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An introduction to stem cell research

By theboz in Op-Ed
Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 09:41:06 PM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

Stem cell research has become a hot topic lately. Now that George W Bush and the Catholic pope have met and discussed this issue, the religious and ethical aspects of the research are being brought up. In this article I intend to give some information on stem cell research to give you the ability to make your own opinions on this matter.


Many people are confused on this matter because of the question of when does a person become human? The problem is that there is no clear definition of when "life" actually occurs, and that is why the issues surrounding abortion are debated so fiercely. Stem cell research is mistakenly lumped in with this, mostly due to a lack of understanding on this issue.

I would like to point out that testing is already done on many types of human cells. From red blood cells to cancer cells, it is important for scientists to be able to test new medicines and treatments on actual human cells. The difference in this case is that the donor of cancer cells and blood normally survives without these cells. When testing using embryos, the embryo will not be able to be form into a human life form without the stem cells. Many people think that this involves killing a baby, but does it?

The stages of the human development cycle start with a sperm and an egg, proceed to form into a group of cells, eventually start to take shape to have a more humanlike form, and eventually become a baby and gets born. This is an oversimplification of the process, but for our purposes we have to realize that the embryo is at the stage of being little more than a group of cells. The reason this research is best when using an embryo is because at this stage the stem cells are at a stage when they can start to form into more specialized cells. Basically, these cells are new enough that they can become anything, from an arm, to the heart, to skin. These cells are not specialized enough to be a specific type yet.

Scientists think that these cells can be used to study how to regenerate cells within the adult body in a similar fashion. If you are suffering from Alzheimer's disease, it is possible that science can find a way to reverse the destruction of your brain and start making new brain cells to replace what you lost and you can regain use of your mind (although it would not bring back your old memories.) If you have a diseased lung, perhaps it could regenerate and repair what was already there. All humans do have stem cells, but they are more specialized than what is in the embryo, and are not as useful for research. An example would be the cells in the bones that create your blood cells. This stage is very early in the development so it offers a lot of insight into how the human body forms from a group of cells.

The moral problem that people have with this is that they think harvesting the stem cells is killing a baby. While there have been some instances of taking cells from an aborted fetus, the embryonic cells have much more potential because they have not been specialized at that stage. Because the embryo has not formed body parts yet, it has no nervous system. No nerves mean no pain, and even if somehow it could feel pain there is no brain at this stage to understand pain, much less life or death. The embryonic stage of development really does not have a human life at this point, and is as much alive as a tumor is. Many people will disagree, although mostly from theological or emotional standpoints.

Also, the embryos that are used normally come from fertility clinics. In order to help a couple have a baby, the doctors need to create a few embryos rather than just one, and only put one inside the mother to become a baby. The embryos that are left behind often are either frozen in storage indefinitely, or are destroyed. These embryos have no chance of ever becoming a fetus, much less a human being. Rather than wasting these embryos, many want to use them for scientific research to improve the quality of life for many others.

At the same time though, there are those that want to make embryo farms to provide the embryos necessary to perform this research. This area is more morally difficult for many people to consider, since it creates the embryos with the full intent of being dissected for research.

My personal opinion is that stem cell research is a good thing, and that it does not harm a human life. Many people argue that once the right combination of DNA comes together, then it is a unique individual and should not be destroyed by any means. The real issue is that we can not define at what point we become a human being. This will be debated for years to come but I hope I have given you a better idea of the basics behind this research so you can draw your own conclusions. A subject like this causes headaches for everyone including our leaders, but hopefully we can educate them so they make the best decisions.

If you would like further information, please check out the National Institute of Health's website pertaining to stem cell research.

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Poll
Do you support stem cell research?
o Yes 83%
o No 8%
o Undecided 8%

Votes: 61
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o George W Bush and the Catholic pope have met
o Many people will disagree
o make embryo farms
o causes headaches for everyone including our leaders
o National Institute of Health's website
o Also by theboz


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An introduction to stem cell research | 65 comments (58 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
killing an embryo (2.66 / 9) (#1)
by xriso on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 03:33:22 PM EST

I would have to say that killing a human entity is always wrong. Unfortunately, many who think this also believe that this means it must be made illegal as well. Our governments already sanction some types of murder (executions, war) (although unborn humans have not opposed our laws). The scientists may be killers, but that is between them and God.
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
Forgot something (4.00 / 3) (#6)
by duxup on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 05:00:42 PM EST

but that is between them and God
And the entity.

[ Parent ]
The entity dosn't care (3.00 / 3) (#26)
by delmoi on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 11:23:23 PM EST

It dosn't have a brain.
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
What is a human entity? (3.60 / 5) (#9)
by theboz on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 06:01:43 PM EST

The problem here seems to be one of semantics.

Personally, I support the taking stem cells from embryos, because an embryo does not have any organs and is nothing more than a clump of cells. In my opinion, this means that it is not a human life. However, I would like to see what leads you to believe that it is a human life at that stage, and why it should deserve any more human rights than something like a cancerous tumor, which is equally alive.

Stuff.
[ Parent ]

tumors... (3.66 / 3) (#24)
by antipop on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 10:43:21 PM EST

Cancerous tumors do not grow into people. That's the difference.

[ Parent ]
I don't like that logic. (3.33 / 3) (#42)
by theboz on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 07:24:26 PM EST

While you are correct that the embryo can turn into a person, I still don't see what *may* happen as being a reason to give it the same protection as a human.

If you know a high school student taking anatomy classes and really wants to go to college and become the greatest heart surgeon to ever live, does that mean you want them to operate on you now? I would say no, because they are not a heart surgeon yet.

You can't give rights and priveleges to something because of potential. When you start giving rights based on potential you run into big problems. I see this as somewhat of a slippery slope, and the next thing people will be pushing for is registration and inventory of all sperm and eggs because they could potentially form into humans if combined, and who knows how much further this can be taken.

Stuff.
[ Parent ]

I like the logic very much. (5.00 / 1) (#50)
by codepoet on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 12:25:20 PM EST

While you are correct that the embryo can turn into a person, I still don't see what *may* happen as being a reason to give it the same protection as a human.

You're ignoring a key event, and also not stating where youre coming from for that event. There is a moment, conception, at which the "may" turns into a "will" (barring abortion, natural or artificial). At that point, when the child starts to form, there is life. That is the point being bade for the other side of this argument. Where do you stand? Where do you believe life begins? Why? Because if I am right, and it's conception, and that's a child, then there is no reason that basic human rights, the same rights newborns have, should not be applied starting at conception. There is no reason that there should be a difference in jail time for killing an infant versus assulting a mother with intent to abort.

