Re: [asa] scientific fact vs. ideology?

From: David Clounch <david.clounch@gmail.com>
Date: Fri Mar 13 2009 - 01:06:24 EDT

>Whereas, a fertilized egg can be said to be a new, unique human living and
growing within another human

That is because they are genetically separate beings.

When thinking about this I think about the clones of Aspen on my land. There
are two clones intermingled in the same space. For those unfamiliar, an
Aspen isn't a tree the way one normally thinks of a tree. There are many
tree trunks sticking up from the ground. But they are all one organism.
This is called a clone. The largest clone I've heard of covers 117 acres.
Each trunk is genetically identical to all the other trunks. on my land
there are two clones intermingled. Perhaps more. How could I tell the
difference? They all look alike. I'd look at their DNA.

This of course affects how I see human life forms and the debate surrounding
them.

I see ethical issues with placing human DNA into mice or other animals. I
see ethical issues with growing part of a human body or a body that has no
brain and thus no soul. The lack of a soul does not solve the ethical issue
in my opinion. The reason is the DNA is unique to each individual and is a
precursor to the soul. Well, I suppose if one has a religion that says there
is no such thing as a soul then one would want to be able to do anything one
wants. But I think society and the state has a vested interest in stopping
that from happening.

On Thu, Mar 12, 2009 at 8:59 PM, Christine Smith <
christine_mb_smith@yahoo.com> wrote:

