)
by Run4YourLives on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 02:21:23 PM EST

But is that "right"?

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]
Sure (none / 0) (#48)
by Happy Monkey on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 03:13:08 PM EST

I think of the brain as the person. The body is a life support mechanism. If the brain is dead, the person is dead. Once brain death occurs, mechanical life support is for the benefit of the family, not the patient. The only ambiguity, in my mind, is the risk of the misdiagnosis of a coma as brain death.
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Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
well (none / 0) (#50)
by Run4YourLives on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 03:29:59 PM EST

This is a vastly different subject than genetic engineering and the beginnings of life...as you're talking about the end of life, which society has accepted as being a no-no to terminate abnormally. (well, most of society at least, considering the capital punishment debate is still at the forefront)

What you're talking about is a little different even from that though, as in these cases life is being artificially extended in the hope it can be restored.

I don't think it can be agrued in the same fashion, and is better left to another discussion.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

How Far to Go? (none / 0) (#61)
by virg on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:27:52 PM EST

Your argument then leaves us to decide how far to take the argument of denial of life. Your argument does not even need to be stretched to make it say that contraception is murder. Where do you draw the line? If a man gets a vasectomy, he denies possible life to all of the children he could have fathered. Before you say that it's ridiculous of me to extend it to that extreme, you should consider that I find it ridiculous for you to extend denial of life arguments to embryos. This is why I disagree with your argument that stem cell research represents an argument of class.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
well.. not that far... (none / 0) (#71)
by Run4YourLives on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 05:27:05 PM EST

Your argument does not even need to be stretched to make it say that contraception is murder

You are correct in stating that this is a ridiculous argument. There is a fundamental difference between this and the destruction of a fertilized embryo though.

Considering that we as humans have to hit the start button in the creation of another human in conception, simply preventing that button from being hit cannot be considered an active destruction of a life. If it was, you could say that abstinence was murder too, and that is plain silly.

However, once that button has been pressed, we enter a new realm, one in which we have to turn off the development machine, to destroy the creation, and the life that will come of it.

In the same way that the parts for life lie dormant until we interfere, the construction of life, in most cases continues until we interfere once again. It is this latter interference, the interference of a life already started that I oppose.


It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Ridiculosity (none / 0) (#125)
by virg on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 04:48:47 PM EST

> However, once that button has been pressed, we enter a new realm, one in which we have to turn off the development machine, to destroy the creation, and the life that will come of it.

That's simply not true. A fertilized embryo doesn't represent a person any more than an egg represents a chicken. It's true that under the correct circumstances, it can develop into a human, but the point is that the development hasn't yet occurred. Besides, at face value, it's not true that we need to interfere in the development. The embryos created for the purposes described in the article are made in a test tube (a petri dish, actually), and then checked for DNA patterns. The ones that don't match are simply not implanted into a mother's womb. You can claim that not implanting constitutes interference, but I see it the other way around, in that without interference the embryos would all die, and it's only the act of implantation that gives it a chance to survive.

Virg
"Imagine (it won't be hard) that most people would prefer seeing Carrot Top beaten to death with a bag of walnuts." - Jmzero
[ Parent ]
Chickens and eggs (none / 0) (#154)
by Verax on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 12:36:20 AM EST

A fertilized embryo doesn't represent a person any more than an egg represents a chicken.

I'm not sure what you mean by "person". But I do know that a human embryo is a member of Homo sapiens i.e. a human. I don't know whether an egg "represents" a chicken. But I do know that a fertilized chicken egg does contain a chicken.

You can claim that not implanting constitutes interference, but I see it the other way around, in that without interference the embryos would all die, and it's only the act of implantation that gives it a chance to survive.

No. What I claim is that from the moment of conception, the zygote is a human being. Deliberately bringing about conception, and then permitting the conceptus to die of exposure is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. (which is not morally justifyable.)



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Bad example (none / 0) (#70)
by Tatarigami on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 05:14:25 PM EST

You should die because I need your heart. Sorry, but your objections do not matter.

In the case this story is discussing, all that was needed was stem cells, taken from the placenta -- so really, the second kid wasn't needed at all, it was the pregnancy they were after. The fact that the parents kept a child they had no practical use for suggests to me that they valued the kid for its own sake and there was never any question of which was more valuable than which.

Your example of taking hearts is an extreme one, which doesn't seem to relate to the current situation. It could stand as a warning about possible worst-case scenarios, but for this one it's all out of proportion.

[ Parent ]

A little worse than that. (none / 0) (#153)
by Verax on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 12:23:47 AM EST

How does having a child designed to save his/her sibling's life devalue that child?

The problem here is what "having a child designed" means. It means IVF, which is where, say, half a dozen lives are started. Then one of those lives is lucky enough to have the right genes, so is allowed to live. For the other five, it's "Sorry, we don't need your cells because we want other genes. But since the only reason you're alive was the possibility that you'd have suitable genes, your reason for being alive is no longer there. So you get to die of exposure, or die from having your stem cells harvested.

No child is actually designed. Multiple children are conceived. One may be allowed to live, the others are "discarded". That's not design.



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
"winnable"? (none / 0) (#155)
by Verax on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 12:51:31 AM EST

I'm not about to get into the unwinnable argument about where life begins.

What makes you say that argument is "unwinnable"? What is your notion of "winning"?

My notion of winning is arriving at truth. In that sense, a two person debate could have 0, 1 or 2 winners.



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Hehe (5.00 / 1) (#32)
by gbd on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 01:40:17 PM EST

I've seen a lot of arguments for and against stem cell research, but I must admit that this is the first time I've ever heard it suggested that proponents of this research are opposed to "democratic styled societies." :-)

--
Gunter glieben glauchen globen.
[ Parent ]
well... (none / 0) (#35)
by Run4YourLives on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 01:57:32 PM EST

if you wish for as pure a democracy as possible, I don't think you can really disagree.

Of course, we don't live in such a society, but what I'm saying is that it should be what we strive towards.

I'm sure however, there are many out there that will disagree with that one though.

I tend not to attach the "anti-democracy" stigma with the same wait as most brainwashed minions though, so I don't see it really as such an insult.


It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

*blink* (4.50 / 2) (#49)
by gbd on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 03:21:01 PM EST

if you wish for as pure a democracy as possible, I don't think you can really disagree.

Disagree with what? The idea that stem cell research is bad?

I've said before that I respect (but not agree with) most of the positions of the pro-life community. Having said that, I don't mind telling you that I resent being told that I oppose "democratic society" because I am in favor of certain types of stem cell research. It's one of the more specious arguments that I've ever heard. It's like saing that I oppose capitalism because I'm a Denver Broncos fan. One thing has absolutely nothing to do with the other. I could just as easily say that you oppose "democratic society" because the public is deeply divided on this issue and you, if left to your own devices, would take this technology away from everybody on the basis of your personal beliefs (which is dictatorial, not democratic.)

Of course, I don't actually believe this and would never use this as a talking point in a stem cell debate, because it's a silly argument devised to inflame emotions and cloud the issue, and it has nothing to do with the actual matter at hand.

--
Gunter glieben glauchen globen.
[ Parent ]

I'm not sure you understand my position. (5.00 / 1) (#53)
by Run4YourLives on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 03:49:06 PM EST

it's a silly argument devised to inflame emotions and cloud the issue,

Perhaps if you wouldn't allow your emotions to become inflamed you would see what I'm trying to say a little clearer.

Here is my argument again:

Stem cell research, or anything else for that matter, that denies a human and opportunity to lead a life under their own choosing is contrary to many of the principles of human rights that we as a society have set up. Those principles are also what we base our democracies on as well.

Nowhere did I state that stem cell research was bad, and nowhere did I state that democracy was essentially good either! You implied that, based on your own personal opinion that democracy=good, therefore !democracy=bad.

Now, what I did say is that it is my personal opinion that as a society, we should be striving towards a democratic ideal, being that we have a blueprint already.

That, you can disagree with.

However, if we are to strive towards this ideal, then we should be making decisions that enhance that ideal, not oppose it. Denial of life, for any reason (regardless of the benefit), seems to oppose this ideal (as do many other things as well). I don't think you can argue with that, really.

I hope you understand my position a little better know.
 

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

All right (5.00 / 1) (#90)
by gbd on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:12:44 PM EST

I think the problem is axiomatic. You say:

Stem cell research, or anything else for that matter, that denies a human and opportunity to lead a life under their own choosing ..

Embryos are not humans. It stretches credulity to even call them "potential humans", since the majority of embryos never result in humans. You can say that you believe that an embryo, under the proper circumstances and with the right sequence of events, eventually becomes a human, and therefore they should be treated as such. That's a valid position. I don't agree with it, but it is valid nonetheless.

It then follows that, from my position, it takes an inordinate amount of mental gymnastics to connect stem cell research with democracy. I agree that allowing humans to "lead a life according to their own choosing" is an admirable aim of any socioeconomic system (be it democratic or not.) But if you reject the idea that embryos are humans, it's hard to connect any of this to stem cell research.

However, if we are to strive towards this ideal, then we should be making decisions that enhance that ideal, not oppose it. Denial of life, for any reason (regardless of the benefit), seems to oppose this ideal (as do many other things as well). I don't think you can argue with that, really.

I think this is reasonable. However, I'd wager that you would find lots of people who would be more than willing to argue with this, particularly in the United States, where there is widespread support for capital punishment. (I am not among its supporters.)

--
Gunter glieben glauchen globen.
[ Parent ]

well... (4.50 / 2) (#93)
by Run4YourLives on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:29:00 PM EST

You can say that you believe that an embryo, under the proper circumstances and with the right sequence of events, eventually becomes a human, and therefore they should be treated as such.

At this point we could digress into debating at what point a human life begins, but that, I think, is doomed to turn into a flamefest. :-) Let's agree to disagree on this one, since I'm sure we're both intelligent to play that one out in our heads to the same conclusions.
I will take up issue with you on a single point, however:

It stretches credulity to even call them "potential humans", since the majority of embryos never result in humans

Regardless of the percentages on embryos that actually make it to "human" status, doesn't the fact that the potential is there until we, or some other force actively denies it mean that we should acknowledge and cultivate that potential, and not hinder or destroy it? I think it does, you no doubt will disagree, and we'll have to agree on that, I guess!

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

I agree .. (none / 0) (#101)
by gbd on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 09:31:54 PM EST

.. with all of this. :-)

--
Gunter glieben glauchen globen.
[ Parent ]
They're evil, I tell you (2.50 / 2) (#23)
by tang gnat on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 12:40:49 PM EST

I would never support anything from Monsanto, especially these designer babies. Genetic Modification is both wrong and dangerous.

Yes, but did Monsanto... (none / 0) (#76)
by godix on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 06:18:06 PM EST

...finally create something GE that is edible by humans?


Love - A temporary insanity curable by marriage.
- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
[ Parent ]
Why wrong and dangerous? (4.00 / 1) (#108)
by bjlhct on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 11:42:42 PM EST

And if you're going to pull something from the Bible I won't have the government acting on it. Church/State separation!

*
[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
[ Parent ]
dude (none / 0) (#133)
by tang gnat on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 07:28:29 PM EST

When did anybody mention the State?

[ Parent ]
It's preemptitive. (none / 0) (#137)
by bjlhct on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 08:45:25 PM EST

I'm sayin that church state separation means that you can't have the state act on morals from the bible, and that I don't get my morals from the bible. Cuz people bring that up a lot.

*
[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
[ Parent ]
Argh. (none / 0) (#28)
by Jman1 on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 01:26:59 PM EST

For a contentious moral issue like abortion/stem cell/whatever, the default legal position should be "Do as you see fit." I.e. if you believe in abortion, and want one, have one. If you don't, don't. What pisses me off is when people try to force their own morality on everyone else. I'm not talking about a case in which 99% of the country believes something is wrong (e.g. murder) while 1% thinks its okay, but rather a case like abortion or stem cell where the country is more evenly divided.

Nobody's forcing you to have a designer kid. Who are you to force someone else not to?