If you know a high school student taking anatomy classes and really wants to go to college and become the greatest heart surgeon to ever live, does that mean you want them to operate on you now? I would say no, because they are not a heart surgeon yet.

I say no as well, and I wonder what this has to do with the argument. I think you're arguing against potential, and if so, it's flawed. A proper analogy is would you tell a kid studying to go to college to be a heart surgeon that he's doing nothing with his life versus telling a heart surgeon that he's doing nothing with his life? You're talking about someone attaining knowledge and would you trust them without this knowledge, wheras I'm saying that life is life, beginning to end and at all points of a zygote trying to get into the world that it deserves the same protection as everyone else.

You can't give rights and priveleges to something because of potential. When you start giving rights based on potential you run into big problems. I see this as somewhat of a slippery slope, and the next thing people will be pushing for is registration and inventory of all sperm and eggs because they could potentially form into humans if combined, and who knows how much further this can be taken.

Unlikely. Again, you're missing a key event: conception. I *would* like to see registration and protection of fertilized eggs (as we do with newborns [birth certificate]). That would require them being seen as life, and that's much, much further down the road.

-- The cynical can often see the sinister aspect of a cup of coffee if given enough time.
[ Parent ]

Farms sound bad (3.00 / 5) (#2)
by MicroBerto on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 03:49:24 PM EST

My take is that Embryo farms are a bad thing, but using embryos from abortions for research are perfectly fine.

Will I be mad if there are embryo farms for stem cell research? Ehhhh, probably not. But I like to sit somewhere in the middle on this issue.

Berto
- GAIM: MicroBerto
Bertoline - My comic strip

alternate sources for stem cells (4.00 / 8) (#4)
by cory on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 04:03:29 PM EST

I saw an article the other day (can't find it in my browser history now, sorry) that talked about getting stem cells from, of all places, fat cells. They probably aren't as "good" as embryonic stem cells, but at least you could avoid all of the ethical problems involved.

Cory


Several sources of stem cells. (4.33 / 3) (#15)
by maynard on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 07:20:59 PM EST

I think bone marrow and the stomach lining contains stem cells as well. There are many sources for stem cells throughout the body, however, the bio-med research community has focused on embryonic and fetal stem cells because they are either undifferentiated or close to it. I'm sure a professional research biologist like iGrrl could give a far more detailed explanation as to why. Unfortunately, my expertise is limited to the occasional peer reviewed paper and abstract, as well as what's been printed in the press. --M

Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.
[ Parent ]
Adult Stem Cells Were Mentioned (5.00 / 4) (#20)
by SEWilco on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 09:57:38 PM EST

The article did refer to adult stem cells, as apparently being more specialized. Of course, that's what the present research indicates -- more research is needed, which is what is under discussion. There's still a lot of research on low-level human biology, and human cells of all types have to be studied or it's just guessing.

Yes, human adult stem cells have been found in the bone marrow, brain, fat, liver, skin, intestine...and probably others which I don't remember. Stem cells from one part of the body have been persuaded to grow to resemble a different part of the body, but I say "resemble" because it's too early to tell if the cells behave normally.

The adult brain stem cell research was clever and involved luck. A researcher who was wondering if there was a way to detect stem cells safely in the human brain was talking to a doctor on an unrelated matter, and discovered that a certain chemical was being used on a few cancer patients. The researcher realized that this chemical was one which is used to study the known stem cells in rodents -- the chemical enters growing neurons and makes them visible later in a microscope. The researcher got permission from several of the patients to study their brains when they eventually died. So far several of them have died, and recently-grown neurons have indeed been found in them.

[ Parent ]

That is correct. (4.00 / 3) (#32)
by theboz on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 09:13:09 AM EST

You can get stem cells from fat (and here in the U.S. we have plenty to donate!) but they are different than the ones that come from embryos. I am not an expert on this but I think the stem cells from fat are too specialized to be as useful as the embryo cells. I think the stem cells in a fetus are equally as specialized, and that is why they don't talk a whole lot about getting the stem cells from abortion, although there are the political reasons too.

On the bottom link of the story, the NIH website, it talks about the three types of stem cells I believe and that should explain a little bit about why getting them from fat is not as useful.

Stuff.
[ Parent ]

Fertilized eggs not embryos, not even zygotes... (3.33 / 9) (#5)
by maynard on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 04:13:25 PM EST

Really, they're newly fertilized eggs which have divided maybe four or five times tops. Arguably you (the media as well) should be calling these zygotes, except that a pedagogue would state that a fertilized egg is not a zygote until after it's attached to the uterine wall. Of course, by that definition these frozen cell collections don't have any formal term defined. I got into an interesting debate with my sister about this issue. She argued that since the stem cells aren't -- by definition -- even a zygote because they can't attach to a uterine wall without human intervention, they cannot and should not be governed by human rights laws. However, by that argument an any fertilized egg grown to term in an artificial uterus isn't human! Real fun debate.

We're both strongly pro abortion rights BTW, so don't think that I'm arguing this position from a anti-abortion rights perspective. But the kind of arguments put forth, like hers, where a collection of cells which unhindered will develop into a human are not life at all I disagree with. They should be given some consideration as life when it comes to large scale experimentation or industrial production; if not I fear a slippery slope toward an industrial bio-tech future without any restrictions on making human life life in slavery, or circumventing evolution to make a next generation human genome without input from any natural environment. I'm willing to support the stem cell research itself, but I'm wary of many of the arguments I see which marginalize the meaning of "life" in order to promote the research.

The Inuit used to leave babies out in the cold to die when they couldn't support a new child. Yes, it's terrible -- and by that standard aborting a first trimester fetus is kind. We have a MASSIVE overpopulation problem and cannot sustain supporting this number of people on our planet. I think a combination of the Inuit's pragmatism and realism with an acceptance of the reality of what we do to a fetus (really a life) would help us as a society face these squirmish ethical issues WRT abortion and GM technologies. I know it seems harsh, but I cannot accept the proposition that these cells aren't life in order to accept abortion rights for women. Roe v. Wade based it's argument on the assertion that the embryo and fetus isn't a "human life" -- and therefor can be expendable -- and we continue this folly in order to argue for new kinds of bio-medial research and development. Even a zygote is a life of some sort, just like bacteria, and we need to face up to this in order to create a rigorously consistent ethical framework when debating issues of bio-tech and GM research.

JMO.
--Maynard

Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.