>
> Hi all,
>
> I've been following this thread with great interest and was contemplating
> it over lunch. It occurred to me that regarding the notion of potentiality
> and personhood, perhaps a different distinction would be more helpful. The
> point of contention seems to be that anything that has the potential to be a
> person should be protected from destruction, but as demonstrated by this
> thread, this notion can become controversial when you try to define both the
> term "potential" (does a cell, or a sperm, etc. constitute potential?), and
> the term "person" (is it cognizance, a heart beat, etc.?). It seems to me
> that some of this debate could be alleviated if you introduced a third
> "category" if you will, or intermediary step - the term "human".
>
> In the context of the debate, "human" and "person" has been used
> interchangeably it seems to me, but the term "person" carries with it much
> deeper connotations about spirituality, emotions, rationality, etc. The term
> "human" however, doesn't necessarily convey these additional concepts -
> fundamentally, it merely distinguishes us from say, a cat. In this
> particular context, the term "human" retains the idea that a person could be
> the end result of the process, but it also succeeds at setting it apart from
> something such as a sperm, or a cell, or any of the other raw materials
> which our bodies are composed of. These latter things may be thought of as
> "human" only in as much as they are parts of a human, but they are not human
> in and of themselves. Whereas, a fertilized egg can be said to be a new,
> unique human living and growing within another human. Thus, if you make the
> argument that life starts at conception and that it deserves our protection,
> you are
> essentially arguing that though it may not yet be a *person*, it is
> nonetheless *human* and this constitutes enough of a basis to make a moral
> judgment in favor of protecting it. (does this make sense? I'm not sure I'm
> articulating this well...)
>
> Anyway, just my two cents. :)
>
> In Christ,
> Christine
>
> "For we walk by faith, not by sight" ~II Corinthians 5:7
>
> Help save the life of a homeless animal--visit www.azrescue.org to find
> out how.
>
> Recycling a single aluminum can conserves enough energy to power your TV
> for 3 hours--Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! Learn more at www.cleanup.org
>
>
> --- On Thu, 3/12/09, Stephen Matheson <smatheso@calvin.edu> wrote:
>
> > From: Stephen Matheson <smatheso@calvin.edu>
> > Subject: Re: [asa] scientific fact vs. ideology?
> > To: "David Opderbeck" <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
> > Cc: "ASA List" <asa@lists.calvin.edu>
> > Date: Thursday, March 12, 2009, 8:05 PM
> > David, you're right that there was too much crap in my
> > response, and I'm sorry about that. Personal invective
> > was not my goal, but my frustration was all too evident and
> > you shouldn't have had to deal with that.
> >
> >
> > Let me make the wildly foolish assumption that you might
> > still be interested in some of my comments. :-)
> >
> >
> > 1. I have objections to some of your comments, and
> > disagreements with some, and those shouldn't be
> > confused. I don't disagree with the notion that
> > "potentiality" can contribute to consideration of
> > moral significance. Perhaps I disagree with the extent to
> > which you and I emphasize it...hard to say. But I do object
> > to flat assertions regarding such matters, and was
> > attempting to point to the fluid nature of many of the
> > distinctions that form the basis of the assertions. Yes, of
> > course ethical concerns arise once an embryo has been
> > "created" by a "manipulation"; my point
> > was that the actions that can "actualize the
> > potentiality of personhood" are not as simply
> > delineated or circumscribed as some seem to suggest.
> >
> >
> > 2. When it comes to science-related discussions among
> > Christians, I'm mostly focused on issues of integrity.
> > Secondarily, I'm interested in topics that are used as
> > faith barometers in evangelicaldom and beyond. I tend to
> > worry a lot about the attachment of spurious ideas (bogus or
> > brilliant) or positions (laudable or ludicrous) to the
> > gospel or to the church. This leads me to worry about the
> > extent to which serious Christians are free to question
> > dominant evangelical views on abortion or evolution or
> > politics without facing suspicion regarding their faith
> > commitment. You don't do this, not at all, but
> > simplistic assertions of the type that I saw in the
> > discussion of "personhood" does remind me of those
> > who do.
> >
> >
> > 3. Much of this friction between us is, I think, purely a
> > consequence of our choice to use the inferior medium of
> > email to explore our ideas. I typed that just to remind
> > myself. :-)
> >
> > 4. My own view is that we (society, Christendom, whatever)
> > should take a somewhat different tack on this subject.
> > Instead of focusing on those things that don't have
> > moral significance (sperm, skin cells) and talking about why
> > they don't, we should focus on those that do and why
> > they do. I'm talking here about the things that
> > everyone acknowledges to have "personhood":
> > neonates and beyond, say. Then when we've agreed on
> > what those things are, we build a generous moral fence
> > around them and agree not to threaten anything inside the
> > fence. (Sort of the RvW emanation thing in reverse.) We
> > can then freely acknowledge that we're protecting some
> > things that few people would identify as morally complete
> > but that we agree to protect so as not to anywhere near
> > those things that we want to protect at almost any cost.
> > I'm not suggesting that this is even achievable, but I
> > am proposing it as a better way to think about personhood.
> >
> > 5. I see nearly all arguments for "personhood"
> > or even potential personhood during very early human
> > development (i.e., at least till the morula stage)
> > foundering on the issue of twinning, and I believe the only
> > way to reasonably ascribe moral signfiicance to such embryos
> > is by admitting that one is invoking a moral buffer zone
> > like I mentioned in the last paragraph. This is why I have
> > little or no sympathy with claims of dramatic moral status
> > for such embryos, and do not oppose disaggregation of such
> > embryos for the isolation of ESCs. This is not to say that
> > I find such activities to be as morally innocuous as killing
