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A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Stand to Reason has published a list of "talking points" that can be used as a quick reference sheet for answering questions about embryonic stem cell research and why people ought to oppose this procedure. The piece, entitled "Are you against stem cell research and cloning?" give good, concise answers to some of the questions that arise concerning why Christians would oppose this procedure when it supposedly holds such great promise.

For example, consider the following from the "talking points":

Where do we get human embryonic stem cells? We can only derive human embryonic stem cells by killing a human embryo. Removing its stem cells leaves it with no cells from which to build the organs of its body.

What is the embryo? An embryo is a living, whole, human organism (a human being) in the embryonic stage. All the embryo needs to live is a proper environment and adequate nutrition, the very same thing all infants, toddlers, adolescents, and adults need.

This is a key concept in this debate -- the only way to get usable human embryonic stem cells is to kill the embryo. The embryo is simply a human being in an early stage of development. Thus, taking the embryo kills a human being. This is not particularly debateable.

If you are interested in this issue so involved in the culture of life, you should take a few moments to review this short (two-page) article. It is very helpful.

40 comments:

The way I see it, life doesn't "begin at conception", life begins at Adam and Eve. Embryos are not the formation of life or the beginning of life, but the extension, continuation, and progression of previous life. So the question is, at what point is it necessary or even acceptable to stop human life from continuing and progressing? As a follower of Yeshua, I understand that it is the purpose of the kingdom to restore life. Failing that, if I were to pick a point, I'd pick either the point at which life refuses to remain naturally or the first week of development.

You people do understand that the embryos which are created in IVF procedures, if not used in research, are still going to die anyway, correct? That's why the three legislative pieces clearly excepted those embryos set aside for adoption, and specified that they are excess. Approximately 400,000 of them, and how long do you think they last in storage until they're discarded?

And thus, your reasoning is: it's more godly to let it die in the trash can than to try to help other suffering people?

These embryos are going to die regardless of whether they are used in research or whether they are discarded.

In the end, it's 1) toss 'em, or 2) use 'em to help people...so what would Jesus do?

Oh Lord I wish I'd read that laughable article first before replying. Their answer for whether they're going to waste?

So, it is not true that these embryos will go to waste if we don't experiment on them. We can care for them just as we would any other child.

BUA-HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Do you "care for" your kids by storing thousands of them in freezers?

Another thing is -- the dishonesty here is that they claim "only 38,000 available for research" -- but this doesn't negate the fact that all of the unimplanted embryos will die. Whether or not people have previously set these aside for research, if they are excess, they will die. Period. So the moral argument should run like this: why allow your embryos to be discarded after your IVF procedure? It's your responsibility to take them home and keep them in a freezer indefinitely, OR to donate them to science.

The embryo is simply a human being in an early stage of development. Thus, taking the embryo kills a human being. This is not particularly debateable.

I'm often amazed at how people can declare that something isn't debateable which actually is quite debateable.

Your reasoning contains the presupposition that 8 cells outside a mother is the same thing as a human being. The linked material says "All the embryo needs to live is a proper environment and adequate nutrition.." That's a disingenuous phrasing. Should I give a blastocyst a bottle of milk and a crib then?

3 things make a baby. Egg+Sperm+a woman who wants to be a mother. If you don't have all three, you're never, ever, ever, ever going to have a baby, no matter if you have any of the other two.

So the question is, are the embryos we're talking about more like a seed, a potential human, or like a baby, an actual human?


And that's debateable. Some people have a very hard time looking at 8 cells and seeing something that looks like a baby.

Some people would say that it's more like a seed. Some people would say it's more like a baby. So then we can have a discussion between those people and say, "okay, why do you say seed?" And "okay, what aspects do you say makes it unseedlike and more babylike?"

And in that way, we as a culture can come to an understanding and perhaps move people to have a different opinion on it than the one they have now.

But right now, we've got very charged language being used. The President's spokesperson called it "murder" and said "The President's view is that murder is wrong." Now that's very charged language, to say that the death of a 5-day old fertilized batch of 8 cells is the same as murder. Under that reasoning, using birth control pills are murder. Using an IUD is murder. Millions of parents with beautiful babies they had with fertility techniques are cold-blooded child-killers to rival Medea.

But instead of convincing people that 8 cells is the same thing as a child, people skip that step and scream "murderer!" Yes, I do think that everyone who has thought about the issue does contemplate that if it is the same thing as a child, then it is indeed murder. And yet, obviously, they do not see it as the same thing. It does opponents of Stem Cell research no good to accuse those who disagree with murderous complicity.