"We" have an overpopulation problem? (4.50 / 2) (#7)
by vectro on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 05:13:47 PM EST

I guess you need to define who "We" is. Here in the US, populations would be declining if not for immigration.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
"We" as in: Planet Earth. (5.00 / 2) (#8)
by maynard on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 05:53:07 PM EST

While humanity may divide the planet along national bounderies, reality shows that earth is comprised of several contiguous regions separated by ocean. Airborne radioactive ash from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident didn't respect Ukrainian borders, nor will overpopulation. You say that the U.S. population hasn't grown except for immigration. But I'm sure you'll readily admit that the world population continues to grow. --M

Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.
[ Parent ]
Actually that's not true.. (4.50 / 2) (#23)
by chazzzzy on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 10:38:38 PM EST

Only Germany has a negative population growth (1.X child on average per couple) , the United States is not at negative population growth (2.X average)...yet.

[ Parent ]
Overpopulation? (4.66 / 3) (#25)
by delmoi on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 11:19:07 PM EST

We have a MASSIVE overpopulation problem and cannot sustain supporting this number of people on our planet.

Well, we are sustaining this population, save a few war-torn areas, so obviously its possible. And the vast majority of viable farm land isn't even being used, or used effectively.

People have been claming that there would be world wide mass starvation by 1980. Didn't happen. The world isn't overpopulated at all.

I'd like to see you come up with any facts or figures that prove the earth has to many humans.
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Just a point I've always liked... (2.12 / 8) (#12)
by ubernostrum on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 06:23:09 PM EST

A lot of people in the U.S. want legislation about this sort of thing, and it behooves us to think it through.

Suppose we write into law somehow the idea that life begins at conception. Now, I'm not quite 21 years old, but tack nine months onto my age, and I would be. If life begins at conception, can I legally drink? When I've been out of the womb 15 years and three months, can I get my driver's license? Somehow I doubt I'd be able to. In which case any laws pertaining to abortion and/or stem cell use which are based on life beginning at conception would effectively enforce a double standard (for one purpose, my life began at conception, but for another, it began at birth. Whoops). It would even be unconstitutional (14th amendment would be violated). It's not necessarily an argument against anything, but many people don't fully consider the consequences of the "life begins at conception" position before they go supporting it...and while these are fairly mild problems that arise from it (the laws concerning liquor and driving could be amended), I'm sure there would be others...


--
You cooin' with my bird?

Now legal argument; bad moral one. (4.75 / 4) (#14)
by codepoet on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 06:40:52 PM EST

You forget, the main reason for the debate is not what the law says, it's the government paying attention to what its people believe about life (the universe and everything ... I just had to).

If it were that simple it would be law right now. It's nowhere near that because you're taking the views of 250+ million people into account, which are generally one of the following:

Life begins at:

  1. conception.
  2. attaining eight cells.
  3. the formation of recognizable human elements.
  4. the beginning of second trimester.
  5. birth.
  6. the first breath.
  7. the point the mother wants to bring the child to term ("if I ignore it, it doesn't exist").
Now, pick one. Not easy unless you have good reason (personal, at least) to pick one. As a legistator, Bush cannot have good reason without consulting the people. As we all have different ideas, he's bought stock in Tums.

-- The cynical can often see the sinister aspect of a cup of coffee if given enough time.
[ Parent ]
no (2.33 / 3) (#21)
by fluffy grue on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 10:03:56 PM EST

at conception you are -9 months old.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

oh yeah (4.50 / 2) (#22)
by fluffy grue on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 10:07:06 PM EST

in asia (hong kong and taiwan, anyway) they consider your age starting at conception. but since that's a hazy number they round up a year. and then they round up another year figuring, "hey, you'll be $foo soon enough." it is because of this that the bars in hong kong had no problem with serving my brother who was, at the time, 16 (drinking age is 18 in hong kong).
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Some points to consider. (4.00 / 10) (#13)
by codepoet on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 06:24:06 PM EST

The moral problem that people have with this is that they think harvesting the stem cells is killing a baby. While there have been some instances of taking cells from an aborted fetus, the embryonic cells have much more potential because they have not been specialized at that stage. Because the embryo has not formed body parts yet, it has no nervous system. No nerves mean no pain, and even if somehow it could feel pain there is no brain at this stage to understand pain, much less life or death.

You make this sound like that refutes the first statement. The argument that states that a human child is killed makes no allusions to body parts, beating hearts, or potential to have either or more. It states, simply, that human live begins at conception. Period. Either you agree or not, but until there is a definitive marker placed in the process of gestation that signifies independant life, then there will be those, myself included, that believe that life begins at conception. While my reasons are mainly religious there are also simple logical reasons for this, the foremost being that, simply, that is the moment that there are the very beginnings of what would, in a complete gestation, become a fully-formed and autonomous human. At no point before is this possible and at no point after is this viability enhanced or significantly altered to the point that it visibly becomes the start of life. My opinion, of course.

The embryonic stage of development really does not have a human life at this point, and is as much alive as a tumor is. Many people will disagree, although mostly from theological or emotional standpoints.

The primary fault of logic here is that while cancer is alive in the general sense, it is not a fertilized egg. Eggs are very different. A lot of people compare them to cancer or other growths (even parasites, but that's another issue) and completely ignore the fact that just because they are cells does not mean they are similar to all other cells. Egg cells that are fertilized have a chance to become a second, autonomous person. Cancer does not.

Note, I'm not trying to start a war. We all have our opinions and the point of the article was to aid in opinion-forming, or at least that's its designated purpose. I'm just making note that the wording of the article is directed more to proving one side of the issue rather than informing about the whole issue. This is "the other side." Take it for what you want.

-- The cynical can often see the sinister aspect of a cup of coffee if given enough time.

what about artifically created embroys? (4.50 / 2) (#31)
by Golden Spray on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 02:07:39 AM EST

in a complete gestation, become a fully-formed and autonomous human.

What about fertility clinics? Do you see them as inherently wrong? Are the unused embroys "people"?

If implanted they could be a person, but without implantion they cannot. Therefore it requires human action to make them become a person. Does not implanting count as ending a human life?



GS

[ Parent ]
More specific.. (5.00 / 2) (#36)
by codepoet on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 10:56:17 AM EST

I've given a lot of thought as to the semantics of this, and this is what I've come up with: everything has a definitive beginning.