Please... (5.00 / 2) (#56)
by mberteig on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 03:55:28 PM EST

Be aware that "do as you see fit" is a moral standpoint and I'm sure that many people would not want that moral standpoint imposed upon them. For what it's worth, that's just not the way the world works. In many cases, even if there is a substantial divide over an issue, it is beneficial to impose a ruling for the good of society.




Agile Advice - How and Why to Work Agile
[ Parent ]
I agree completely (none / 0) (#68)
by adequate nathan on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 05:03:13 PM EST

As a member of NAMBLA, my view has always been
'For a contentious moral issue like baby raping, the default legal position should be "Do as you see fit." I.e. if you believe in raping babies, and want to rape one, rape one. If you don't, don't. What pisses me off is when people try to force their own morality on everyone else. I'm not talking about a case in which 99% of the country believes something is wrong (e.g. murder) while 1% thinks its okay, but rather a case like baby raping where the country is more evenly divided.

Nobody's forcing you to have a designer kid. Who are you to force someone else not to?'

Nathan
"For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
[ Parent ]

But that gets you nowhere (none / 0) (#173)
by the on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 11:49:21 AM EST

What pisses me off is when people try to force their own morality on everyone else
But the whole point is that some people perceive terminating an embryo as an imposition of values on a defenceless human. Your little ethical code has a lot going for it, but I don't think it helps here because it doesn't actually define "everyone else".

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
This is pretty straightforward (5.00 / 4) (#29)
by gbd on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 01:35:24 PM EST

People who have ethical or moral or religious objections to this type of procedure are under no obligation to pursue it if they ever find themselves in a situation where stem cells could provide benefit. In the cases above, the embryos came from the parents of the dying children. These folks are presumably rational enough to have sat down, thought the situation through, and made a decision. It seems to me that in an era when so many people are calling for more personal responsibility and less governmental intervention in people's lives, this is exactly as it should be. Denying essential medical treatment to somebody else's deathly sick child because of a personal belief about the status of embryos strikes me as somewhat sinister.

Now, I'm aware of the standard response to this: namely, that destruction of embryos constitutes murder, and that is sinister. I have a great deal of respect for this position (believe me, I do) but I do not agree with it. There is no medical, ethical, legal, or religious consensus on whether or not the destruction of a "potential person in the right set of circumstances" constitutes murder. That being the case, the solution seems pretty straightforward. If you object to stem cell research and the resulting therapies, then do not seek them; nobody wishes to force them on you. On the other hand, people who can benefit from this research should not be barred from receiving help if they have made a conscious decision to go down this avenue.

--
Gunter glieben glauchen globen.

Not So Straightforward (5.00 / 4) (#54)
by mberteig on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 03:53:03 PM EST

The problem with personal choice is that this set of therapies and technologies represents a strong advantage to people who have a specific set of beliefs. Specifically, if someone believes that destroying an embryo is equivalent to murder, then that belief prevents them from taking advantage of this set of therapies.

Now some might say that it is still just a matter of choice, but if we see another example I think the injustice of that will become clear: suppose that a person believes they must rob a bank to save their child and they are perfectly willing to do so. Another person believes that theft is immoral and so will not even consider robbing a bank (or for that matter anyone else) in order to save their child. The law, quite reasonably, is clear: theft is not allowed. Sure you might save your child, but you will still be punished. A person who believes that harvesting embryos is murder, will be wary of the consequences, just like a person should be wary of the consequences of theft. Our lawmakers must be concerned with balancing the benefits: if enough people agree that using embryos like that is murder, then for the good of society (as defined by society itself), the procedures will be made illegal.

The problem with embryos is that in the minds of most scientists, there is much more ambiguity about the ethical question. A scientist, concerned primarily with the science, is probably aware that some people might have ethical issues with the procedures, but thinks "that's not my problem". So who's problem is it? Well, our democratically elected leaders are primarily administrative leaders and usually not moral leaders. Our code of laws at its foundation is based on moral laws that come from religious teachings. So people turn to religious leaders to deal with moral questions.

Just to reiterate: your last point:

If you object to stem cell research and the resulting therapies, then do not seek them; nobody wishes to force them on you. On the other hand, people who can benefit from this research should not be barred from receiving help if they have made a conscious decision to go down this avenue.
This is the crux of the issue: if we have a moral and legal code where you have a rule like: if you object to X then do not do X; but people who benefit from X should not be barred from it. then I fear for the welfare of the human race. Such a rule is far too permissive and allows for far too much inequality of rights, access, and quality of life. In general, society tends to look at each X individually and decide on a case by case basis with the application of more widely agreed upon principles derived from religion, philosophy and politics.




Agile Advice - How and Why to Work Agile
[ Parent ]
Mad scientists (5.00 / 2) (#72)
by Tatarigami on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 05:33:33 PM EST

The problem with embryos is that in the minds of most scientists, there is much more ambiguity about the ethical question. A scientist, concerned primarily with the science, is probably aware that some people might have ethical issues with the procedures, but thinks "that's not my problem".

I think scientists today are still living with the stigma of all those evil science movies from the 50s... all of the sciency-types I've known (which I admit is a small number) have thought a lot about the implications of their work, and have a well-developed ethical position on it which doesn't involve leaving the sticky moral questions up to someone else.

Even military designers will tell you that they're working to save lives, or at least to save the right lives when the nation is forced to make a choice.

I think in most cases where a new technology has been used for evil purposes, the ones who make the decision to do that will have had little or no contact with the people who created the technology.

Unfortunately, stem-cell research and designer babies is one of those emotionally charged issues where things tend to get loud and people start bandying about words like 'immoral', as shorthand for 'disagrees with me'.

[ Parent ]

Individual Rights (none / 0) (#120)
by keibos on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 12:20:51 PM EST

I must disagree. I don't believe that this is really a good argument against allowing this type of procedure. What gives you the right to take away something that could be very beneficial to me?

From your post:

...if you object to X then do not do X; but people who benefit from X should not be barred from it....Such a rule is far too permissive and allows for far too much inequality of rights, access, and quality of life....

Why is this too permissive? Because it agrees that abortion is okay? Because you personally wouldn't take advantage of it? So what if there is a disparity? You are the one choosing not to take advantage of this procedure. So long as the procedure is safe and legal, I don't see why I shouldn't be able to use it. Because you don't want me to?

This isn't the real argument - the real argument is a much tougher nut to crack. It is about whether this is morally acceptable or not. It is basically the same argument that the pro-choice and pro-life people fight every day, and since I don't wish to descend into the pit of flame-war hell, I think I'll be leaving it at that. Besides, I think we all know how those arguments play out anyway.



[ Parent ]
It is all up to the scientists... (none / 0) (#131)
by jjhlk on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 06:42:38 PM EST

I agree that, quite simply, the question is whether or not this is ethical. We determine this by deciding when these cells have developed enough into a human. I'm sure that all but the most ignorant people would agree that a collection of four cells doesn't constitute a human, and therefore can be terminated. But everybody would agree that a born child is human.

So somewhere along the line those cells become a human. Where? That question should be left to the scientists alone to decide upon. Popes and Presidents have nothing to do with it.

Science is "God"!

[ Parent ]
What science says. (none / 0) (#152)
by Verax on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 11:56:52 PM EST

So somewhere along the line those cells become a human. Where? That question should be left to the scientists alone to decide upon. Popes and Presidents have nothing to do with it.

Fine by me. The appropriate branch of science would be biology. A human is a member of the species Homo sapiens. No animal changes species as a result of maturing (counterexample?). So the conceptus of a Homo sapien father and a Homo sapien mother is a member of Homo sapiens. It's a human from the very moment of conception.



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
I agree. (none / 0) (#164)
by jjhlk on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 02:34:03 AM EST

Well yeah, but I meant human as in human having the rights to life, and so on. While some cells may have human DNA and therefore be human, they don't need protection.

[ Parent ]
noun vs. adjective. (none / 0) (#169)
by Verax on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 04:12:34 AM EST

Well yeah, but I meant human as in human having the rights to life, and so on. While some cells may have human DNA and therefore be human, they don't need protection.

I meant human, the noun: a member of Homo sapiens, as in human having the rights to life.

Some cells which have human DNA, so therefore are human (the adjective), but they are not a human (the noun). I am not saying that a sloughed off human skin cell is a human being; unlike a human at the zygote stage of life, you can't provide nutrition, hydration, and protection from exposure, and have them unfold into an adult.

As far as human cells go, a skin cell is human, but not a human. A zygote is both human and a human individual; it exists as a distinct entity, wheras the skin cell does not. I'm not concerned with the protection of skin cells for their own sake. I am concerned with protection and the right to life of every human individual, because I believe we are all equal in dignity and value.



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Darwinism (none / 0) (#130)
by jjhlk on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 06:34:38 PM EST

The problem with personal choice is that this set of therapies and technologies represents a strong advantage to people who have a specific set of beliefs. Specifically, if someone believes that destroying an embryo is equivalent to murder, then that belief prevents them from taking advantage of this set of therapies.

But this isn't a problem at all...

Those who choose not to take advantage of these therapies will not propagate their genes (or something equivilent) and through social darwinism be left out of the gene pool. Once those sort of people are a minority it will become ethically fine to use these therapies and scientists will decide on the specifics.

Just let evolution take its course. :)

[ Parent ]
Sincere but wrong (3.50 / 2) (#105)
by maniac1860 on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 10:33:31 PM EST

You obviously have a serious opinion about a serious topic, but you miss a key point. If you believe that killing an embryo is murder, then it is not acceptable to merely not do it. You must also try to stop others from doing it. Consider if someone thought that killing women on the street to take their money was acceptable. You would deem this as murder and would presumably try to stop them, even if you were not a woman, and therefore were not endangered. What you wouldn't do is merely shrug it off as not involving you as long as you didn't kill anyone. Now I'm not saying that abortion (or the current topic) is murder, but if someone believes that it is, then it follows that they would try to stop it.

[ Parent ]
Those who worry about embryos will get killed (1.00 / 2) (#31)
by Fen on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 01:38:51 PM EST

It's too much drag in a war to be worrying about embryos. Time spent policing wombs is time not spent developing weapons technology. There is no debate, only death.
--Self.
The fundamental disagreement (4.83 / 6) (#33)
by coljac on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 01:42:25 PM EST

Naturally the issue mostly boils down to the definition of personhood. My worldview does not count an embryo as a person; to me, what matters is the happiness and wellbeing of thinking, emoting conscious entities. If a child - with thoughts, feelings, and relationships with its family - can be saved by the destruction of an arbitrary number of embryos, then it seems to me the right thing to do. An embryo is the raw material for a person, it's true, but this isn't the same as being a person. Of course there is no easily identifiable point at which a developing fetus becomes a person, but I don't think that means that personhood has to extend all the way back to conception (or even before). Let's be reasonable.

I have a hard time understanding the folks who get really emotional over the fetus. A cow, after all, is a much more complicated creature but there are few vegetarians among the vocal opponents of abortion. I can only put it down to religiosity, but that doesn't explain why religious people are so fond of the issue.



---
Whether or not life is discovered there I think Jupiter should be declared an enemy planet. - Jack Handey

There is a distinction (none / 0) (#78)
by imrdkl on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 06:28:39 PM EST

Between an embryo and a fetus, imho. Your comment blurs the two together slightly. The embryos in question here are 3 days old, when the determination is made.

[ Parent ]
Why "person"? (none / 0) (#146)
by Verax on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 10:36:31 PM EST

Naturally the issue mostly boils down to the definition of personhood.

What is the distinction between a human being and a person? And why do you make that distinction?



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"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Here's why. (none / 0) (#148)
by Verax on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 11:13:17 PM EST

I have a hard time understanding the folks who get really emotional over the fetus.

I think that hardly anyone gets emotional over a fetus in general. It is the human fetus that a number of people care about.

A cow, after all, is a much more complicated creature but there are few vegetarians among the vocal opponents of abortion. I can only put it down to religiosity, but that doesn't explain why religious people are so fond of the issue.