This charged language, and the assertion that the subject is not debateable are among the reasons why the Culture of Life proponents have failed to gain traction with the general public on this issue. The public will remain overwhelmingly for this kind of research unless and until the opposition comes down from the screeching cries of bloody murder and decides to take part in a persuasive dialogue rather than an accusitory one.

Daniel,

Most people who oppose this kind of research also would like to see reform in the process so we do not end up with thousands of frozen embryos stuck in that state.

There are, however, efforts to alleviate the problem by promoting adoption of frozen embryos:

http://www.embryoadoption.org/Genbackground.asp

http://www.embryodonation.org/adoptions.php

Many have been succesfully placed:

http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/news/041011a.aspx

Unfortunately, the majority of frozen embryos are so unhealthy that they would not survive the thawing process. Of course, they would not be useful for research either. We are stuck with a situation where it seems that the best candidates for research are also the best candidates for adoption.

I am not sure what the answer is, but a requirement that facilities that engage in IVF do more to try and place healthy frozen embryos would not seem too intrusive of government action. Government funds to promote such adoption and alleviate the financial barriers to it might also be in order. Simply saying no one wants them so we can kill them when most people don't even know about the problem strikes me as a route dictated by politicals and expediency rather than by ethics.

Which Presidential spokesperson was screaming "murderers" and unleashing "screeching cries of bloody murder"? I saw Tony Snow comment on the issue, but he wasn't screaming.

Your call for avoiding charged language might come across as more genuine if you didn't use it for effect.

And I've been to Pro-Life rallies and saw the counterdemonstrators literally screeching, "don't you tutor us about our uterus" and "2, 4, 6, 8, 10, why are all your leaders men".

The fact is that by most polling data I have seen, the Pro-Life movement has made progress in peruading the public to its side. Debates about the use of embryos is more complicated and has not seen nearly the debate as has the broader abortion issue.

Daniel,

I remember an issue of M*A*S*H which involved two soldiers. The first was dying and needed an organ, and the second was dying, had the needed organ intact, and there was no way to save him. Did the Hawkeye say "what the hell, he's going to die anyway?" and yank out the organ to save the other guy? No, becuase he recognized that it is immoral and unethical to kill another human being even in such a circumstance.

You can play the WWJD card, but in fact, until very recently virtually everyone would have agreed that killing a human being for scientific experiments, even if the scientific experiments could ultimately result in good for mankind, was simply and totally wrong and immoral.

And Layman makes a great point -- there is a two-fold attack occurring here. Those of us who are interested in life are not only against using human beings, aka human embyros, for scientific experiments. We are also for reducing the number of embryos created and working for the adoption of those still outstanding.

And this doesn't even begin to cover the fact that everyone agrees 400,000 embryos aren't enough to make any progress in embryonic stem cell research (if such progress is possible at all).

Bruce,

I'm not screaming murderer. I am telling you that ontologically there is no difference between an adult human being, a child human being, a fetal human being and a human embryo except their stage of development. That isn't debateable -- or at least, I haven't seen anyone make a dent in that argument.

BK,

It really is not that complicated, is it. Every human being I know, including myself, began to exist as an embryo. It is one stage of human development.

BK,

The 400k number can be misleading in this debate. The majority of those are still tied up in possible impregnation attempts. And of those that are not, most are probably not eligible for research.

And judging from the tone in this thread, its apparent who the 'screechers' are.

Lurchling,

"Which Presidential spokesperson was screaming "murderers" and unleashing "screeching cries of bloody murder"? I saw Tony Snow comment on the issue, but he wasn't screaming.

Your call for avoiding charged language might come across as more genuine if you didn't use it for effect. "


Which charge damages civil discourse more, accusing someone of murder, or accusing someone of screaming?

Snow did not accuse anyone of murder. He said the President views it as murder. And when side 1 continually exaggerates what side 2 is saying, side 1 is the party making communication and fair debate more difficult.

Lurchling wrote:
"Which Presidential spokesperson was screaming "murderers" and unleashing "screeching cries of bloody murder"? I saw Tony Snow comment on the issue, but he wasn't screaming. "

I didn't say that any presidential spokesperson screamed. Don't sum up two seperate phrases into one sentence and accuse me of saying it.

"Snow did not accuse anyone of murder. He said the President views it as murder."

I don't see the difference. How is saying that something is murder not accusing the perpetrators of murder?

Are you aware of any murders that didn't have murderers?