Let's talk about stars, for now. A cloud of gas exists in space, say. This cloud begins to swirl. Is it a star? What is a star? A star is gas that is so hot from gravitational compression that fusion begins and it "burns" (also, to note, it must be seperate from other such gasses; a star is not made up of billions of stars) So this gas is not a star. When it gets to the point that the first atom fuses, then I would call that the beginnings of a star, and, since it meets the criteria, a star (fusing gasses).

So the star has a beginning in which it didn't quite look like a star as we know it, but performed in exactly the same way. So a person's life could be measured in the same way. There exists a point zero in which life begins. Before that, life is not possible, after this life exists and will, if unobstricted/impeded, keep existing.

Is it breathing? Is that the definitive moment? Hold your breath. Are you dead? Then that's not it.

Heatbeat? The French helped us with this. If your head is removed from your body, you are conscious for at least fifteen seconds, without blood passing through. So while it's important, it's not the "spark of life" as we can do without it for a time, like breathing.

Birth? Does life begin when you exit your mother? That many people remember, somehow, exiting the womb, or even before, would seem to indicate that this is not significant. While a milestone event, the event itself is not the giver of life.

That's what it comes down to, right? What event is the giver of life? While other things happen to and around the beginnings of a person, what is the moment that it is really alive? Let's keep going.

Is it the second trimester? At this point a person resembles a person and the heart starts for itself. We've ruled out the heart argument, so let's look at the person. Does having limbs, useful or not, make you human? Ask war survivors without any limbs to answer that. So it's not appearance. Further back...

Is it having eight cells? Is there something significant about attaining this state that makes a person a person? If I never reached this state, would I be me? Obviously I would not have been born, but does this prevent the genetic material from becoming what it will finally be? Not really. It's a progression on a chart, a stage. Just like the beating of a heart, birth, and the first breath, it's an event, a stage, but not a defining moment.

Before conception, are you who you are? You're not. You're partially this and possibly that. You know what half of you will be (ignoring dominance) but not the other half. At this moment you could be almost anything (within human limits). Something happens here that defines you and who you will be. Something is given here that starts a chain reaction that, if allowed to continue, will result in a person, you. Before this, there is no hope of you appearing as you did. After this, there are no changes that can take place that would make you. This is where that happened. This is your defining moment where you became you.

No, it doesn't look like a person. It doesn't have all the organs, or nerves of a human. But just as a protostar is a form of star, so a protohuman is a form of human. The egg will now start to divide (a sign of cellular life, at least) and slowly form a person. Does that make it alive, then? Absolutely. Petri dish or uterus, the joining of the two cells begins life, and, thus, is alive.

[Std. Disclaimer: My opinion, and an answer to a question about said opinion.]

-- The cynical can often see the sinister aspect of a cup of coffee if given enough time.
[ Parent ]

Ok (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by Golden Spray on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 05:40:18 PM EST

Petri dish or uterus, the joining of the two cells begins life, and, thus, is alive.

So from this is it fair to assume that you disagree with fertility clinics.

What about the argument that an embroyo created in a petri dish won't grow into a person without human intervention? In that sense it is very different from a "natural" embroyo.



GS

PS. I am not asking weither life begins as fertizilation, it obviously does, the question is when does that life achieve rights. That is to say, the right not be to killed and used for experimentation.



[ Parent ]
Causation is irrelevent. (5.00 / 1) (#41)
by codepoet on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 06:16:47 PM EST

The reason for existing is irrelevent. That the egg was fertilized, regardless of location or conditions, it is alive. As such they should have the same protection as people that are born. Just as a child being born is a stage of development, so would an egg placed in the woman be a stage for that particular egg. As I explained above: stages are events, not causes.

And I know you're not asking about live beginning "as fertilization" but I'm saying that I believe it beings "at fertilization." I consider that one word difference a bit more than semantics. =)

-- The cynical can often see the sinister aspect of a cup of coffee if given enough time.
[ Parent ]

sperm (4.33 / 3) (#27)
by slothman on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 11:26:36 PM EST

Sperm might grow into a person,if it is the lucky one. So does that mean that killing sperm is wrong. What's different about a human egg or human sperm and a fertilized egg?

Immediate potential (5.00 / 1) (#28)
by codepoet on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 11:57:41 PM EST

The difference is the immediate potential of the cell. Left alone, an egg will pass. Left alone, a sperm will die. Left alone a fertilized egg will divide rapidly and start forming a human (under ideal circumstances).

For what it's worth, those that are against this type of research are usually part of religious organizations that have similar beliefs about "misusing" those cells seperately as well (as in donations, to a bank or to a shower floor, for that matter).

-- The cynical can often see the sinister aspect of a cup of coffee if given enough time.
[ Parent ]

Care to elaborate further (4.00 / 2) (#29)
by SIGFPE on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 12:07:53 AM EST

The distinction between "potential" and "immediate potential" seems like splitting hairs to me. Potentiality forms a sliding scale and I don't see how you can have a cutoff at which the merely "potential" becomes "immediately potemtial". In addition - I see no necessary link between the difference between "potential" and "immediate potential" and the difference between "not alive" and "alive".
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
My understanding (4.50 / 2) (#30)
by Golden Spray on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 01:59:13 AM EST

I think he means that a sperm or an egg does not have all the required elements to grow into a person. That is to say a human needs... 23? pairs of chromosomes. A sperm or an egg only contains one chromosome from each of the 23 pairs. When an egg and sperm get together you get 23 pairs.

Therefore a sperm or an egg, by itself, cannot grow into a person. Only when the two are together, like really together in some nifty biology term kinda way, can you grow a person.

I think



GS

[ Parent ]
Well a sperm hanging... (5.00 / 1) (#38)
by SIGFPE on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 12:18:31 PM EST

...around in the testes and an egg biding its time in an ovary have the potential to be combined together to form a person. The fact that they are separated in space does nothing to contradict the fact that they have potential to become a person because they have the potential to come together (if you excuse my unintended pun).

The whole point of defining a human to start at conception is to have a non-arbitrary cutoff point but to me conception is just one point in an infinite continuum.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]

I believe the term was immedeate potential. (5.00 / 1) (#39)
by Golden Spray on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 04:58:40 PM EST

Sure they have potential, but then any cell in your body has the potential to be cloned into a person, or similarly any living thing has the potential to evolve into a sentient being. But worrying about such things is a bit ridiculous.

The reply was about immedeate potential, which meant what could happen if left alone, in optimal conditions. Therefore the seperation is importnat. A sperm or egg will eventually die, however a fertized egg may well grow into a complete human. Thus without "helping" it, a fertilized egg may well become a person, however a sperm or egg will not.