Well, if you're after insight, try looking at it this way... A fairly newborn baby (a few weeks old) is not intelligent, does not appear to have any more (or more complex) emotions than animals, and can not survive on it's own. Yet, almost everyone would react to the following scene with the same feeling. Suppose this baby is in a baby carriage being strolled down the street. A crazy person rushes up to the side of the carriage, points a gun in at the baby, and pulls the trigger. That's horrible, and we all(*) recognize that. News stories of newborn babies found in garbage dumpsters also horrify nearly everyone. It's only human to have an emotional (to one degree or another) reaction to something horrible.

But, nothing constitutive is added at any time after conception.. What constitutes a human being is right there at the moment of conception. The only things added are nutrition and hydration; In order to grow, toddlers, teenagers need those as well. Yet we wouldn't say that toddlers or teenagers are less human than adults, simply because they are smaller, or more dependent.

Of course, realizing that human life is being treated the way it is is pretty horrific. One extreme way to deal with that reality is to go nuts, to get overly emotional. The other extreme is to insist that's not reality at all; it's too horribly to be true, so therefore it isn't true. In between there are people who understand, and try to not let their emotions run away with them. Most pro-lifers are like this, but they remain mostly unheard of because they never make the news by getting in anyone's face, assaulting anyone, or bombing abortion clinics. Then there are those who haven't given the matter much thought. Lastly, there are those who are clear about what they are doing, but their own interests outweigh what is right, and so they choose wrong because it is convenient.

So I don't think it's accurate to say that people are "fond" of the anti-abortion issue. That's like saying (brace yourself, Godwin territory coming up) that Jews are "fond" of discussing the holocaust. It's something that's so big and nasty that people don't want to think about it, to the point of inventing "Godwin's law" to easily dismiss what is a powerful example of absolute nature of morality. But, although it's unpleasant, it should not be forgotten, written out of history, or defined into meaninglessness. Widespread intentional destruction of human life is ugly. Pretending that it didn't occur (isn't occuring) or that those lives aren't human is a disservice to humanity.

(*) Strictly speaking, that's not 100% true. There are a few people like like Peter Singer, who advocate waiting a while after children are born to decide whether they should be allowed to continue living, that infanticide is ok.



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"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Theologians?? (none / 0) (#36)
by davros4269 on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 02:00:26 PM EST

Why would they consult theologians? Well, I know WHY, but isn't that silly? You can't get a room full of theoligians to agree on anything, not that it matters, because God doesn't exist - why would a respectable government want opinions from folk who have vastly different opinions myth???
Will you squirm when you are pecked? Quack.
dear sir (none / 0) (#66)
by adequate nathan on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:59:44 PM EST

not that it matters, because God doesn't exist

Please stop trolling.

Nathan
"For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
[ Parent ]

Exuse me, (none / 0) (#132)
by jjhlk on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 06:44:36 PM EST

You wouldn't say anything if that post had a religious undertone to it, would you? In that case: shhhhh.

[ Parent ]
You might be suprised. (none / 0) (#67)
by graal on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 05:01:59 PM EST

As far as the three mainstream Christian traditions are concerned (Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant), there is much more that unites than divides, theologically speaking.

--
For Thou hast commanded, and so it is, that every
inordinate affection should be its own punishment.
-- St. Augustine (Confessions, i)
[ Parent ]

Why didn't they ask the Shakespearian actors 1st? (none / 0) (#39)
by gmol on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 02:06:57 PM EST

I am consistently amazed at first world countries' governments asking theologins about issues in bioethics and reproductive techonology as if being a theologin bestows some sort of a qualification to do so.

I remember when Bill Clinton sent letters out to the "religous leaders of the world" wrt to cloning (7 yrs ago?); and recall reading some nutty response by some moron in India who said that the rishi's had predicted cloning thousands of years ago.

Bioethical issues, such as those described in the article, are complex, and require people understand them before decisions are made. Believing in old books written by crazy old men is not a valid qualification nor does it imply that you can make a critical decision on issues which you don't even have a first year undergraduate understanding of.**
In most cases religous leaders are not elected officials or subjected to fair selection.  How in the world do they represent the views of the people which a democratic government would be interested in?

Furthermore, consulting such non-qualified people  in leadership roles further perpetuates ideas which are not based on sound reasoning by crediting their opinions (as if they fairly represented critical thinking of individuals).

*I checked the dictionary definition on this, and it is not limited to objective academics interested in the bible.

**I have found that many who oppose things like cloning can't tell you the difference between things like cell screeing, IVF, reproductive cloning and stem cell research...
To many people, they are all baaaddddd, because the pope says so.

Religious leaders (5.00 / 2) (#43)
by Jim Dabell on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 02:29:17 PM EST

Bioethical issues, such as those described in the article, are complex, and require people understand them before decisions are made. Believing in old books written by crazy old men is not a valid qualification nor does it imply that you can make a critical decision on issues which you don't even have a first year undergraduate understanding of.

I completely agree, simply being religious, even a high-ranking religious leader does not qualify you as some sort of authority on cloning.

However, many (most) religions have morals that go along with that religion. As such, some religious leaders are qualified to talk about the morality of a whole bunch of people.

Now when you have to determine when a life ends, or even what constitutes "meaningful" life, morals are unavoidable.

That is why religious leaders are important to the discussion - they are representing people of similar morals.



[ Parent ]
Morals (none / 0) (#46)
by gmol on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 02:59:48 PM EST

Your point is well taken, and I agree, religous leaders do effectivley represent the morals of groups of people.

My problem is that the people whom they represent (including themselves) often have a non-understanding of the science behind the issue to the etant that they can't actually describe what it is that they are opposing.  

I could give a long winded answer, but in short:  governments should first ask if the opinions are based on sound understanding and then ask wether they are representative; before considering them.
In many cases (not all of course) the religous leaders wouldn't make the first cut.

[ Parent ]

I agree (none / 0) (#51)
by Jim Dabell on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 03:33:01 PM EST

Yes, anybody commenting should at least have an understand of the issues involved before they are taken seriously.

I think it's similar to the judge/jury in a trial - they aren't experts, but if they don't have an adequate understanding of the issues by the time they pass judgement, justice cannot be done.



[ Parent ]
Ah, take your bigotry and shove it. (5.00 / 3) (#47)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 03:06:24 PM EST

come back when you're ready to consider multiple points of view.

Last time I checked, theologians in most religions spend years studying morality and ethics, as opposed to most bioethicists - how do you get to be a "bioethicist" anyway? What's stopping me from declaring myself one right now?


--
You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.


[ Parent ]
I saw nothing promoting "bioethicists" (none / 0) (#52)
by wumpus on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 03:39:56 PM EST

Presumably, a "bioethicist" is a rhetorician hired by a company to justify its lack of ethics. Presumably they could also be used as "talking heads" for media who wish to slant news or create controversy. Even in the improbable case of an honest bioethicist in the pay of an honest company, would they really believe they needed him?

On the other hand, theologians are just as likely to have an axe to grind; there is little other reason to become a theologian. Presumably, those "called to the clergy" might decide that preaching to the clergy is easier than the flock, but I distrust all theologians in principle (this includes modern theologians such as economists and other professional ideologues).

Lastly, how much do these theologians know about biology? At least the above example uses Clinton. I would expect dubya to ask those profoundly ignorant of biology (creationists).

I would sooner trust Shakespearean actors than either house.

Wumpus

[ Parent ]

Most religons? (none / 0) (#55)
by gmol on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 03:55:19 PM EST

I agree with your sentiment about being a
'bioethicist'.  Just becuase they take some courses, doesn't give them a divine right to decide issues about things like partial births etc. for the rest of us.  We should consider as many viewpoints as we can and decide based on sound reasoning (a view which religous leaders, in general, do not advocate).

But, bioethicts can tell you the difference between genetic engineering and cloning; we know that because they took courses/ passed the exams certified  by a government we elected etc..  A safe assumption is that most religous leaders did not take the said courses; and I have found IMHE that many cannot describe these techniques beyond 'playing with god'.

Being a religous leader is not nescessary or sufficient reason for a goverment to consult your opinion any more than the rest of the public.

Your 'most religons' assertion is certainly wrong.    Extrapolated to 'most religous leaders' is most certainly wrong also.

[ Parent ]

I'd agree with you if they had (none / 0) (#102)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 09:49:27 PM EST

ONLY chosen religious leaders to consult with - but they didn't do that, did they? In fact, they consulted with scientists, self-proclaimed bioethicists, and the general public as well.


--
You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.


[ Parent ]
No they didn't (none / 0) (#104)
by gmol on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 10:01:40 PM EST

Epworth did not seek advice from the general public in this case, nor should they, since they don't seek advice on the general public as to how to treat my broken arm.

They sought 'expert opinion', as is the common case when consulting.  It baffels me how being a  "self- proclaimed" theologin qualfies one as an expert in this case.  It scares me that 'theological' information is being used in making medical decisions as the two seem to have little do with eachother.

[ Parent ]

And if your doctor (none / 0) (#106)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 10:38:04 PM EST

had decided to have you euthanized rather than fix your broken arm? Would you have still prefered his "expert" ethical judgement? I'm puzzled by your blind faith that Science has some insight into human rights and ethics that other people do not have...


--
You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.


[ Parent ]
Nothing (none / 0) (#80)
by Happy Monkey on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 06:34:58 PM EST

how do you get to be a "bioethicist" anyway? What's stopping me from declaring myself one right now?

Nothing. What's stopping you from declaring yourself a theologian? Nothing. They are just words designating people who study certain fields. Universities offer degrees in both, which may increase your credibility in the field to some people.
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Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
grains of truth --> hasty generalizations (none / 0) (#143)
by Verax on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 10:13:01 PM EST

I am consistently amazed at first world countries' governments asking theologins about issues in bioethics and reproductive techonology as if being a theologin bestows some sort of a qualification to do so.

I agree with that, as you have stated it. But I think you go on to conclude that because a number of theologins are quacks (to borrow a term from another field), that no theologin should ever be consulted. Some involved with theology are very educated indeed, and do have an understanding of biology. Pope John Paul II, for example.

Bioethical issues, such as those described in the article, are complex, and require people understand them before decisions are made. Believing in old books written by crazy old men is not a valid qualification nor does it imply that you can make a critical decision on issues which you don't even have a first year undergraduate understanding of.

I'll agee that saying "I don't think we should go there because it's scary and I don't understand it" is a bad way to go. I'll also agree that taking old books literally without using any judgement or intellect is also a bad way to go.

But Morality is an absolute thing. Even a kid in elementary school understands that it's morally unjustifyable to deliberately kill an innocent human being. It does not matter how complicated, or intricate that killing process is; deliberately killing an innocent human being is still not morally justifyable. I think it's good to learn about complex things in general.

For example, I've got some CS education. If you tell me you've written a very complex, intricate program (that only a post-doc could understand after years of study) which solves the halting problem, then I can easily and factually tellyou that your program does not work, even without looking at a line of its source code. Likewise, with thermodynamics. If you tell me that you've invented a really complex machine that can indefinitely produce more energy than it consumes, I can tell you right away that's incorrect, without ever seeing the machine. In both these examples, I might want to look anyway becaus I'm curious, but it's not necessary. The point, though, is that (depending on the subject) education beyond a certain point is not strictly required for correct conclusions, provided one is reasoning from sounds fundamentals.

I have found that many who oppose things like cloning can't tell you the difference between things like cell screeing, IVF, reproductive cloning and stem cell research... To many people, they are all baaaddddd, because the pope says so.

Pope John Paul II is very intelligent and educated and interested in the truth. He has an amazing intellect, and has surrounded himself with people of solid scientific understanding. Many people accept what the Pope says, based on his authority. This is not an unreasonable thing to do. In school, we accept the existence of electrons based on authorit. I have never seen one, but I trusted the understanding of my teachers, and have verified a number of properties that electrons are supposed to have.

So, yes, it's probably not good to blindly follow what anyone says. But, using reason, we can verify that the correct case is not "it's bad because the Pope says so", so much as "The Pope says so because it really is bad

To conclude that Pope John Paul II is a nut based on the facts that some religious people are nutty and he is religious is a fallacy. If you try actually reading what he has written on the subject, and I think you'll see a very different (and vastly more intelligent) picture than what word on the street would have you believe.