To judge for yourself whether Tony Snow was screaming and screaching "bloody murder" you can view for yourself the video here.

And here is the President's statement about his veto.

He points out that he has approved funding on lines derived from embryos that have already been destroyed, but that he draws the line in ordering other embryos destroyed for research purposes using federal money.

The President was surrounded by children who were once frozen embroys that were adopted. Here are some additional comments:

Yet we must also remember that embryonic stem cells come from human embryos that are destroyed for their cells. Each of these human embryos is a unique human life with inherent dignity and matchless value. We see that value in the children who are with us today. Each of these children began his or her life as a frozen embryo that was created for in vitro fertilization, but remained unused after the fertility treatments were complete. Each of these children was adopted while still an embryo, and has been blessed with the chance to grow up in a loving family.

President George W. Bush holds 14-month-old Trey Jones of Cypress, Texas, following his remarks about stem cell research policy legislation in the East Room of the White House Wednesday, July 19, 2006. "Each of these children was adopted while still an embryo, and has been blessed with the chance to grow up in a loving family," said the President of children sharing the stage with him. "These boys and girls are not spare parts. They remind us of what is lost when embryos are destroyed in the name of research." Trey Jones was first introduced to the President during a White House visit in May 2005. White House photo by Kimberlee Hewitt These boys and girls are not spare parts. (Applause.) They remind us of what is lost when embryos are destroyed in the name of research. They remind us that we all begin our lives as a small collection of cells. And they remind us that in our zeal for new treatments and cures, America must never abandon our fundamental morals.

Bruce,

The difference is obvious I should think. There is a real debate in this country about when human life begins. The President has his view, but he should not be condemned for recognizing that others have a different view. This does not mean that the President must adopt their view, but it does mean he gives them the benefit of the doubt about their sincerity. Thus, condemning the action with harsh language but not the actors is not at all unreasonable.

But perhaps this is too nuanced for you and you prefer your ideological opponents to be inflexible and simplistic. That would explain why you misrepresent their demeanor and statments.

I didn't say that any presidential spokesperson screamed. Don't sum up two seperate phrases into one sentence and accuse me of saying it.

Oh please, the only person you talked about using the term murder was the President's spokesperson. You were obviously exaggerating and painting a caricature of your opponenent instead of just letting the comment make its own point.

"I'm not screaming murderer. I am telling you that ontologically there is no difference between an adult human being, a child human being, a fetal human being and a human embryo except their stage of development. That isn't debateable -- or at least, I haven't seen anyone make a dent in that argument."

Ontologically there's no difference between a human being and a woodpecker... if you discard all their differences.

There are biological differences. There may or may not be differences in our ethical obligations that are revealed by those biological differences.

One such ethical obligation might be to alleviate suffering where possible, for example.

We must weigh these ethical obligations very carefully.

"We must weigh these ethical obligations very carefully."

And apparently we must come to the same conclusion that you have done after weighing such obligations.

The President says he weighed these considerations. You take one word from a spokesperson, misrepresent its delivery, and ignore everything else the President said on the subject.

holy moly, I just read back and realized I've been addressing layman as "Lurchling." All apologies!

Layman wrote:

"And apparently we must come to the same conclusion that you have done after weighing such obligations. "

I have not stated my conclusion or that I have even reached a conclusion. My post was meant to address the tone of the conversation.

Layman wrote:

"But perhaps this is too nuanced for you and you prefer your ideological opponents to be inflexible and simplistic. That would explain why you misrepresent their demeanor and statments."

It was you who misrepresented my statement. I did not misrepresent Tony Snow's comment. I do not accuse people of being inflexible or simplistic. I do accuse Tony Snow of racheting up the rhetoric.


Again, this speaks to the tone of the debate. It does nobody any good to use the word "murder". If you agree with the President's position, you hopefully might see how using the "M" word is counterproductive.

Bruce,

If Tony Snow was not screeching bloody murder, and BK was not screeching bloody murder, then just why did you talk about it so much? How can you claim the tone is so bad if you are inventing reactions? Please understand our confusion. Just who the heck are you talking about?

I have actually read the President's position and you, apparently, have not.

You cannot say that I said that Tony Snow was literally screeching in Monday's press conference. I also didn't say BK was screeching. I was characterizing the ugly tone of a debate, not anyone literally making loud piercing vocal noises.

This whole interaction has proven my point. You want to go round and round on this, apparently. Which is why the discourse on this subject has become so poisoned.