GS

[ Parent ]
optimal conditions (5.00 / 1) (#43)
by kubalaa on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 07:34:02 PM EST

Redefine optimal conditions for the sperm to include the presence of an egg and you have it made. There is quite a lot of external work involved in bringing an egg to term so the analogy works.

"But worrying about such things is a bit ridiculous." -- that's the point. It's no less ridiculous to worry about a fertilized egg's potential than an unfertilized ones.

[ Parent ]

You can't just redefine things. (5.00 / 2) (#46)
by Golden Spray on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 02:51:57 AM EST

Redefine optimal conditions for the sperm to include the presence of an egg and you have it made. There is quite a lot of external work involved in bringing an egg to term so the analogy works.

The whole point of the comparision is to look at the likely outcomes of different objects. By "redefining" as you suggest there is no difference between a sperm and a fertilized egg.

It's no less ridiculous to worry about a fertilized egg's potential than an unfertilized ones.

I am not sure if I understand what you are saying. I think you mean that the potential of a fertilized egg is the same as that of an unfertilized egg. I'll kind of agree with you only if you promise to read my posting titled "tricky", and I will qualify my statement by stating the immedeate potential of the two is very different. Its the immedeate potential that we should worry about.



GS

[ Parent ]
Hmmm... (5.00 / 1) (#44)
by SIGFPE on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 07:56:37 PM EST

We're getting onto tricky ground here. You seem to make the distinction between 'immediate potential' and 'potential' lie in the fact that the former needs "help".

Suppose a foetus is diagnosed as suffering from a disease. It can be cured before birth but if no "help" is provided the birth will become a miscarriage. Does this foetus have "immediate potential" to become a person? Does it have "potential"?

If you're a Christian who believes that God implants a soul within a zygote immediately after conception then these issues become trivial. But I think you're trying to defend a more subtle position which I'm struggling to understand.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]

tricky... (5.00 / 1) (#45)
by Golden Spray on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 02:37:26 AM EST

Suppose a foetus is diagnosed as suffering from a disease. It can be cured before birth but if no "help" is provided the birth will become a miscarriage. Does this foetus have "immediate potential" to become a person? Does it have "potential"?

I would say that the foetus has potential [pot], not immedeate potential [imm pot]. I came into this to try and help differentiate between pot. and imm. pot., so I don't know excately what the original poster meant, but that is how I would define them. As such I am not sure that I have a position, I am just trying to help straighten out definitions.

I should not have said "helping" it gives the wrong impression. Perhaps I should have said "disturbing" or "interacting".

I don't see the difference between pot. and imm. pot. as subtle. How about looking at it from a more logical/mathy viewpoint? Potential is all the possible things that could happen. Therefore the set of objects with "potential" is huge. Imm. Pot. is the set of events (or perhaps even the event) that are very likely to occur. This is a far smaller set.

I guess you could also look at it probabilistically. The imm. pot. of something is the most likely event to occur. The odds of a sperm becoming a baby is about 3x10^-9 (Assuming an average of 3 babies per life time and 1 billion sperm produced, both numbers more or less made up). An egg has about 1/151 chance of becoming a baby, (40 years of menstration 3 kids... again more or less made up). A fertilized egg probably has a > 90% (made up) probability of becoming a bady. So the imm. pot. of a sperm or egg is not to become a baby, however for a fertilized egg it is.

If you took a sperm, put it in its optimal environment, you would expect it to live for a while, then die. Similarly for an egg. However if you took a fertilized egg and placed it in its optimal environment, you would expect to see it grow into a baby.



GS

[ Parent ]
You're getting circular... (5.00 / 1) (#48)
by SIGFPE on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 11:35:26 AM EST

If you took a sperm, put it in its optimal environment
What's the definition of optimal? The environment in which it has the greatest chance of survival? In that case the optimal environment for a sperm is fused with an egg where it has a good chance of surviving.

I know that you're trying to defend someone else's position here but usually, if I were arguing with someone who really was defending their position, they'd be shouting at me by now!
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]

Well, maybe not yelling. =) (5.00 / 1) (#52)
by codepoet on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 12:55:23 PM EST

What's the definition of optimal? The environment in which it has the greatest chance of survival? In that case the optimal environment for a sperm is fused with an egg where it has a good chance of surviving.

No. Optimal means boxers versus petri dish. =) I mean that literally. I used optimal to denote natural, or expected. Optimal would, under that definition, even technically include the vaginal wall, which is the most dangerous enviroment there is, other than cold.

I know that you're trying to defend someone else's position here but usually, if I were arguing with someone who really was defending their position, they'd be shouting at me by now!

I'm very patient. =) I don't get mad easily, so I will bet you'll stop responding before I do. ;)

-- The cynical can often see the sinister aspect of a cup of coffee if given enough time.
[ Parent ]

Now you're losing me... (5.00 / 1) (#55)
by SIGFPE on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 06:21:45 PM EST

I used optimal to denote natural
So a sperm fusing with an egg isn't 'natural'?
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
You're missing the point. (5.00 / 1) (#60)
by codepoet on Thu Jul 26, 2001 at 11:04:03 AM EST

First, please refer to GS' post #58 for the immidiate answer to this. In short, a sperm ceases to be a sperm, and an egg an egg, when they combine.

On another note, you seem to be having a problem getting my side of this; perhaps if you explained your side which would go a bit faster?

-- The cynical can often see the sinister aspect of a cup of coffee if given enough time.
[ Parent ]

I was more interested in finding out your side... (5.00 / 1) (#61)
by SIGFPE on Thu Jul 26, 2001 at 06:31:33 PM EST

...as I'm not terribly interested in converting people to my view. () My view is very straightforward really: a just fertilised egg is not very interesting to me from an ethical point of view and an abortion at that stage isn't worth being concerned about (at least insofar as it affects the foetus). A foetus just before birth is clearly almost identical to a baby that has been born so abortion at this point is tantamount to infanticide.

So I am faced with two ends of a scale - at one end I think abortion is acceptable and at the other it isn't. If we are to have abortion laws in place we need to decide in which cases abortion is and isn't acceptable. We can either decide each case on its own merits and end up with a legal system that's horrendously complicated or we can choose a fairly arbitrary cutoff as long as we expect that in no case to we kill someone we consider to be fully human. If I had to make a decision about where that cutoff should be I'd make a detailed study of foetus nervous systems but I'm not going to do that because I have other thing to do in my life right now. However, even without making such a detailed study I'd say that there is some date stricly after 1 second after conception and strictly before 9 months after conception at which I'd be happy to make that cutoff. I guess that seems vague but it's enough information to put me squarely outside of the so-called pro-Life camp though it doesn't necessarily make me a hard-core so-called pro-Choicer.