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Distinction between morality and democracy. (none / 0) (#145)
by Verax on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 10:29:34 PM EST

In most cases religous leaders are not elected officials or subjected to fair selection. How in the world do they represent the views of the people which a democratic government would be interested in?

What's morally right and wrong is a matter of objective truth, not a matter of popular opinion. Would you say that slavery was ok in the early United States because that was the majority opinion back then? If we elected a president who ordered the military to test chemical weapons on our own troops, would that order be morally right because the president was democratically elected?



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Objective truth? (none / 0) (#182)
by Rk on Sun Mar 16, 2003 at 09:33:55 AM EST

There's no such thing as objective morality. Unless you are a religous fundamentalist, you must surely be aware of this. An objective truth is something which may be experimentally tested, such as time-dilation in relativity, observed directly though an objective system, such as the red-shift of stars in distant galaxies, or derived from observations and experiments by logical reasoning, such as evolution. Morality, on the other hand, can not be experimentally demonstrated, nor can it be objectively observed, nor can it be proven by logical reasoning based on experimental or observational evidence. There is no such thing as an "absolute truth" in morality. Everything is subjective, therefore the "truth" is in the eye of the beholder.

[ Parent ]
Moral relativism. (none / 0) (#192)
by Verax on Wed Mar 19, 2003 at 01:20:09 AM EST

Morality, on the other hand, can not be experimentally demonstrated, nor can it be objectively observed, nor can it be proven by logical reasoning based on experimental or observational evidence. There is no such thing as an "absolute truth" in morality. Everything is subjective, therefore the "truth" is in the eye of the beholder.

Are you certain? Would you really say that it's morally ok for someone else to own slaves because in their eyes that's ok? Would you really say it's morally ok for someone to rape your daughter, because in their eyes that's ok? Would you say that genocide is morally ok for those who think it is morally ok?

I think these are examples of what is objectively immoral, and that we can know that even without having them "experimentally demonstrated". I suspect that you agree with me here. But if that's the case, you have to reject your claim that morality is relative, because otherwise you'd have to admit that these atrocities are morally justified.



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
The destruction of embryos: (5.00 / 2) (#40)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 02:12:29 PM EST

Something to ponder: I remember reading that a significant percentage of fertilized embyros fail to implant in the uterine wall and thus die, with no outside interference whatsoever.

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."

um, (3.50 / 2) (#42)
by Run4YourLives on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 02:23:05 PM EST

so?

It's only worth pondering the things we do affect (and control) not the things we don't.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Actually.. (5.00 / 1) (#59)
by Znork on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:10:08 PM EST

We do control that. You dont get fertilized embryos unless you have sex. So, millions of innocent embryos get to die for the sexual gratification of murderous couples every year.

Erm. Or something. I'm so relieved I dont consider embryos to be human beings. The horrid implications would be too much to bear for my sense of ethics.

[ Parent ]

well... (none / 0) (#73)
by Run4YourLives on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 05:54:21 PM EST

I don't think an embryo is considered a human by anyone, of course, a fertilized embro is another matter.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]
There's no such thing (5.00 / 1) (#79)
by Happy Monkey on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 06:28:57 PM EST

as an unfertilized embryo.
___
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
sorry, (none / 0) (#81)
by Run4YourLives on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 06:55:47 PM EST

you're right there isn't.

my bad.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Convenience. (none / 0) (#82)
by Verax on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 07:12:53 PM EST

I'm so relieved I dont consider embryos to be human beings. The horrid implications would be too much to bear for my sense of ethics.

That's very honest of you to say. Most people won't admit the reason they exclude human embryos from the human race is that it is convenient to do so, or unpleasant not to do so.

But, if one were interested in ethical behavior, should the issue really be dismissed so easily? How is the form of that argument different from:

  • "I'm so relieved I don't consider negroes to be human beings. The horrid implications of would be too much to bear for my sense of ethics."
  • Or, in other words, "Slavery must ok, because there's a lot of it going on, and if it weren't ok, that would be too ugly to think about."

Rejecting a line of reasoning because it leads to a contradiction is logically sound. But rejecting a line of reasoning because of personal distate for where it leads is not logically sound.



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Reason (5.00 / 1) (#117)
by Znork on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 11:29:29 AM EST

It's not really the reason I exclude embryos, the reasons are more complex than that.

Still, I can accept and understand the reasoning that embryos are potential human beings. The entire problem with any line of reasoning about the start of life is that there is no actual line to be drawn. Any human cell contains the ability to become a human being, depending on environment and how it is treated, and wether one draws the line of 'human life' at shedded skin cells, contraceptive rejected embryos, selected embryos, 10th week, 20th week, etc, it's all fairly arbitrary.

Personally, I lean towards using sentience as a determinator to have a logically sound ethical foundation regarding the beginning of human life, but using sentience as sole qualification results in a completely untenable position too.

So, I reject the idea that embryos are human out of the lack of sentience, but will concede a certain acceptance of the potential for sentience having value if it can be independently upheld.

Which basically ends up being the, I will concede, fairly arbitrary position of 'it qualifies for human life when it can be reasonably expected to survive without a human body as host'.

But I will admit that it's a far easier position to hold than if you qualify any fertilized human egg a human being. A whole lot of issues that are tricky if you consider the embryo to be human become far less problematic.

[ Parent ]

Euphamisms and drawing the line. (2.00 / 1) (#140)
by Verax on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 09:25:31 PM EST

The entire problem with any line of reasoning about the start of life is that there is no actual line to be drawn.

I draw it at conception.

Any human cell contains the ability to become a human being, depending on environment and how it is treated, and wether one draws the line of 'human life' at shedded skin cells, contraceptive rejected embryos, selected embryos, 10th week, 20th week, etc, it's all fairly arbitrary.

No, a skin cell, blood cell, or stem cell can not become a human being just based on environment and how it's treated. A human zygote (fertilized egg) is already a human being, because after conception, nothing constitutive is added. It's misleading to call a zygote a potential human being becaus it is already a human being.

A zygote, given the same things that you and I need (hydration, nutrition, and protection from exposure) will unfold into the form of an adult. A shed skin cell will not. A sperm cell will not. An egg cell will not. Each of these would need something constititive added, but the zygote does not.

"Contraceptive rejected embryos" is a misnomer. Contraception prevents conception. Embryos don't exist until after conception takes place. So if there is an embryo, then conception did take place, so the contraception did not take place. The premature expulsion of the embryo induced by (failed) contraception is induced abortion.

"selected embryos" is also misleading. The embryos are alive (It wouldn't make sense to select a dead embryo). It's the non-selected embryos that are killed.

So drawing the line at conception is not arbitrary. Either something's alive, or it's dead, and either it's a member of homo sapiens or it's not.



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
"Convenience" strikes again. :) (none / 0) (#142)
by Verax on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 09:33:40 PM EST

But I will admit that it's a far easier position to hold than if you qualify any fertilized human egg a human being. A whole lot of issues that are tricky if you consider the embryo to be human become far less problematic.

It's interesting to me that (at least among intellectually honest people), the reason for saying embryos are not human beings is a matter of convenience, and not a matter of moral justification. I'm not out to shove my opinions down anyone's throat, but I try to hold people (myself included) accountable for flawed arguments.

So, I'm curious. Is it ok with you that whether or not someone deserves human rights is decided on convenience, rather than on morally justified argument?



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
That argument is akin to saying that (4.00 / 3) (#45)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 02:57:36 PM EST

because animals die of natural causes everyday, it's okay to hunt for sport.


--
You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.


[ Parent ]
No, doesn't seem to be. (none / 0) (#62)
by amarodeeps on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 04:34:05 PM EST

Because then what you are saying is that because humans die of natural causes every day, it's okay to take some of those suckers out on our own, however we'd like...

That is, you are twisting the meaning. What s/he is talking about is the same thing, as opposed to your sick animal/any animal association, qualitatively speaking: an embryo is an embryo is an embryo. If we see how women's bodies pragmatically deal with this embryo, then we start to see parallels, and question why we should handle an embryo any differently and less pragmatically than our bodies do, and morality becomes more difficult than just screaming "BUT IT'S MURDER!! MURRRRDERRRR!!!"

Methinks it is a good point.



[ Parent ]
On what should we base our moral decsisions? (none / 0) (#89)
by Verax on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:09:23 PM EST

If we see how women's bodies pragmatically deal with this embryo, then we start to see parallels, and question why we should handle an embryo any differently and less pragmatically than our bodies do

The point is that it is morally unjustifyable to deliberately kill an innocent human being. Morality does not apply to involunaty actions of the human body. Morality does apply to actions that we deliberately undertake.

As an example, consider a child who falls asleep on an antique couch and "wets the bed", destroying the value of the antique. This was an involuntary action carried out by the body. By your line of reasoning, we should be permitted to deliberatly ruin the value of other people's posessions by urinating on them, because that is what the human body sometimes does when not consciously guided.

As a final note, I would add that most miscarriages occur because something is so grossly wrong that the embryo is unable to function, or has died. Why should we base our morality on how a woman's body naturally responds to the death or imminent death of her offspring in the womb?



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Huh? (none / 0) (#97)
by amarodeeps on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 09:10:55 PM EST

The point is that it is morally unjustifyable to deliberately kill an innocent human being. Morality does not apply to involunaty actions of the human body. Morality does apply to actions that we deliberately undertake.

This is possibly a valid point. However, I was only arguing on the validity of the last metaphor (of death of sick/aged animals and sport hunting to women's natural processes and using embryos for these medical purposes).

But hey, let's expand the discussion. First of all, this is yet another ridiculous metaphor:

As an example, consider a child who falls asleep on an antique couch and "wets the bed", destroying the value of the antique. This was an involuntary action carried out by the body. By your line of reasoning, we should be permitted to deliberatly ruin the value of other people's posessions by urinating on them, because that is what the human body sometimes does when not consciously guided.

The act of a child falling asleep on an antique couch is very much a willful act. Either the child chose to sit on the coach, or someone placed the child on the couch. The processes of a woman's uterus are different; they happen whether or not a woman is paying attention, and without any external effect (at least the ones we are talking about). Perhaps we could even argue about the willful nature of going to sleep, but I don't want to get into it; fundamentally it is a mistake to base your morality on the fact of a child peeing on a couch. Now, perhaps looking to the behavior of the uterus to show us morality isn't very good either, but I feel it gives us a better intuition about how nature 'thinks' of these things. To me that is certainly a better and more concrete gauge of morality than a Bible, a Torah, a Qu'ran, etc. Humans words are inconsistent and biased; the mysterious ways of biology much less so. I give biology the point here...of course, interpretation is a bigger problem.

To go back a bit, it might have been a better point if we were arguing about a woman's right to bleed on anything she feels. See the absurdity?

But the basic problem is that an embryo is not a person. It is an embryo. You don't really need any complicated metaphors to determine this.

As a final note, I would add that most miscarriages occur because something is so grossly wrong that the embryo is unable to function, or has died. Why should we base our morality on how a woman's body naturally responds to the death or imminent death of her offspring in the womb?

Well, that's fine, but that's not what the parent poster was saying. S/he claimed that embryos are naturally flushed occasionally from the uterus whether or not they are 'good.' I don't know which of you is right (assuming of course you were implicitly disagreeing), but I wasn't trying to validate that point in the first place.



[ Parent ]
Reworking the argument. (none / 0) (#139)
by Verax on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 09:07:51 PM EST

To go back a bit, it might have been a better point if we were arguing about a woman's right to bleed on anything she feels. See the absurdity?

Ok, let's try that one then (although I wish you had used some other example to illustrate your point; this one seems to me to be pretty irreverent toward women). Occasionally women sleep somewhere other than in their own home. And, occasionally, "that time of the month" isn't as regular as being a strict time of month. It is possible for a woman to be asleep, have the period begin, and have a stain on someone else's property.

Your argument was of the form that we should handle things no differently than our bodies do. So, in this case, the body would simply bleed on someone else's property (without any voluntary action on the part of the woman). By your argument, women would then be morally justified in intentionally bleeding on other people's property intintionally. Yes, I agree that's absurd, but that's not my argument; it's yours.