> > bacteria, nor is it to say that I am oblivious to the
> > disturbing nature of certain arguments in favor of the
> > practice.
> >
> > 6. The scary thing about HESCs is not, in my view, the
> > ever-diminishing potential that demand will cause
> > large-scale destruction of human embryos. As others have
> > noted here, it will soon be easy enough to create custom
> > pluripotent stem cells, a far better therapeutic asset that
> > can be established with almost no ethical complications. If
> > you want to worry about pluripotent stem cells, I think you
> > should worry about their very real potential utility in the
> > practice of genetic engineering. For a hint as to why, see
> > my symposium talk at the ASA meeting in 2006.
> >
> > Steve Matheson
> >
> > >>> David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
> > 03/10/09 10:46 PM >>>
> >
> >
> >
> > With an embryo, some action has already been taken to
> > actualize the potentiality of personhood, whether by
> > ordinary sexual reproduction, artificial insemination, or
> > IVF. The question then becomes whether and under what
> > circumstances it is ethically permissible to stop that
> > potentiality. With any other cell in the body, before any
> > analogous action has been taken, the termination of that
> > cell is not the termination of any actuated potentiality for
> > personhood. If the technology existed to clone a human being
> > from somatic cells, once that technological process had been
> > initiated, similar ethical concerns would arise. But absent
> > the initiation of such a technological process, there is
> > zero actual potential for any somatic cell to become a
> > person. "Potential," even in an Aristotelian
> > sense, involves chains of causation, not just any
> > theoretical potential.
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > You all seem to be assuming that I have argued that the
> > potentiality principle necessarily results in absolute
> > protection to the embryo. I have not. What I've argued
> > is that the potentiality principle, together with the
> > precautionary principle, complicates any utilitarian /
> > consequentialist approach to human embryonic stem cell
> > research. That argument was in response to a claim that a
> > utilitarian / consequentialist view would certainly favor
> > continuing the research.
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > Nor have I claimed that my ultimate view about this
> > question is infallibly correct. I do, in fact, think that
> > the arguments I've made so far, together with some
> > specifically religious arguments, render the current
> > practice of research on embryonic stem cells unethical. But,
> > I don't suggest that my position is beyond cavail.
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > In short, up until now I've made very modest claims
> > that are common in the literature debating this issue. Some
> > of you seem to think that warrants invective, ad hominems,
> > efforts to intimidate, ridicule, and the like. I don't
> > get it; frankly, it's lame.
> >
> >
> >
> > David W. Opderbeck
> > Associate Professor of Law
> > Seton Hall University Law School
> > Director, Gibbons Institute of Law, Science &
> > Technology
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > On Tue, Mar 10, 2009 at 9:18 PM, Stephen Matheson
> >
> >
> > <smatheso@calvin.edu>
> > wrote:
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > "Further manipulation?" You mean like
> > successfully implanting into the uterus, constructing a
> > placenta, and evading the immune system of the host? If any
> > of these processes is aided by other humans, have they then
> > been "manipulated?" These glib platitudes just
> > won't do.
> >
> >
> > As far as we know, every nucleus in the body does indeed
> > have the potential to become a person. The distinction
> > you're making (between improbable events that lead to a
> > live birth and "manipulation" by other humans) is,
> > in my view, nothing more than a preference for
> > "natural" processes over "manipulated"
> > (read: unnatural) processes. I am unimpressed by the efforts
> > to translate such preferences into moral fortresses. And we
> > haven't even addressed the failure of such distinctions
> > when the process in question is a perfectly natural disease
> > and healing comes as a "manipulation." By the time
> > the "potentiality" argument is amended to patch
> > its numerous holes, it looks so hopelessly ad hoc as to seem
> > ridiculous.
> >
> >
> > The fact is that it will soon be easy enough to make a
> > human "zygote" by returning a somatic nucleus
> > (perhaps from a tissue stem cell with intact telomeres) to
> > totipotency (or at least pluripotency). We'll need
> > something a whole lot better than "manipulation"
> > or its absence to figure out how to respect life. The
> > potentiality argument will fail spectacularly. Ditch it now
> > while there's still time. Or...transform it into one way
> > of describing the wide boundary around which one might seek
> > to build moral protections.
> >
> >
> > Steve Matheson
> >
> > >>> David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
> > 03/10/09 8:47 PM >>>
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > No, Jim, every cell in our body does not have the
> > potentiality to become a person until, as you note, an act
> > of cloning is done. In contrast, a zygote (and even more so
> > an embryo) has the potentiality to become a person without
> > further manipulation.
> >
> >
> >
> > David W. Opderbeck
> > Associate Professor of Law
> > Seton Hall University Law School
> > Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > On Tue, Mar 10, 2009 at 8:35 PM, Jim Armstrong
> >
> >
> > <jarmstro@qwest.net>
> > wrote:
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > I think the "potentiality" argument is
> > particularly weak. In short (and admittedly oversimplified),
> > every cell nucleus in our body has the
> > "potentiality". Just transfer that nucleus into a
> > suitable cellular context and it can (and does in cloning)
> > become a living entity. But we slough millions of such cells
> > every day, ...with their potentiality. But we don't even
> > have to go there, because ova are likewise mostly sloughed
> > by the body. Ah, but that leads us to the fertilized ovum.
> >
> > The point of conception is latched onto by many at the
> > initiation of a person. But that is simplistic and fuzzy