I must also mention that I don't believe that there is a correct answer to be found. I don't think that by studying baby nervous systems I'd expect to find some magical stage in development that suddenly proves a baby is a person. My views are based on what I find acceptable - not what is right.

And continuing previous discussion...can we consider a baby to be fully alive seeing as if we don't give it "help" it will surely (and naturally) die?
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]

Yup. (5.00 / 1) (#62)
by codepoet on Thu Jul 26, 2001 at 08:28:46 PM EST

And continuing previous discussion...can we consider a baby to be fully alive seeing as if we don't give it "help" it will surely (and naturally) die?

If you're in a bad action movie and are holding the hand of a friend who has fallen off a cliff, is he dead? Without intervention...

Intervention is irrelevent, as is causation, or circumstances, or anything but straight biology. What would happen in a textbook case is all that matters. If you add/remove things that doesn't change what should happen. It's like saying it's wrong to steal unless it's a green item on a Wednesday in cities starting with W. It's wrong, period. Nothing else matters.

-- The cynical can often see the sinister aspect of a cup of coffee if given enough time.
[ Parent ]

So now we come back to the question of... (5.00 / 1) (#63)
by SIGFPE on Thu Jul 26, 2001 at 10:27:29 PM EST

...what does the 'textbook case' have to do with the definition of 'life'? Why does what should happen have to do with whether I should judge something to be alive? And I don't really know what you mean by 'straight biology' anyway. Me saving the life of someone or aborting a foetus seems to me just as much biology as the formation of a blastocyst. It seems like an arbitrary distinction to me.

It's like saying it's wrong to steal unless it's a green item on a Wednesday in cities starting with W
But that's how biology works. X will develop if Y is present unless X-inhibitor is present unless there's more Y-promoter and only then if Z receptor is activated.

So you're saying that an object is considered a living person if its 'usual' biological development is to turn into a baby without intervention. But the definition of 'usual' surely means 'turns into a baby'. Nobody reads textbooks (well, few people anyway) on aborted foetuses. So the whole definition is circular. What you consider to be a textbook case is only considered that because it leads to the ideal case.

Let me restate that: you seem to be saying that something shouldn't be aborted if in the ideal case it develops into a baby. But the case is ideal if a baby develops out of it. See, circular.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]

No, that's not what I mean. (5.00 / 1) (#64)
by codepoet on Thu Jul 26, 2001 at 11:04:01 PM EST

What I mean by usual is not that it becomes a born baby, but that conception occurs by an act of nature, in the woman, and is allowed to function without artificial intervention from that point on. That's "usually" how things go. We have to use the standard to define the standard, you see. What normally happens is how you define the stages of conception and gestation and where you get the definitions from. It's not circular if you're making the definition of regular from what is statistically regular; that's called documentation.

From that, usual can include aborted fetuses, easily, because there is a such thing as a natural abortion, though we call it a miscarriage.

Now, back to the original point ... if I can remember it. Ah, yes, the point of life. I say it's always conception and I've stated why. I really don't see what this tangent has to do with that?

-- The cynical can often see the sinister aspect of a cup of coffee if given enough time.
[ Parent ]

sperm + egg != sperm (5.00 / 1) (#58)
by Golden Spray on Thu Jul 26, 2001 at 03:44:55 AM EST

What's the definition of optimal? The environment in which it has the greatest chance of survival? In that case the optimal environment for a sperm is fused with an egg where it has a good chance of surviving.

I would disagree with this. If you put a sperm in the presence of an egg and the sperm fertilized the egg you would no longer have a sperm. You would have a fertilized egg. The combination of the two ends the "existance" of the two parts. You get a cell with a different imm. pot. of its two basic ingredeants. Thus the optimal environment for the survival of the sperm does not include an egg.

Ok. This whole argument is getting a bit odd. I would like to try and refocus back to the original question. Why should a fertilized egg be treated differently than an egg or a sperm?

My answer would be that they are fundamentally different. Whether or not you believe that an emboryo should have the right to life or not, it seems naive not to recognize that on fertilization something important occurs.

I assume you are trying to push the argument that since we do not protect a sperm or an egg that we should not worry about protecting a fertilized egg. However this argument can be pushed further. If we give a fertilized egg the same rights as a sperm, because a sperm can become a fertilized egg, do we then give a born human the same rights as a fertilized egg (and thus a sperm) since a fertilized egg can become a born human?

I would argue that there are two events, one more important that the other, in the whole "where does life/rights begin" argument. First is when does human life begin, the second is when should that life gain the same rights as a born person. The argument about when rights begin is the important one, and the one we really ought to be having. The other, about when "human life" begins, is the argument that we are having.

Those with religious convictions will often blur the two. They take for granted that once human life beings, rights begin. Thus their stance that "life" begins at conception, since "life" is equivalent to "rights". Now, I think that you are trying to argue that a fertilized egg is no different than a sperm so that you can push back the time when "life" begins. From my view point this means you have accepted their assertion that life == rights, which leaves you trying to argue against human life beginning at conception. This is a far more difficult argument than "that clump of cells does not have same right to maintain its life as a born person".

I would suggest you reconsider. Accept that human life begins at conception, but recognize at that point in its development the embroyo may not deserve the same rights as a second term or born or whatever human. When I consider your argument it feels like you are being purposefully obtuse in refusing to accept that something "happens" at conception that changes a sperm or an egg into something more.



GS

ps. I love to discuss/argue. In doing so I recognize the foolishness of getting angry or personally attacking people. Thus, I never yell (or at least not yet).



[ Parent ]
Not quite. (5.00 / 1) (#51)
by codepoet on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 12:49:51 PM EST

We're getting onto tricky ground here. You seem to make the distinction between 'immediate potential' and 'potential' lie in the fact that the former needs "help".

Not help. The latter needs an event to become the former, which needs the previously defined optimal conditions to fulfil its immidiate potential (whew!). That's not help, that's a timeline and a list of textbook events. Exceptions are irrelevent to this because, as I stated earlier, you overlay "normal" events onto abnormal events to determine the effect, as we see here...

Suppose a foetus is diagnosed as suffering from a disease. It can be cured before birth but if no "help" is provided the birth will become a miscarriage. Does this foetus have "immediate potential" to become a person? Does it have "potential"?

It has immidiate potential, is a child, is alive, and things are looking grim for its chances to see the rest of the event line. Intervention is artificial, good, but irrelevent to determining the fetus' status of life.