But the basic problem is that an embryo is not a person. It is an embryo. You don't really need any complicated metaphors to determine this.

Ok, so your argument is of the form:

"An ___ is not a person. It is an ___."
But you have to admit that form is invalid unless you agree that
"An infant is not a person. It is an infant."
Is that really your position?

So, you have stated that a human embryo is not a person, but the argument you have provided is not logically sound. Can you back up your assertion?



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
You are making no sense. (none / 0) (#184)
by amarodeeps on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 04:44:43 PM EST

Ok, let's try that one then (although I wish you had used some other example to illustrate your point; this one seems to me to be pretty irreverent toward women).

Oh, gimme a break.

Occasionally women sleep somewhere other than in their own home. And, occasionally, "that time of the month" isn't as regular as being a strict time of month. It is possible for a woman to be asleep, have the period begin, and have a stain on someone else's property.

"This one seems to me to be pretty irrevernt toward women!" Nyuck nyuck nyuck!!!

Your argument was of the form that we should handle things no differently than our bodies do. So, in this case, the body would simply bleed on someone else's property (without any voluntary action on the part of the woman). By your argument, women would then be morally justified in intentionally bleeding on other people's property intintionally. Yes, I agree that's absurd, but that's not my argument; it's yours.

No, that was not my argument. This is what I said:

...we start to see parallels, and question why we should handle an embryo any differently and less pragmatically than our bodies do, and morality becomes more difficult than just screaming "BUT IT'S MURDER!! MURRRRDERRRR!!!"

I'm just saying that automatically claiming a embryo is a person and assuming that scrapping one or using one for spare parts is murder is a ridiculous copout just as much as you seem to think using an embryo willfully is (except; it actually is). In fact, life is not that simple. But one thing I do know is: an embryo is not a person. And considering how a woman's body treats it is one way to help me understand that fact. People don't get randomly flushed down the toilet without anyone's knowledge, as far as I've been able to tell. Please tell me why I or anyone should treat an embryo like a person.

Ok, so your argument is of the form:
"An ___ is not a person. It is an ___."
But you have to admit that form is invalid unless you agree that
"An infant is not a person. It is an infant."
Is that really your position?

So, you have stated that a human embryo is not a person, but the argument you have provided is not logically sound. Can you back up your assertion?

No, you are making a specious argument there, person. Here is my position: an embryo is not a person, an infant is a baby and to me therefore a person. There is no logical inconsistency. It's simple and I should think you would be able to understand it with the simple words I'm using. One is one thing, the other thing is another.



[ Parent ]
The distinction is not clear to me. (none / 0) (#189)
by Verax on Wed Mar 19, 2003 at 12:26:38 AM EST

What do you mean by "person"? What is the difference between a "person" and a member of the species Homo sapiens?



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"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
No, it's not the same thing. (none / 0) (#103)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 09:52:26 PM EST

it's still the difference between a random, natural occurance on the one hand and a deliberate act for personal benefit on the other. One is morally neutral, by definition, the other has moral implications, by definition. Those implications may be negative, or they may be positive, depending on what we are talking about, but the fact that a human being made a deliberate choice creates a moral element to the situation.


--
You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.


[ Parent ]
Your point? (none / 0) (#86)
by Verax on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 07:55:37 PM EST

Something to ponder: I remember reading that a significant percentage of fertilized embyros fail to implant in the uterine wall and thus die, with no outside interference whatsoever.

This may well be true. But I assume you have some reason for mentioning it. What is the point you are trying to make? Or, what conclusions do you draw in light of this fact?



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Point (5.00 / 1) (#88)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:01:57 PM EST

Those who, usually because of religion, are against experimention and medical procedures with embryos and against forms of birth control like the "morning after pill" and IUDs show at least a bit of inconsistency in not even trying to do anything for the large numbers of embryos that die of natural causes.

It also weakens in my eyes the religious claim that life begins at fertilization.

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

What would you suggest? (none / 0) (#91)
by Verax on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:14:41 PM EST

[...] show at least a bit of inconsistency in not even trying to do anything for the large numbers of embryos that die of natural causes.

Realistically, what is not being done that actually could be done? It's one thing to not take action because there is no action to take. It's another thing entirely to have actions available, but refuse to take them. What actions are available?



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Research (5.00 / 2) (#98)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 09:12:05 PM EST

To be consistent I think there would at least be acknowledgement of this fact as a sad loss of human life. Maybe there would also be pushes for some sort of research dedicated to plucking helpless embryos from the womb to ensure that they ALL live.

I don't agree with the above viewpoints, but I think they would be more representative of a consistent "life begins at fertilization" stance.

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Wandering argument? (none / 0) (#113)
by Verax on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 01:57:05 AM EST

I said: Realistically, what is not being done that actually could be done [to save the lives of embryos that die of natural causes]?

To be consistent I think there would at least be acknowledgement of this fact as a sad loss of human life.

I agree with you.

Maybe there would also be pushes for some sort of research dedicated to plucking helpless embryos from the womb to ensure that they ALL live.

Most miscarriages are due to gross genetic defects in the embryo. While it is worth trying to save those that can be saved, I think one should also acknowledge medicine's inability to cure everyone of everything. Removing these embryos from the womb will not cure their congenital terminal illnesses. Furthermore, with current technology, removing an embryo from the womb is a death sentence for the embryo. I asked what realistically can be done that is not being done.

So, to recap, your argument was (correct me if I'm misstating your case):

  • Embryos are dying in large numbers of natural causes
  • Nothing is being done to save those lives by the people who argue that life begins at conception
  • Therefore, the argument that life begins at conception is not valid.

Now you add that, realistically, those who argue that life begins at conception, could help their case by doing abortion as research ("research dedicated to plucking helpless embryos from the womb") which would somehow ensure that "ALL" embryos live.

So, given that most embryos which die of natural causes are genetically unable to live, how does not trying to save them relate to the argument that life begins at conception?

What makes you so certain that "Nothing is being done to save" the lives of embryos? Do you really think than nobody, anywhere on earth, is working on making sure that humans, in embryonic form, stay healthy?

Medical science can not ensure than ALL humans at any stage of life will live. What makes you think that research can change that fact?



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
It's obvious; (none / 0) (#100)
by amarodeeps on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 09:17:56 PM EST

you need to go after all those murderers of unborn children: protest and wave around religious tracts in those places where these horrific acts are taking place (women's homes) until you are arrested and have restraining orders placed on you, push your right-wing christian-coalition-bought representatives to pass legislation blocking the right of women to flush embryos—I'm sorry, little beautiful babies—from their uteruses, and if absolutely necessary, you'll need to take the law into your own hands, vigilante style, a la James Kopp.



[ Parent ]
Can you back any of that up? (none / 0) (#114)
by Verax on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 02:09:24 AM EST

you need to go after all those murderers of unborn children: protest and wave around religious tracts in those places where these horrific acts are taking place (women's homes)

How would that, realistically, help save embryos which die of natural causes?

until you are arrested and have restraining orders placed on you,

How does being arrestend and having restraining orders help save the lives of human beings in embryonic form who die of natural causes?

push your right-wing christian-coalition-bought representatives to pass legislation blocking the right of women to flush embryos-I'm sorry, little beautiful babies-from their uteruses,

Whether or not the babies are beautiful is a subjective matter. However, objectively, they are human beings. Just because the supreme court says women have that "right", does not mean doing so is morally justified. Recall that the supreme court also said that negros are only 3/5 human, and therefore do not have the right to sue for their freedom (Dred Scott decision). Although the supreme court later reversed that decision, are you saying that negroes really were 3/5 human for that period of time? Just because something is legal does not necessarily make it morally justified.

and if absolutely necessary, you'll need to take the law into your own hands, vigilante style, a la James Kopp.

The problem here is that the harm to society of widespread acceptance of vigelatism would outweigh the harm to society of embryos dying of natural causes. (I'm guessing that you're really addressing abortion, so that harm would also probably outweigh the harm society inflicts upon itself by legally permitting the killing of certain human offspring.)



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Oh my. (none / 0) (#185)
by amarodeeps on Mon Mar 17, 2003 at 04:58:45 PM EST

However, objectively, they are human beings. Just because the supreme court says women have that "right", does not mean doing so is morally justified.

Right, so you need to go after those fe-males, and pull them embryos right outta there before they kill any more beautiful little babies!! It's up to you to kill a baby killer for Jeezus!!

Recall that the supreme court also said that negros are only 3/5 human, and therefore do not have the right to sue for their freedom (Dred Scott decision). Although the supreme court later reversed that decision, are you saying that negroes really were 3/5 human for that period of time?

Jeez, I dunno. I don't really think about "negroes" too often, honestly. What time are you in d00d, 1953?

Just because something is legal does not necessarily make it morally justified.

Hmm...that hadn't occurred to me. Thanks for being so patronizing.

How would that, realistically, help save embryos which die of natural causes?

...

How does being arrestend and having restraining orders help save the lives of human beings in embryonic form who die of natural causes?

Uh, yeah.

Check this out, and then maybe we can talk.

Thanks for proving my point quite nicely, by the way.



[ Parent ]
Loaded statement (none / 0) (#92)
by Verax on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:24:57 PM EST

[Nobody trying to save the lives of human embryos which die of natural causes] weakens in my eyes the religious claim that life begins at fertilization.

Although some religious people say that life begins at conception, some non-religious say that as well. Furthermore, some religious people say that life does not begin at conception. So there is nothing inherently religious about stating that life begins at conception.

When life begins is a matter for biology, not for religion. A horse embryo and a horse fetus are both horses. A tadpole is a frog. A human embryo is a human. No member of the animal kingdom changes from being a member of one species to being a member of another species as it gets older.

Human behavior does not change the truth. Either human being is alive from conception, or the human being is not. Whichever of those two is true, how we as a society choose to behave does not change which one is true.



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"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Ambiguity (none / 0) (#96)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 09:09:52 PM EST

By "it" in my second paragraph I meant the fact that many embryos die without any chance to implant and grow.

If life begins at conception, because the egg and sperm potentially grow into a human individual, why doesn't life begin in the ovaries as an egg, which also potentially grows into a human individual?

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Distinction between egg and embryo (none / 0) (#112)
by Verax on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 01:31:41 AM EST

If life begins at conception, because the egg and sperm potentially grow into a human individual, why doesn't life begin in the ovaries as an egg, which also potentially grows into a human individual?

An egg, on it's own does not constitute a human being. Without the other set of genes from a sperm cell, the egg can not develop beyond being an egg. When the two sets of genes are together, in an embryo, you have a living, genetically distinct individual. Given what we as adults need (nutrition, hydration, protection from exposure), the human embryo will unfold into a human fetus, then a human infant, then a human adolescent, and finally into a human adult. From the point of conception onward, nothing constitutive is added to the embryo.

So an egg is a potential human in the same sense that an oxygen atom is a potential water molecule. But a fertilized egg (zygote) is not a potential human individual because it is already a human individual.



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"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
No it isn't (none / 0) (#175)
by roystgnr on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 03:04:29 PM EST

Have you never met a set of identical twins?  Two unique human individuals who at the point of fertilization were the same cell?

Some thought experiments, all of which should probably be appended with "Why or why not, and how certain are you?":

If you kill a blastocyst that has divided twice, how many people are you killing?  (Note that "four" may not be an upper limit here; quintuplets do happen)

If you divide a blastocyst in two, but then only impregnate a woman with one of the halves, is it murder when you allow the other half to die?

If you divide a blastocyst in two, but then recombine the two before allowing it to develop further, was one of the would-have-been twins murdered?

Is it wrong to kill fish?  Pigs?  Dolphins?  Chimpanzees?  Would it be wrong to kill a cloned austrolopithecus or homo erectus?

If we find seemingly-intelligent animals circling another star, how can we determine whether it is ethical to kill them or not?  Can these criteria be used on prenatal humans as well?