> > too, IMHO. An unfertilized ovum can be teased into beginning
> > mitosis without any fertilization. Quite a few creatures in
> > fact do that spontaneously (chickens, sharks, etc.). So it
> > seems to me that might cast a bit of a shadow over the
> > adequacy of the conception definition of personhood .
> >
> > But there is also the matter of a high degree of natural
> > attrition of such zygotes, as well as after the cellular
> > cleavages (mitosis) begin. [As I understand it, it is after
> > some 2 weeks of these cellular multiplications that one
> > might refer to the organism as an embryo]. So this at least
> > might ask for some thought as to the "value" of
> > any given zygote or even embryo, since many (most?) embryos
> > do not successfully mature to a born baby. Is any given one
> > of them then effectively of some fractional value from a
> > pragmatist view? Does this significant natural attrition of
> > potential humans nuance the argument at all in the tradeoff
> > of potential life vs potential benefit to current and future
> > generations?
> >
> > So, as you say, David, the analysis is truly "not by
> > any means obvious", but these considerations (among
> > others) cause me to lean in the direction voiced by Burgy.
> >
> > This embryonic stem cell controversy may be a transient
> > issue at the end of the day, because so much research is
> > also being done with non-embryonic cells, and many
> > researchers are not insensitive to the ethical concerns. Dr.
> > William Hurlbut's ANT (altered nuclear transfer) work,
> > for example, was inspired by human cellular structures that
> > develop naturally (teratomas), but have developed in a
> > flawed way such that they cannot develop into a viable baby.
> > He is a practicing and articulate Christian. [ANT summary
> > here (
> > http://www.alterednucleartransfer.com/?page=4a&view=1
> > ).]
> >
> > JimA [Friend of ASA]
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > David Opderbeck wrote:
> >
> > I don't think the ethical issue is quite so simple,
> > Burgy. For example, if one is agnostic on the personhood of
> > a human embryo, as you and probably most other people are,
> > or if even those who say "no" here have to admit
> > some uncertainty, then the precautionary principle comes
> > into play. Curiously, the same people who strongly assert
> > the precautionary principle as a backstop for global warming
> > mitigation often completely blow it off when it comes to
> > embryonic stem cell research (and vice versa!).
> >
> > Also, the options aren't just the polar "person
> > vs. non-person." Many opponents of human embryonic stem
> > cell research argue from "potentiality." If
> > embryos are not "persons" in a full sense -- e.g.,
> > if personhood relates to existing cognitive functions --
> > they are at least "potential persons." In such a
> > case, one mode of ethical analysis might be to weigh the
> > potentiality of an embryo's personhood against the
> > potentiality of the research program. The result of such an
> > analysis is not by any means obvious.
> >
> > Finally, all of the above assumes that a consequentialist
> > ethic is necessarily the right and only appropriate kind of
> > ethical analysis to employ in this case. Why? Many ethicists
> > would argue that consequentialism ends up being incoherent,
> > and therefore favor deontological and/or virtue perspectives
> > -- a position with which I'm quite sympathetic.
> >
> > David W. Opderbeck
> > Associate Professor of Law
> > Seton Hall University Law School
> > Director, Gibbons Institute of Law, Science &
> > Technology
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > On Tue, Mar 10, 2009 at 10:47 AM, John Burgeson (ASA
> > member)
> >
> >
> > <hossradbourne@gmail.com>
> > wrote:
> >
> >
> > Doug posted, in part: "public policy should be based
> > on scientific
> > facts not ideology.
> > I think this is an awful statement. It's a false
> > dichotomy.
> >
> >
> >
> > Scientific "facts" don't make public policy;
> > they form a necessary
> > informational base, but every action based on that
> > knowledge also
> > requires a moral/ethical/ideological decision."
> >
> >
> > I don't see it as "awful," but a simple
> > factual statement. If one
> > takes it to mean "based ONLY on scientific
> > facts," then, of course,
> > I'd agree that it is "awful." I'd
> > probably use a stronger term.But it
> > does not say that.
> >
> > Relative to the stem cell issue, it really boils down to
> > the question
> > "does a frozen embryo have personhood -- a soul?"
> > For those asserting
> > "yes," the issue is clear; stem cell research is
> > immoral. For those
> > who assert otherwise, stem cell research in morally OK.
> >
> > Having read a lot on this, I tend toward the latter
> > position, but I do
> > NOT claim certainty. I don't know that any of us can
> > claim certainty
> > on the issue.
> >
> > It is a classic case that whichever side of the issue you
> > choose, you
> > run the risk of doing harm (or not avoiding harm).
> >
> > jb
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > On 3/10/09, David Campbell <pleuronaia@gmail.com>
> > wrote:
> > > Yes, in the case of embryonic stem cells there is
> > little disagreement
> > > about the science, and the self-identified
> > "scientific" policy is
> > > merely one ideology among many.
> > >
> > > In other cases, such as environmental or evolution,
> > there is denial of
> > > the science that could be described as disagreement
> > about the science.
> > > Nevertheless, even in such cases, science is still
> > descriptive.
> > > Science cannot be morally prescriptive, as that is
> > outside its scope.
> > >
> > >
> > > --
> > > Dr. David Campbell
> > > 425 Scientific Collections
> > > University of Alabama
> > > "I think of my happy condition, surrounded by
> > acres of clams"
> > >
> > > To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu
> > with
> > > "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of
> > the message.
> > >
> >
> >
> >
> > --
> > Burgy
> >
> > www.burgy.50megs.com ( http://www.burgy.50megs.com/ )
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
> > "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the
> > message.
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
> > "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the
> > message.
>
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Received on Fri Mar 13 01:06:56 2009

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