Which brings up another argument: Would you save it if it wasn't alive? Don't react to that, think about it. If you really don't believe that it's alive, why bother saving it? Why not just try again?

If you're a Christian who believes that God implants a soul within a zygote immediately after conception then these issues become trivial. But I think you're trying to defend a more subtle position which I'm struggling to understand.

I am the former and the latter. I believe that God exists and that Christianity has a lot of things going for it in terms of understanding, but I also believe in things along the lines of St. Albert the Great and St. Thomas Moore in that everything in existance has a scientific basis that God has made. That everything can be scientifically explained (though we may not understand it all) and can, in theory, be understood by people. That's how I look at this. There is scientific cause for these beliefs of mine, all of them and especially this one. I'm trying to convey them. =)

-- The cynical can often see the sinister aspect of a cup of coffee if given enough time.
[ Parent ]

Definitions (5.00 / 1) (#49)
by codepoet on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 12:09:40 PM EST

Immediate Potential: Left in its optimal environment, what will happen. (eg. A fertilized egg has the potential, without additional events, to become a child).

Potential: Given event X, what would happen to something given its purpose (eg. an egg has the potential to become a child given a sperm).

Optimal: The textbook environment which something is technically supposed to reside (eg. an egg in an overy, zygote in a womb).

Ok, now the cutoff here is the fertilization, as I've said elsewhere. At that point the potential of the egg is fulfilled by an event and the potential becomes an immidiate potential. Think potential and kenetic energy; what could happen versus what is. The egg could, someday, grow into a child. The fertilized egg is doing just that. A weight on a crane could fall. Release it and it is falling, because the potential was made active by an event.

How does this translate into life? I wrote a nice long post about that in this story somewhere. Look for the one that's a page long. =)

How do I handle events that are artificial, such as in-vitro and turky-baster-babies? I don't. Those are irrelevent in deciding this because you have to look at what normally happens (What is normal? What is biologically natural, expected, and designed.) to decide the chart of events in the cycle, and then when that is known you can apply that over any external events (conception now happens in a petri dish for some, for instance, but this does not change what happens there, only the location). What if an artificial, external event does not take place, such as putting a zygote into the womb after conception? Apply the original chart over it. What happens in a natural abortion? The child is killed; the zygote is passed through and out in a heavy menstration cycle. So, left outside the womb, the zygote dies, and, thus, a child. A dramatically premature child, but a child.

-- The cynical can often see the sinister aspect of a cup of coffee if given enough time.
[ Parent ]

Just to clarify (5.00 / 1) (#57)
by Gutza on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 10:13:41 PM EST

I've read the whole thread underneath and I'm puzzled about one thing: when do each of you believe the egg+sperm, zygote, embryo, baby or whatever become a human being and destroying it (as in stopping the component cells to be alive) would be murder?

Don't get me wrong, I'm basically ok with studying stem cells and destroying the not-even-zygote in the process, but the author of the original article clearly stated that the debate was on this very issue: when is that thing turning into a human being? And I can't answer this myself -- can you?

On the other hand, I can see no legal problem in destroying this collection of cells once you allow abortion, but that's a whole different story... Please do answer my question -- I think it would be nice to see what other are thinking and since each of you are "the other" for the rest...

Who's your vendor, who's your vendor? — Scott Adams
time is K5
[ Parent ]
At conception. (5.00 / 1) (#59)
by codepoet on Thu Jul 26, 2001 at 10:57:59 AM EST

As I've stated several times, life begins at conception. Someone (GS?) said that rights might be given at another time, but I feel that this would go against everything America is for if we on one hand say "yes, you're human" and then say "but we can't give you any civil rights because you're not born yet." It's silly semantics from an age of people more concerned with their own ability to live their life as they want than worry about the lives that are impacted by their choices.

Short answer: everything, I mean everything, starts at conception, any conception.

-- The cynical can often see the sinister aspect of a cup of coffee if given enough time.
[ Parent ]

Left Alone? (4.50 / 2) (#33)
by Monkey Baister on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 09:50:55 AM EST

Left alone a fertilized egg will divide rapidly and start forming a human (under ideal circumstances).

Ideal circumstares? As in a womb? Something that a woman has.

What do you mean by "left alone" and "ideal circumstances"?

[ Parent ]

Exactly that. (5.00 / 1) (#34)
by codepoet on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 10:27:09 AM EST

Nothing more sinister than a woman's womb or an artificial incubator. If you placed a fertilized egg on my desk it would die; my desk is currently 71.1 F, which would kill it. So ideal circumstances simply indicate that with proper nurturing the cell will divide and grow.

-- The cynical can often see the sinister aspect of a cup of coffee if given enough time.
[ Parent ]
I"m sorry, but this MUST be said... (2.66 / 3) (#37)
by noop on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 11:47:24 AM EST

"...Ev-ery sperm is sac-red, ev-ery sperm is good
Should a sperm get was-ted, God gets quite irate..."


[ Parent ]
Embryo Survival is <50% (5.00 / 2) (#47)
by kurthr on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 04:50:20 AM EST

It's really important to realize that embryos have a survival rate that's not that great in healthy (even obese) young women. The loss of an embryo is basically unnoticed. It is one very significant way that pregnancies fail. In particular, the state of the uterus lining significantly affects implantation rate, but so does... luck. Speaking of luck. Thank your god (or evolutionary science) that embryos don't readily implant in the uterus in already pregnant women. That would not lead to the survival of the species. On the other hand, many women attempting to conceive will likely lose embryos, if they happen to ovulate more than one egg at a time. Remember... that's how fraternal twins happen :^) and don't' :^(

A key point to remember is that an embryo could be considered as few as 6 cells. The loss is not noticeable, as the much more significant loss of a developed fetus would be in a miscarriage. The beginning of life is a grey area, and much like a beard it's hard to tell when it begins, but most people can agree most of the time. Taking embryos to be the equivalent of human life, or even truly potential life is fraught with problems.

Embryos die from "negligence" all the time. Typically 50% or less of all embryos succeed in implantation. . Some simply float away, but others may recombine to form a single embryo or develop into a tumor. To truly minimize these losses we would need to dramatically control all conception to maximize embryonic fertility. Alternately, we could create clones by splitting every embryo to make sure that every unique one was carried to term by one clone or another in an appropriate host.