[ Parent ]

Running through the cases. (none / 0) (#191)
by Verax on Wed Mar 19, 2003 at 01:05:07 AM EST

Have you never met a set of identical twins? Two unique human individuals who at the point of fertilization were the same cell?

Yes, I have. Three separate instances.

Some thought experiments, all of which should probably be appended with "Why or why not, and how certain are you?":

If you kill a blastocyst that has divided twice, how many people are you killing? (Note that "four" may not be an upper limit here; quintuplets do happen)

Assuming that it is still a single human blastocyst, then exactly one human being is killed. Count the number of individuals.

If you divide a blastocyst in two, but then only impregnate a woman with one of the halves, is it murder when you allow the other half to die?

Again, count the individuals. When there are two separate blastocysts, there are two individuals. Permitting one to die of exposure is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.

If you divide a blastocyst in two, but then recombine the two before allowing it to develop further, was one of the would-have-been twins murdered?

Is that even possible? For the sake of argument, I'll assume that it is possible (or will be). I do not know. This does not change the fact that there are two human beings after the separation. If you could surgically fuse two toddlers, eliminating portions of brains and organs, how many beings do you have? Has one been killed? Suppose there are definite answers for these. What would knowing those answers buy us? Would obtaining those answers justify doing the actual experiment?

I don't know what happens with this "recombine the two". Perhaps that is what leads to "Siamese Twins"? I'd count them as two.

Is it wrong to kill fish? Pigs? Dolphins? Chimpanzees? Would it be wrong to kill a cloned austrolopithecus or homo erectus?

Not in the same sense that it is wrong to kill human beings, because they are not human beings. The fact that they are cloned does not change anything; A human clone is still a human being, with equal dignity and worth as other human beings. Whether or not it is morally justifyable to kill members of species other than Homo sapiens does not suddenly make it morally justifyable to deliberately kill innocent members of <Homo sapiens>.

If we find seemingly-intelligent animals circling another star, how can we determine whether it is ethical to kill them or not? Can these criteria be used on prenatal humans as well?

Again, whether or not it is morally justifyable to kill members of another species does not morally justify deliberately killing innocent members of Homo sapiens. Prenatal humans have the same right to live as other humans, whether or not there are other intelligent species circling a star.

For all the above answers, I am reasonably certain, unless I have said otherwise. However, I try to be ready to think about things, so if you can argue otherwise, I am happy to listen. I learn things that way.



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"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
I owe this story an opinion (5.00 / 1) (#57)
by imrdkl on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 03:59:42 PM EST

I believe the decision to customize a baby via trial and error would be a very tough choice to make for most people, regardless of whether the experiment was carried out in vitro, or not. This article's poll shows that I'm in the minority in that regard, but I don't mind. Creating life for the sake of saving life is perhaps morally justified In the end, but I think it's the only reason whereby I would ever even consider it.

That said, I would also die a thousand deaths to save one of my kids, so how could I let one of them die for the sake of 29 embryos? As other readers have pointed out, that's wishy-washy, but I'd be lying if I said I could look at it differently.

Nevertheless, it's worth pointing out that we of modern western society place a extremely high value on our living members. This attitude of "life at all costs" has not always been the way people think, and it's arguable that a goodly portion of this world's inhabitants may not completely concur. For me though, and perhaps many others here, there's really no choice - I'd try to save my dying child.

What I'd want vs. what's unjustifyable. (none / 0) (#84)
by Verax on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 07:52:54 PM EST

For me though, and perhaps many others here, there's really no choice - I'd try to save my dying child.

I can certainly understand feeling that way. Perhaps I would try myself. But we should be very careful to not skirt around an important issue.

Look at the phrase "Creating life for the sake of saving life". If it's a matter of having another child in the hopes of saving the life of an another child, that's already starting down a bad path. This new child is not wanted for his or her own sake, but rather to be a tool for saving the other child. Growing up in the knowledge "I'm only here because my brother got sick" deeply undercuts the human dignity of the new child.

I think we should be very clear what is meant each time "creating life" is said. Conceiving another child is one thing. Conceiving 6 children, and then killing 5 which are not a genetic match is quite another. Deliberately killing an innocent human being is not morally justifyable. If my own child were dying in my arms, perhaps I would have a temptation to resort to IVF, but even if I did (through my own weakness) carry through with that, it would still be morally unjustifyable. We shouldn't confuse "extremely difficult to choose the right thing" with "there's really no choice."



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"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Every child (5.00 / 1) (#87)
by imrdkl on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:00:00 PM EST

Is loved for his or her own sake, regardless of whether his cells saved his sister. Although I can imagine that such a special child would have some questions.

[ Parent ]
Loved for his or her own sake? (2.50 / 2) (#99)
by Verax on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 09:13:57 PM EST

Every child Is loved for his or her own sake[...]

According to a link in the story, IVF is used. Multiple human beings are conceived, but those who are not a genetic match for the sick child are killed or discarded. The only difference between the one that continues to live and the others who are killed is the genetic match. How is these human beings loved for their own sake?

I'm not saying that it's impossible for a couple to naturally concieve another child and welcome it for it's own sake. But if the couple would not otherwise have had the new child, then one has to question their love for the new child (not that it can't develop later on); there is a conflict of interests, and a background (possibly unspoken) understanding of the reason for the new child was brought into existence.

This is similar to children who find out that they were "a mistake". Although their parents loved them enough to raise them, the fact is that they were not welcome. Likewise, the IVF embryos that are discarded are not welcome, and the one that isn't discarded is only welcome because of a genetic property.

There is a big difference between having another child for his/her own sake and having a child that wouldn't be wanted otherwise) because it's genetic make-up makes it a good donor.



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"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
ironic (none / 0) (#116)
by pyro9 on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 09:19:55 AM EST

The ironic thing is, A procedure that harvests the stem cells from a blastocyst would carry far fewer ethical questions, but any such research (much less medical procedure) is banned in the U.S. and many other countries.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Why fewer ethical questions? (none / 0) (#135)
by Verax on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 08:00:12 PM EST

A procedure that harvests the stem cells from a blastocyst would carry far fewer ethical questions, but any such research (much less medical procedure) is banned in the U.S. and many other countries.

Why would it carry fewer ethical questions? It does not to me. Does it to you? Why? If it really does carry fewer questions, then how did it come to be banned?

The reason it does not carry fewer ethical questions to me is that I see no moral justification for deliberately killing any innocent memeber of homo sapiens for any reason. Yes, even if it means helping another member of homo sapiens.



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"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
my reasoning (none / 0) (#144)
by pyro9 on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 10:26:09 PM EST

Because a blastocyst has no consciousness at all. It is a mass of undifferentiated human stem cells. So, in that case, one out of several is harvested for a medical procedure. The rest are discarded. The harvested one wouldn't have developed for long anyway in a petri dish.

On the other side, we still have several discarded. The difference is that the one becomes a child that, at least initially, exists only in service to an older sibling.

So, in the first scenerio, we have a mass of human stem cells created in order to preserve the life of a conscious actual human being.

A thought experiment: would it be OK if the fusion process rendered the zygote incapable of development beyond a few cells? If so, what is the critical difference?


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
consciousness necessary to be human? (none / 0) (#161)
by Verax on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 01:41:00 AM EST

Your argument seems to be:

  • No consciousness implies not an "actual human being".
  • A human blastocyst has no consciousness
  • Therefore a human blastocyst is not an actual human being

What about a woman who is asleep, or a man in a coma, or an anesthetized patient undergoing surgery? They have no consciousness either. Would you really argue that they are not actual human beings?

By the way, what is the distinction between a "human being" and an "actual human being"? What do you mean by "actual"?



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"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
yes, human==conscious (none / 0) (#172)
by pyro9 on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 08:38:17 AM EST

I do, in fact, believe that some form of consciousness is required to be human life. The sleeper, coma patient, and the anestitized patient DO have a form of consciousness (just not waking consciousness). A fetus late in gestation seems to have a form of consciousness (eeg spindles not unlike sleep spindles)

A blastocyst has nothing to be conscious with. It's a group of unspecialized cells. It will require at least two stages of specialization before it can even approach building a nervous system to be conscious with. Thus, it is human cells, not yet human life.

Actual, as in a realized potential. I say actual rather than actualized to avoid implying self-actualized which is a very different thing.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Sounds reasonable, up to a point. (none / 0) (#188)
by Verax on Wed Mar 19, 2003 at 12:18:21 AM EST

I agree that a blastocyst has nothing with which to be conscious. However, I disagree that this makes a human blastocyst somehow not an actual human being.

Things like the ability to reason, to be autonomous, to speak a human language, and other capabilities are part of human nature. A newborn baby does not have these human abilities, yet the newborn baby is still almost universally recongized as a human being. So it is not these capabilities that makes one a human being. The abilities are potential. Being a human being is actual. Likewise the blastocyst is an actual human being, whose nature already includes human capabilities which are not yet realized.

Some human beings never realize certain human capabilities. Mental retardation diminishes human intellect. Muteness precludes spoken human language. But it is the potential for these things, not the actual having them which makes one a human being.



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"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
more fundamental (none / 0) (#193)
by pyro9 on Wed Mar 19, 2003 at 08:54:25 AM EST

I'm talking about something much more fundamental than the human capabilities you are thinking of. A newborn cannot speak, or be autonomous. Reasoning is sharply limited but existant (otherwise there would be no learning). However, there is consciousness. There is also a capability to actively interact with the environment, however limited. A newborn will react to unpleasant stimuli with avoidance, and will react to pleasant stimuli with attention.

A mentally handicapped person is still conscious. Even a 'locked in' person (someone who, generally due to brain injury, cannot interact with the environment.) has a consciousness.

A blastocyst has none of that. I agree that it has the potential to develop into a human being with a consciousness. Of course, that leads to a question of dividing line. A sperm also has that potential if it finds an egg rather than a condom or spermicide. A bit of organic primordial soup has that potential given the right circumstances.

It is worth considering that in nature, sometimes a blastocyst implants in the uterus and develops into a human being, sometimes it fails and nobody even knows it existed. Sometimes, it ends up fused with another blastocyst and forms a mosaic (a single person with two distinct sets of genetic traits. Anyone born with two different eye or hair colors for example). Unless we want to count such a person as two human beings in one body, a blastocyst is not a human being. As an additional note, I do consider siamese (conjoined) twins as two human beings in one body because there are two distinct consciousnesses.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
I don't understand the question. (none / 0) (#162)
by Verax on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 01:42:42 AM EST

A thought experiment: would it be OK if the fusion process rendered the zygote incapable of development beyond a few cells? If so, what is the critical difference?

I'm sorry; I don't understand. What "fusion process?" Perhaps you have me confused with someone else? Or am I just missing the context of this question?



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"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
fusion process (none / 0) (#171)
by pyro9 on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 08:23:58 AM EST

I'm referring to the in vitro fertilization. I should have been more clear. What if the in vitro fertilization process required more than placing sperm and ovum together and letting nature take it's course, and further could only lead to a non-viable blastocyst?


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the clarification / hard to say. (none / 0) (#187)
by Verax on Wed Mar 19, 2003 at 12:06:36 AM EST

I'm referring to the in vitro fertilization. I should have been more clear. What if the in vitro fertilization process required more than placing sperm and ovum together and letting nature take it's course, and further could only lead to a non-viable blastocyst?

Thank you for the clarification. It's hard to say without specifics. What it sounds like to me is that once the sperm fertilizes the egg, you have a zygote. If these are a human sperm and a human egg, then the sygote would be a human being. Somehow poisoning this human being so that he or she can not live beyond the stage of blastocyst sounds like deliberately killing an innocent human being very, very early in life. How can that be morally justified? I don't think it can.



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"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Heh, you can blather 'til your blue (none / 0) (#118)
by imrdkl on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 11:46:54 AM EST

And it won't change my mind about my kid. Someday, maybe you'll understand.

[ Parent ]
That's not my intent. (none / 0) (#134)
by Verax on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 07:53:32 PM EST

Heh, you can blather 'til your blue And it won't change my mind about my kid. Someday, maybe you'll understand.