And by that, no, I don't mean that anyone has literally laced strychnine into the CADRE website.

Bruce,

You set up a strawman to try and make your point. Which defeats your point.
You also continue to ignore the President's statement on the issue by obsessively focusing on one word by a spokesperson.

Why?

You leave us to or own surmises on that. My guess is that in fact the President has taken a reasoned position on this issue which you want to characterize as a thoughtless reflex without consideration of the issues. The issues have been considered. Face it.

Bruce.

And here is a suggestion. If you want dispassionate discourse on an issue, try and start by being dispassionate yourself.

Layman wrote: "You also continue to ignore the President's statement on the issue by obsessively focusing on one word by a spokesperson. ."

The President's statement was not the subject of my post. The tone of the debate was.

"My guess is that in fact the President has taken a reasoned position on this issue which you want to characterize as a thoughtless reflex without consideration of the issues."

You have also guessed that I prefer my ideological opponents to be inflexible and simplistic. I'd rather you not go around guessing my feelings or motivations. You're not very good at it. Kindly reserve your criticisms of me to my actual words, and leave the mind-reading to the soothsayers.

Ha! Bruce, I guess you are just too used to responding to me.

I really apologize, Lurchling! I just saw the letter "L" and I was on autopilot!

Bruce,

I think that the debate can be ugly on both sides. But that is why I do think we need to be careful in how we characterize the arguments and how they are presented, both.

I did want to respond to your statement (which, quite honestly, I thought to be rather silly) that "there's no difference between a human being and a woodpecker... if you discard all their differences." I will leave that statement untouched because I think it speaks for itself. However, I did want to try to approach this from a different angle since you seem to be very interested in science.

Do you realize that when you take the embryo of a human being and an embryo of a woodpecker they are very different in a critical way? Sure, they are both single cells which were formed from the union of the egg and sperm of the parents that led to the embryo, but if you look at the embryo in depth you find something that is undeniable: the human embryo has human DNA and the woodpecker embryo has woodpecker DNA. Since the DNA defines what type of creature the embryo is, the human embryo scientifically has to be a human being. Do you have a disagreement with that?

BK, thanks for your response. Sorry if my analogy was silly to you. What I was attempting to point out is that you said that there's no "difference between an adult human being, a child human being, a fetal human being and a human embryo except their stage of development."

But "stage of development" is actually the key thing we're talking about here. So yes, if you except that, then there may very well be no difference. But why should we except that?


Anyway, sorry if you found my analogy silly. My point is they are totally the same if you ignore the differences. I think that while you may not be personally ignoring these key differences, the document you link to ignores them within the context of the wider discussion itself.

I do not have a disagreement that DNA is what makes a human embryo grow into a human as opposed to a woodpecker.

Environment also plays a factor, though. A woodpecker ovum would not grow into a woodpecker in a human womb. A human embryo would not grow into a person in a woodpecker egg.

So their differences are more than just DNA.


You wrote: "Since the DNA defines what type of creature the embryo is, the human embryo scientifically has to be a human being."

I think you're merely asserting that it is a human being, and asking if I disagree. That's the point of my post; it is not effective persuasion to simply assume that it is.

To speak more broadly, the linked document doesn't address what I think is the central question, which is that some people have the sincere impression that there is a substantive difference between an unimplanted 8-cell blastocyst and a baby.

Rather the document gives two responses, one based on "moral logic" and one based on "compassion for the suffering." The document merely asserts that these unimplanted embryos need only proper environment and nutrition, the same as any of us need. Now, I think that's a stretch, as I don't need to live in a willing human host. The problem is that it proceeds from an assumption, rather than deal with the issue. In that way it polarizes the issue. It says things like "Are all human beings valuable or only some?" Now that's just useless polarization. Yes, all human beings are valuable. But the central question has been sidestepped.

So as my impression goes, and really take my impression and do with it what you want, take it or disregard it as is helpful to you. But my impression is, it would be probably helpful to your position in the matter to address in an insightful manner the idea that some people do have the honest and sincere belief that there's something fundamentally different between 8 cells and a baby, even a baby still growing in the womb. It does your position no good to argue from the point of view that people on the other side of the argument think that some human beings are without value.

Our moral duty to it depends on its nature. Is it dependent on its potential? Or is it dependent on its current state of existence? It could be one, it could be another, it could be something else, or it could lie on a continuum somewhere between these points.

Depending on their reasoning, I think that someone can be anti abortion and still be for stem-cell research, and be morally consistant, for example if their moral reasoning is based on the suffering of the baby or the fetus or the embryo. I think people can have a different reaction to the need to protect a 5 day old embryo versus a 6 week-old fetus.