Typically, In Vitro fertilization success rates are under 15%. Clearly they would need to be stopped. A woman's smoking, drinking and other activities can also greatly reduce fertility. Should these be curtailed?. Perhaps we should impose strict celibacy, or remove their ovaries before any eggs drop, which could possibly allow a lost virgin birth. Instead special breeders could be farmed with greatly increased embryonic fertility- up to 75% using techniques developed for pigs and cows.



[ Parent ]
Sounds good. =) (5.00 / 1) (#53)
by codepoet on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 01:06:41 PM EST

All reasons I oppose such actifities; thank you for pointing them out.

I don't see it as a gray area. I see that people call it a gray area so that such activities will proceed without problems, but when you look at where life really begins you see, plain as day, that's it conception. I've lost one child that I know of, and it's a sad thing. We could have lost more and never known; this is true. Because of this, I sometimes think that people have the same problem believing that it's really life that they do believing something they have not seen, and that's just trust in a fact rather than a person.

Logic dictates that if these percentages are correct, then there are thousands of non-artificially-aborted children dying daily. This is true. It is also very sad that life works this way, but the alternative is much more grim: true overpopulation. Not overpopulation by statistics, but standing back to back over all the world. It's nature's way of stopping that. It's effective.

-- The cynical can often see the sinister aspect of a cup of coffee if given enough time.
[ Parent ]

There's a better alternative... (4.00 / 4) (#35)
by WombatControl on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 10:27:24 AM EST

The research done with fetal stem cells and Alzheimer's patients has been wildly unsecessful. In fact, the results were horrific. Patients with transplanted stem cells lost motor control, causing them to have uncontrollable spasms, chew on their own tongues, and other unforseen side effects.

In short, fetal stem cells are not the miracle cures that many make them out to be. They have potential, but the moral questions surrounding them as well as the research already done on them does not indicate that they are going to have the miraculous effects that the mainstream press seems to place upon them.

Stem cells do not have to come from embryonic or fetal tissue. There are also stem cells found in bone marrow that could be much, much more effective than fetal or embryonic stem cells in curing or treating diseases such as Parkinsons and Alzheimers. These cells would come from the patients own bodies, therefore limiting the effects of tissue rejection, and would not involve the destruction of viable embryos.

The fact is, this issue is more political than scientific - if President Bush were to sign a ban on fetal stem cell research it would not be the end of the world. In fact, use of bone marrow stem cells may in fact be a far better alternative than the bioethical and biomedical problems inherent in using fetal tissue.



some things are best left to nature (2.33 / 3) (#54)
by picasso on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 03:50:35 PM EST

unfortunately pharmaceutical companies can patent their research (and findings). this research is NOT about finding cures to diseases. name one cure that has been found. one. you cannot. this is just the soothing propaganda (like when Monsanto said it can use genetically modified foods to feed the world - hello?). the facts are horrific. this research is virtually unregulated (the regulators are far behind). this research is a lottery. these researchers do not know exactly what they are doing and what they are dealing with. it is completely hit and miss. a recent example i previously described was a pig being crossed with human genes in an effort to create a taller leaner pig (which would then be patented). the result was grotesque and the animal was destroyed. HIT and MISS. UNREGULATED. how can anyone possible patent the human genetic code? this is crazy.

OK... (4.66 / 3) (#56)
by Kasreyn on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 09:02:43 PM EST

The embryonic stage of development really does not have a human life at this point, and is as much alive as a tumor is. Many people will disagree, although mostly from theological or emotional standpoints.

Ok, here's a non theological, non emotional standpoint, since your mocking tone simply begged for it.

Joe Everyman is 30 years old, in the prime of his life. He is smart, witty, compassionate, and loyal - he is an everyday upstanding nice guy. Now, if I were to steal up behind him on the street and bash his skull in with a tire iron, the vast majority of people would see that as a horrendous crime. I have just committed murder, you see. I would be tried, convicted, and imprisoned or killed myself as punishment. I agree myself that such punishment, or something very like it, is meet and proper.

Now what if Joe is 60 years old? He is going senile (not there yet), getting crippled a bit, lost most of his physical strength. Maybe even his personality has soured with the depression of too many years of the disappointments of life. He has also lost a leg to an accident. But still, if I walk up and kill him, I'm a murderer.

Say 60-year old Joe has a brain aneurism and becomes a vegetable. His mind is wholly gone, he cannot move or eat or think. In your own words, he's about as alive as a tumor. NOW is it my right to kill him? Go examine our law books and see if it is. Wait, don't go, I'll save you some time and let you know, IT'S NOT. Just because someone is helpless or even MINDless is not, under our system, a legal loophole for murder. I may personally disagree about the vegetable part (I want to be killed if I get like that), but the law has its own opinions, and I believe, is inconsistent with itself on the issue of abortion.

What about disability? People say an embryo isn't human because it breathes with gills? Well, what about a man in an iron lung machine? Can we kill him? Is he less than human? Fuck no!

The only defining characteristic of a human, the characteristic that makes them illegal to murder, is human genetic identity. That is the only thing I can boil it down to. If anyone can apply some rigorous science and find something else, please let me know, because unlike many abortion opponents AND PROPONENTS, I happen to retain an open mind.

We can eliminate physical deformity. Thinking and productive adults have that. We can eliminate mental incompetence, because even the most total vegetables are protected by our laws. We can't say the fetus's dependance on its mother makes it less than human, since after birth a baby will still die if not cared for, which is a condition lasting for years. We cannot say there is some magic in the act of being squeezed through a birth canal, since people born by C-section are also human, as we all know. So what is left that makes a human, human and unique? Genetic information originally, and in their later life, experiences.

I believe (not so much a belief as an opinion, since it is based on undisputed scientific discoveries), that since the embryo has seperate and distinct genetic information from EITHER parent, that it is a seperate person from the moment of conception (or rather, from the moment when the egg becomes the zygote made up wholly of the new, combined genetic identity). Arguments that it should be granted fewer or no rights because at that stage it is lacking this or that qualification of humanity are specious, because we don't ALSO slay *adults* lacking this or that single factor, or even those lacking many such factors. We should at the very fucking least be consistent. If we're going to kill babies for not having brains, let's kill the comatose. If we're going to kill babies for not being able to gain nutrition on their own, let's stop feeding the starving.

So there's your scientific argument against abortion. Hope you enjoyed it, because I don't feel like typing all this again. =P


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Not to agree or disagree (5.00 / 1) (#65)
by kraant on Tue Mar 05, 2002 at 07:52:10 PM EST

But there is a state called being "brain dead" that allows for a person to be terminated.
--
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]
An introduction to stem cell research | 65 comments (58 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
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