I'm not trying to force you to change your mind about what you would want to do for your kid. Like I said earlier, in the same hypothetical situation, I might have similar inclinations.

My point is that, regardless of how much we love our children, and how painful it is to see them sick and/or dying, it is never morally justifyable to deliberately kill an innocent human being, and that's what IVF does, several times over. I think it's interesting how most people who reject that argument can not do so with a sound logical argument.



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"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
I think with more than 30 comments in this story (none / 0) (#174)
by imrdkl on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 02:33:00 PM EST

You've made your point now. Don't you?

[ Parent ]
It's not about that. (none / 0) (#190)
by Verax on Wed Mar 19, 2003 at 12:33:47 AM EST

I think with more than 30 comments in this story ... You've made your point now. Don't you?

I'm not so much trying to make a point as to see where people are coming from. It seems easy to define out of the human race anyone who has not yet been born. When I ask questions about the reasoning behind doing so, I tend to either hit unsound reasoning, or the admission that it is "convenvient" to do so. I can't find out about multiple people without posting multiple questions.



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"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
from experience, (none / 0) (#179)
by mister slim on Sun Mar 16, 2003 at 03:26:43 AM EST

I know that "unwelcome" and "accidental" are very different things. Reproduction is inherently erratic. Intending to conceive does not mean a particular sex act will result in a child.
__

"Fucking sheep, the lot of you. Yeah, and your little dogs too." -Rogerborg
[ Parent ]

Why the word "engineered"? (none / 0) (#83)
by Verax on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 07:37:30 PM EST

Say there are 6 human embryos. Of them, 5 are killed because they are cornsidered to be unsuitable for some reason. The 6th human embryo is allowed to mature into a human infant. I what sense is this baby an "engineered" baby?

Because those 5 embryos are members of homo sapiens, and they are killed, this is really homicide, in the strict sense of the word. How does selective homicide come to be called "engineering"?



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"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Why engineered? (3.66 / 3) (#85)
by imrdkl on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 07:55:14 PM EST

Because I'm the one telling the story, of course.

But I'll give you, once again, the benefit of the doubt, and assume that your perspective is being honestly expressed here. Engineering, as you may know, is also a process of trial and error. Since we can't "whip up" an embryo according to spec just yet, the only possible alternative is this process.

Further, the embryos in this case aren't unsuitable for "some reason", they're unsuitable specifically because they're not an exact match for the dying sibling.

[ Parent ]

If this isn't selective homicide, please say why. (none / 0) (#94)
by Verax on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:39:06 PM EST

Because I'm the one telling the story, of course.

Ok, then why do you use "engineered" in place of "selection through homicide"? Is it your position that this is not homicide? (If so, why?) Or do you agree that it's homicide, but prefer to hide that behind the euphamism "engineered".?

Since we can't "whip up" an embryo according to spec just yet, the only possible alternative is this process.

It honestly looks to me like "this process" is selective homicide, for the reasons that I posted earlier in this thread. If you disagree with me, then please explain why this is not selective homicide?

Further, the embryos in this case aren't unsuitable for "some reason", they're unsuitable specifically because they're not an exact match for the dying sibling.

It all comes back to whether these human embryos are human beings. If they are not, then it really doesn't matter. But if they are, then they are certainly innocent human beings, and it's not morally justifyable to deliberately kill them. Not even to possibly save their siblings.



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
It isn't because embryos aren't people. (nt) (4.66 / 3) (#95)
by amarodeeps on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 08:51:04 PM EST



[ Parent ]
at what point... (none / 0) (#107)
by jonboy on Thu Mar 13, 2003 at 11:06:27 PM EST

At what point does an embryo become a human being?

The problem is that you have to draw a line somewhere, and as far as I can tell, there's no good place to draw it.
--
The above post is overrated.
[ Parent ]

Clarification? (none / 0) (#110)
by Verax on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 01:15:47 AM EST

The problem is that you have to draw a line somewhere, and as far as I can tell, there's no good place to draw it.

What do you mean by "good"? Before we use that to draw a line, shouldn't be be clear what we are trying to do?



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
okay (4.50 / 4) (#115)
by jonboy on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 07:26:47 AM EST

Here's some quick and dirty criteria for ya.

  1. Well reasoned. There are compelling arguments for putting the line here.
  2. Very defensible. Arguments against putting the line here are easily debunked.
  3. No compelling reason to move the line in order to consider more "embryos" humans.
Since this line will be (and indeed, already is) being used to make ethical decisions, it's very important we put it in the right place. And if we can't put it in the right place, we should err on the side of considering too many things human. Better to err by giving rights to something that doesn't have rights, than to err by taking rights away from a human being.
--
The above post is overrated.
[ Parent ]
Brain Waves (5.00 / 1) (#123)
by Souhait on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 01:28:08 PM EST

So there was this massive anti-abortion display smack dab in the middle of the University of Texas at Austin's campus.  Plenty of disturbing pictures, funny facts, things of that nature.  One fact that stuck out was that the fetus has detectable brain waves at or around 6 weeks.  At this point the unborn child could, if you want to think of it this way, be said to have the beginnings of thought and consciousness.  Since humans rarely give a damn about genetic material (unless it's their own) there's not much point in worrying about fertilized eggs and their immediate spawn - it is just a bunch of cells.  Hell, if we're going to get uptight about genetic material we may as well denounce girls for going on their period and boys for frequent masturbation.

So, draw the line at the point a fetus begins to think.  While this point could be argued to some degree, it is a better starting point than most pro-choice or pro-life proponents seem to have - that a fetus is nothing until it takes a breath, or that a single fertilized egg is a sacred human life.  Of course, this view does nothing to placate either side - 6 weeks is too short for pro-choice, and using thought as a determination of humanity probably wouldn't fit well with the pro-life religious right, who prefer to think of an immortal soul that comes into creation at conception.  On the bright side, the situation can't get any more ridiculous.

[ Parent ]

Or alternately... (none / 0) (#128)
by jjhlk on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 06:14:30 PM EST

How about, rather than using brainwaves as the line, use the point in time at which the baby could be removed from the womb and survive*. Sure, brainwaves could be said to be the beginning of consiousness, but what does that even mean? It is perfectly acceptable to put down an old terminal dog, and they would be vastly more intelligent than a fetus.

Onto brainwaves again though: do you think that the baby's brain just turns on at full capacity? There is no doubt in my mind that it doesn't. It has brainwaves in the sense that a complicated electrical system has a current, even though it isn't fully built yet (ignore the fact that nobody would generally design a system to be implemented that way, otherwise this analogy doesn't work).

Find the earliest time at which a baby can be removed from the womb and survive (with machinery no doubt) and I think you will have a perfectly moral mass of cells to use until then. If the baby would die if removed from the womb, then it doesn't have the full potential for life yet, except in the same way that an egg and sperm do.

[ Parent ]
Defining human being w.r.t. technology? (none / 0) (#138)
by Verax on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 08:46:42 PM EST

Find the earliest time at which a baby can be removed from the womb and survive (with machinery no doubt) and I think you will have a perfectly moral mass of cells to use until then.

The problem here is that you are basing your definition of what is a human being on what is technologically possible. Let's say, hypothetically, that at some point in the future technology suddenly becomes good enough to provide life support for an embryo that is 6 days old. Before that technological breakthrough, an embryo at 7 days would not be a human being, and it would be "perfectly moral" to kill it. But after the breakthrough, it would no longer be moral to kill it.

But you either have a human being, or you don't. Truth is absolute, and can not change depending on technology, politics, etc.

As a side note all human beings (including the human embryo, human fetus, human infant, and human adult) all need protection from exposure. Just because adults tolerate more exposure than an infant or someone in advanced age does not make the adult more of a human being than the other two. So ability to survive varying degrees of exposure does not make some one more or less a human being.



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Society (none / 0) (#149)
by jjhlk on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 11:23:19 PM EST

The problem here is that you are basing your definition of what is a human being on what is technologically possible...But after the breakthrough, it would no longer be moral to kill it.

True, but maybe then we have to re-evaluate why we are harvesting these cells. For some reason the couple doesn't want a baby. Meanwhile, there are people dying of illnesses that can't be cured otherwise. It's a one-one trade in a sense, but in another, the fetus isn't a member of our society, while the terminal patient is.

Now that *is* dark and sinister.

As for exposure: well, by that train of thought, then by the time the first cells have divided it has the proper DNA and would technically be a human; only, it would be a human without organs.

As complicated as this is, I stick by my view. Maybe society is really more important than the individual too.

[ Parent ]
Organs (none / 0) (#159)
by Verax on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 01:25:48 AM EST

As for exposure: well, by that train of thought, then by the time the first cells have divided it has the proper DNA and would technically be a human; only, it would be a human without organs.

Even before the zygote divides, it is still a human being. Without organs. But it's in human nature to have organs, and unless this human being is deprived of nutrition, hydration, and protection, it will have those organs. Their presence or absence does not include exclude from the species Homo sapiens.

----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]

I'm no biologist (none / 0) (#165)
by jjhlk on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 02:40:36 AM EST

Does a human sperm cell have all of the necessary DNA to form a full-grown human? I don't think so, but that is something that has confused me. I guess it would otherwise on that same level of thinking you couldn't clone someone from a skin cell, which you can [in theory].

However, then meosis [sic?] is only for natural selection. An egg won't begin cleavage without the sperm, but would it be possible to trick it? I guess I just mean how many chromosomes does a sperm and egg have, compared to any other cell.

Please enlighten me.

[ Parent ]
How many chromosomes are needed for a human. (none / 0) (#167)
by Verax on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 03:34:37 AM EST

Does a human sperm cell have all of the necessary DNA to form a full-grown human? I don't think so, but that is something that has confused me.

You are correct. A human egg has half of the necessary choromosomes. The human sperm cell has the other half. All of them are necessary to constitute a human being.

I guess it would otherwise on that same level of thinking you couldn't clone someone from a skin cell, which you can [in theory].

Correct.

However, then meosis [sic?] is only for natural selection. An egg won't begin cleavage without the sperm, but would it be possible to trick it? I guess I just mean how many chromosomes does a sperm and egg have, compared to any other cell.

Please enlighten me.

A human egg only has half the necessary chromosomes. One can (in theory) scoop those out, and put in a full set of chromosomes, and then trick the egg into thinking that it's been fertilized. If the trick works, you've got a zygote, and whomever's DNA has been put in the egg not has a living clone of themselves. Although, keep in mind that this isn't as easy as it sounds, an that when Dolly the sheep was cloned, there were something on the order of 100 failures in addition to the success. Some of these failures were stillborn. Some died eariler. Also, Dolly was euthanized because she had a disease normally associated with older sheep. Cloning, even in non-human mammals is far from "cut and dried".



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Society (none / 0) (#160)
by Verax on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 01:30:37 AM EST

Meanwhile, there are people dying of illnesses that can't be cured otherwise. It's a one-one trade in a sense, but in another, the fetus isn't a member of our society, while the terminal patient is.

If you've got a man living as a hermit on an otherwise deserted island, then he's not part of society either. So what is the moral justification for making the "one-one" trade, killing him to save a terminal patient who couldn't be cured otherwise?



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Not the perfect analogy.... (none / 0) (#166)
by jjhlk on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 02:46:55 AM EST

...Because in my scenario the fetus hasn't been born, while a hermit has. I don't really mean society is more important than the individual necessarily. The whole thing is resolved if biologists can only find the appropriate time for a fetus to be free from becoming stem cell research material; I'm sure that they have. It's just the President standing in the way most likely. (I haven't been paying close attention to all that)

I don't really like ethics nor philosophy because I can't articulate my point. I'll shut-up now.

[ Parent ]
Not an analogy. (none / 0) (#168)
by Verax on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 03:58:38 AM EST

Not the perfect analogy....in my scenario the fetus hasn't been born, while a hermit has.

Your argument was essentially this (correct me if I'm wrong):

  • Members of society have more right to live than those who are not members of society.
  • The dying patient is a member of society.
  • The fetus is not a member of society.
  • Therefore the dying patient hase more right to live than the fetus.
  • Therefore there is moral justification for killing the fetus to (hopefully) save the patient.