The way to change their minds would be to explain why this is the same as a baby, not to assume it is the same thing as a baby and argue the morality based on that conclusion.


Anyway, this is just my thoughts on the matter. Take them or leave them as you will.

I would simply respond with three thoughts:

1. My "silly" statement relates to your saying that there is no ontological differences between a woodpecker embryo and a human embryo if you throw out all of the differences. Either I am misusing ontological or you are misunderstanding it because in my understanding of the term, your statement makes no sense.

2. How people perceive the embryo is really irrelevant. If it is a human being, then I don't care if people beleive that because it's in the embryo stage they have the right to kill it for a higher good. The fact that its a human being is what makes taking its life immoral and unreasonable. So, my answer would be very simple: it is its nature as a human being that makes it protectible. I fear the result of what immorality could follow if we start saying that we will judge something's right to live simply because it hasn't yet reached its full potential.

3. Believe it or not, I am in favor or stem cell research -- just not embryonic stem cell research which kills a human being (again, there is no question that it is a human being). Unlike embryonic stem cell research, adult stem cell research has proven successful, companies are investing in it, and it doesn't kill any human being to do the research. Embryonic stem cell research seems like an attempt to win the lotto where a much more productive, realistic and less harmful means exists for acheiving the same end.

"The President's statement was not the subject of my post. The tone of the debate was."

A tone invented by you (screaching and screaming). I can't see how you judge the tone of a debate by ignoring what the biggest player in the debate is saying. Unless you want to. Yes, I'm having to speculate but there seems to be no other explanation.

"again, there is no question that it is a human being."

Well, you can keep asserting that there's no question about it.

But I don't think you'll see much movement on the popular support front until people against it realize that even some honest, compassionate, moral, thoughtful Christians do have a question about it. The key would be to answer those questions, not deny that they exist or have merit.

Layman,

I'm sorry if you don't like my posts. I wouldn't worry too much about them. Take them or leave them as you see fit.

Perhaps you will enjoy some humorous comics on this topic? (clean)

Bruce,

I keep asserting that there's no question about it because there isn't any question on any real level. It's like if I had a dog and someone thought it was a cat. What they think is only relevant to the extent I have to convince them that my pet is a dog despite their denial of the obvious. There really isn't any question its a dog on any real level -- just a perception error by the person thinking my dog is a cat.

The same is true here -- there is no question either philosophically or scientifically whether the embryo is a human being -- it is. The fact that I have to now convince people that the facts outweigh their feelings is what part I of this debate is about.

Let me try a different tack...


Can you at least see why some people might have the studied, honest opinion that it isn't?

Thousands of embryos will die anyway because they are *purposely* being kept frozen through no fault of their own. If they were placed in their normal, natural environment (mommy's womb), they would develop in the normal natural way. Since embryos are self-integrated whole human organisms, all growth and metabolism is directed by the embryo/fetus not the mother.

The same is true here -- there is no question either philosophically or scientifically whether the embryo is a human being -- it is. The fact that I have to now convince people that the facts outweigh their feelings is what part I of this debate is about.

It may grow up to be you or me, BK. Until then, it's a clump of cells. Human beings are more than their composition -- they are consciousness, and happiness, and pain, and the capacity for love, and the capacity to be loved. Do you love globs of cells, BK?

Simple fix to this whole mess: determine the VALUE of these embryos versus "normal" human life.

How do we do that?

You're caught in a burning building, BK, and you are at a T junction with an exit sign at both. On the way out the door, you see that you can pick up:
a) a liquid N2 tank containing one million embryos
b) a toddler who is sitting on the floor crying for his mother in pain

What do you do, and why?

Debate closed.

You are truly on a slippery slope, Daniel.

Human beings are more than their composition -- they are consciousness, and happiness, and pain, and the capacity for love, and the capacity to be loved. Do you love globs of cells, BK?
Yes, I love them because they are people in the same way I love all of the other people of the world I haven't met. Let me ask you, Daniel, do you think that when a person is in a coma they aren't as valuable as a person not in a coma because they lack consciousness? Is a person who is unhappy less valuable than a person who is happy because thy lack happiness? Where do you draw the line in your tidy little world?

Oh, and as far as the million cells and the baby, I take the baby but not because the others aren't human beings, but because the baby is the only one in its stage of development who is going to experience pain from the fire. Debate closed, but not in your favor.

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