However, a hermit is (pretty much by definition) not a member of society. Your argument has valid form, so you either have to accept the conclusion that it is also morally justified to kill the hermit to save the patient, or you have to admit that (at least) one of your premises is not correct. (I think we'll both agree that membership in society really has nothing to do with whether or not you have the right to live). That does not mean that your initial conclusion is incorrect; it only means that you have not supported your suggestion that it's ok to kill the fetus in hopes of saving the patient.

This was not an analogy, by the way. This was a proof that your argument wasn't valid (again your conclusion may or may not be valid, but you have not supported it). Also, your argument did not say anything about whether or not the non-member of society had been born yet. But if you're trying to argue that someone who has not been born is not a human being becaus they have not been born, that's a circular argument (also not valid).



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
That was my argument (none / 0) (#176)
by jjhlk on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 09:16:51 PM EST

That was my argument, and it sounds pretty good. Except for the flaw, now. I need a term other than society. At the time I was thinking it was more universal than it is. Civilization? Or is that the word which refers to City Living. How about mankind? Or humankind to be more PC.

[ Parent ]
Your motivation? (none / 0) (#186)
by Verax on Tue Mar 18, 2003 at 11:25:22 PM EST

How about mankind? Or humankind to be more PC.

Human kind the same as members of Homo sapiens. The IVF human embryos that are discarded (killed), are human, after all. It's not as if they are rejected because they are not human.

If you're really going to pursue that argument, I have to ask: what is your motivation for trying to exclude some members of Homo sapiens from the human race?



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Genetic material vs. human being. (none / 0) (#136)
by Verax on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 08:32:00 PM EST

there's not much point in worrying about fertilized eggs and their immediate spawn - it is just a bunch of cells.

Your argument is:

  • An human embryo is a bunch of cells.
  • Therefore a human embryo is not a human being.
  • Therefore the human embryo should not have the human right to life.

But the problem is that we are also a bunch of cells. So, by your own argument, we have no right to live either. Is that really your point of view?

Hell, if we're going to get uptight about genetic material we may as well denounce girls for going on their period and boys for frequent masturbation.

There is a distinction between a human being and eggs or sperm. A human zygote has a full set of chromosomes, and, given the same things that we adults need (nutrition, hydration, protection from exposure), the zygote will unfold into an adult. Nothing constitutive is added after fertilization. However, even in the presence of nutrition, hydration, and protection from exposure, an egg will not go through this morphological process; something constitutive must be added (a sperm cell).

So, there is more to a human being than just genetic material. Sperm cells and egg cells, on their own, are not human beings, whereas a zygote, embryo, fetus, infant, adolescent, and adult are all equally human beings. After conception, nothing constitutive is added to get from one stage of human life to another.



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Genetic material (none / 0) (#147)
by Souhait on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 11:06:36 PM EST

You missed the main point of my argument - that a human is not just a bunch of cells, but a creature capable of some level of rational thought and intelligence.  You are not just a lump of cells - you are a self-conscious entity able to argue with me over what makes us human.  I don't care whether your DNA gipped you and you've had to study your ass off to understand this argument or you've been blessed and most of this comes easily to you - your DNA only describes one small part of who you are and what you're capable of.

A zygote is a living organism, but I'd hardly call it human.  It may one day become human, and has great potential if enough care is provided to it, but it is nothing more than a genetic code - a general outline of a human being.  We are not constrained by our DNA, nor are we defined by it.  This worship of genetic material seems to deny an essential part of what I consider to be human.


[ Parent ]

Our relationship to our DNA. (none / 0) (#150)
by Verax on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 11:38:40 PM EST

We are not constrained by our DNA, nor are we defined by it.

I disagree. If your DNA has a Y chromosome, you are male. If your genes say your blood type is AB, then your blood type is AB. And if your DNA says you are a member of the species homo sapiens, then you are, from the time you're conceived onward. Yes, education and worldly experience also affets who we are and how we see things, but in a very real sense, our DNA does put constraints on us.



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Definition of "human" (none / 0) (#151)
by Verax on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 11:41:36 PM EST

It looks like we've got different notions of what "human" means. According to you:

human is not just a bunch of cells, but a creature capable of some level of rational thought and intelligence.
but what I mean by human is a member of the species Homo sapiens. The Merriam-Webster dictionary seems to agree with me.

A zygote is a living organism, but I'd hardly call it human.

The offspring of a human mother and a human father is a human zygote. If it's not human, then what is it? A rabbit? A fish? A carrot? I think the field of biology would properly classify it as a member of homo sapiens. Which animals can change species as they mature?



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Hmm. (5.00 / 1) (#126)
by BLU ICE on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 06:04:15 PM EST

Embryos are not concious. They are no more human than a frog is. Anyway, embryos die all the time anyway, during miscairrages and such. An embryo is a nonconcious clump of a few hundred cells.

Would you rather have:
a)A person die.
b)An undifferentiated clump of cells die.

I know, it's "potential life," so the embryo should be protected, because it could potentially grow into a human. But that argument doesn't make sense. A sperm cell could also be potential life. But I don't feel like a murderer when I jack off, do I?

"Is the quality of this cocaine satisfactory, Mr. Delorean?"
"As good as gold."

-- I am become Troll, destroyer of threads.
It's like an encyclopedia...sorta: Everything2

[ Parent ]

well, if you aren't a religious fanatic... (none / 0) (#178)
by alizard on Sun Mar 16, 2003 at 01:04:21 AM EST

A human embryo is a collection of cells of human ancestry (usually) that might some day become human.

If you subscribe to the fetus fanatic defintion of "human infant" which includes fetuses, then to be logically consistent, every miscarriage should involve heroic efforts to save the "baby" whether or not it has any chance of becoming a viable human being.

Does the absurdity of this need to be explained to you?
"The horse is dead. Fuck it or walk away, but stop beating it." Juan Rico
[ Parent ]

just a reminder. (none / 0) (#111)
by benson hedges on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 01:20:49 AM EST

However, according to hospital's medical director, "many people were more comfortable with destroying three-day-old embryos that carry a genetic abnormality than terminating a pregnancy.

a 3-day old embryo is not alive. it is in no way recognizeable as a living being, has no heart, no brain, no pulse, nothing. it's just a small amount of cells. yes, it has the chance (chance, not definite route) of growing into a human being, but it is NOT alive.

you can only kill things that are alive. therefore, this is not murder.
--
When all is One, all violence is masochism.

and yet... (none / 0) (#121)
by jonboy on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 12:42:23 PM EST

it's just a small amount of cells.

Are you saying that a small amount of cells can't possibly be alive? A bacteria is alive. An amoeba is alive. A clump of cells is too.

I have a very simple question for you. When does that 3-day old embryo become a full-fledged Human Being with all the associated rights?
--
The above post is overrated.
[ Parent ]

At 18 of course. n/t. (none / 0) (#124)
by Kintanon on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 03:52:09 PM EST

Kintanon

[ Parent ]

hehe (none / 0) (#141)
by jonboy on Fri Mar 14, 2003 at 09:28:28 PM EST

But if that embryo lives in the US, it can't drink alcohol until it's 21. So 21?
--
The above post is overrated.
[ Parent ]
Even at 21... (none / 0) (#180)
by vectro on Sun Mar 16, 2003 at 03:54:57 AM EST

... it can't run for president.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
Even then (none / 0) (#183)
by Dyolf Knip on Sun Mar 16, 2003 at 09:28:31 PM EST

At 35, you still can't run for Senator. Obviously, life begins at forty!

---
If you can't learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly.

Dyolf Knip
[ Parent ]

When it starts breathing on its own. (none / 0) (#177)
by loucura on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 11:09:57 PM EST

Otherwise, it's just a uterine parasite.

[ Parent ]
I want one (5.00 / 3) (#170)
by exile1974 on Sat Mar 15, 2003 at 07:20:28 AM EST

Hey, a clone on ice would be nice. I could stand for some
spare parts. I can get spare parts for my truck, my computer,
for just about anything under the sun except my body.

And now to piss off as many people as possible.

1) An embryo is not a human

2) A fetus is not a human. At best it is a benign parasite
    that is totally and completely dependent on the host
    organization for sustenance and survival,
    much like many of my relatives.

3.) I define a human being as someone that reaches 21, prior
to that they are barely trained two-legged little savages.
Trust me, I used to be one but I got better.

Thank you, thank you! And try the veal.

--exile1974

"A sucking chest wound is Nature's way of telling you to stay out of a firefight." --Mary Gentle

Morality and Jurisprudence. (none / 0) (#181)
by vectro on Sun Mar 16, 2003 at 04:25:24 AM EST

The question of the morality of creating and/or killing undeveloped embryos (or even fetuses) ultimately is a value judgement, and like religion or drugs, is something we are unlikely to come to a concensus on.

However, I believe that it is not the purpose of the government (and thus the law) to promote or protect morals. Hence I am in favour of deregulation of intoxicants, for example. The question of the legal status of actions such as abortion or stem cells is then phrased differently: Rather than being a question of morals, it becomes a question of the societal effects of a ban, whether or not this is the valid realm of government, and ultimately property rights.

Perhaps humans are inherently endowed with the right to control their lives. But such is not and should not be the basis for the behaviour of our governments; rather, government should endeavour to protect property rights because of the positive effects on society that such protection engenders. Murder, then, is not illegal because it is morally wrong (though perhaps it is --- that is not an aspect of this discussion). Instead it is illegal because in a society where murder was OK, people would live in fear and the general quality of life would be substantial poorer.

What, then, are the societal effects of the actions under consideration? So far as I can tell, there are none. An embryo is certainly not self-aware enough to be able to exercise property rights, and there is no real societal interest in having more embryos around. Thus I argue that even if termination of an embryo is immoral, it ought not to be illegal.

There are three counterarguments to this proposition that I can think of: That this makes a difficult-to-draw line; that this promotes eugenics; and that this would make the murder of a newborn baby acceptable.

Taking these ideas in turn, I begin with the first: If murder is acceptable for something unable to exercise control over itself, at what point does it become unacceptable to kill a member of homo sapiens? At birth? Sometime before? After? Even a newborn fetus is rather unable to communicate self-awareness, though perhaps it has some.

This is, unfortunately, a common question in the law. Consider the following questions: At what point does one become mature enough to consent to sex? At what point ought one to be allowed to vote? How much resistance ought one to make in order to label a sexual encounter "rape"? Does reverse-engineering an iPod constitute a violation of the DMCA? These questions are rhetorical in nature, and while one might disagree with the solutions implemented presently in law, I hope that in general the principle that there exist difficult decisions such as these is acceptable.

Thus, the exact time at which homocide becomes unacceptable will almost certainly depend on exact circumstances, but perhaps that ought not to stop us from defining some particular moment as a defining step. Birth might be acceptable, because although I would argue the societal value of a ban on homocide does not develop until at least some months after birth, such a point is difficult to measure and will certainly vary.

The next possible counterargument is that this might promote eugenics. For exmalpe, it might make it acceptable to kill someone who is mentally insane. While I might agree that from a societal standpoint there might be little impact in killing an insane person, from a practical standpoint doing so is problematic. In a parallel fashion to the question of the death penalty, it is difficult to determine insanity in a perfect manner, the decision will almost certainly involve political or prejudicial elements, and ultimately is irreversible. The extent of discretion that would be required is too easily abused, so it would be better to constrain the state in this way. Note that this argument too is practical rather than moral.

The final counterargument discussed here is that the legal setup suggested would make it permissable for someone to kill another's child, born or unborn. That would be true, except that for practical reasons we ought to consider the unborn (and perhaps born, depending on the answer to the first counterargument) child to be the property of one or more of its parents; thus anyone who intervenes would be depriving the parents of their property rights. I hope that it is not necessary to defend this right on the part of the parents.

This is an idea that I just came up with recently, so if any of you have suggestions, comments, or rebuttals, I'd be glad to hear them. Thanks for listening.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger

Engineered Babies Save Lives, Destroy Embryos | 193 comments (173 topical, 20 editorial, 1 hidden)
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