RE: [asa] scientific fact vs. ideology?

From: Dehler, Bernie <bernie.dehler@intel.com>
Date: Tue Mar 17 2009 - 17:41:04 EDT

Computers can also be programmed to learn...

-----Original Message-----
From: John Walley [mailto:john_walley@yahoo.com]
Sent: Monday, March 16, 2009 1:51 PM
To: Dehler, Bernie
Cc: AmericanScientificAffiliation
Subject: RE: [asa] scientific fact vs. ideology?

Bernie,

Computers are programmed. This is the same mistake as the atheists using Corvettes as examples of how designs evolve. They are both external intelligences.

John

--- On Mon, 3/16/09, Dehler, Bernie <bernie.dehler@intel.com> wrote:

> From: Dehler, Bernie <bernie.dehler@intel.com>
> Subject: RE: [asa] scientific fact vs. ideology?
> To:
> Cc: "asa@calvin.edu" <asa@calvin.edu>
> Date: Monday, March 16, 2009, 4:29 PM
> ""matter cannot think.""
>
> It may depend on your definition of "think." Can
> computers "think?" They do make decisions. They
> can even "appear" to be sentient. It may be
> possible to have a conversation with a computer (over the
> internet) and not even realize it is not a real person.
>
> ...Bernie
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu
> [mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu] On Behalf Of Alexanian,
> Moorad
> Sent: Monday, March 16, 2009 12:03 PM
> To: David Clounch
> Cc: Christine Smith; asa@calvin.edu
> Subject: RE: [asa] scientific fact vs. ideology?
>
> David,
>
> C.S. Lewis indicates that reasoning is supernatural, which
> I also believe and was stated by Descartes that "matter
> cannot think." It is this supernatural element that is
> the essence of personhood and closeness to God, which is
> also the element that exercises the free will in man.
> Moorad
> ________________________________
> From: David Clounch [david.clounch@gmail.com]
> Sent: Saturday, March 14, 2009 4:09 PM
> To: Alexanian, Moorad
> Cc: Christine Smith; asa@calvin.edu
> Subject: Re: [asa] scientific fact vs. ideology?
>
> Alexian,
> Good question. Please note the fertilized egg is indeed
> different that the skin cells of the parent. They
> themselves (the creature constituted by the egg) won't
> have skin cells for a long time.
>
> But, as others have mused, what does one need in addition
> to genetic uniqueness in order to be a person? My own
> personal answer is I'd say persons have souls. In other
> words the potential to join a soul (and mind) with a body
> is the important question.
>
>
> Human souls only go in human beings (not other creatures).
> And individual human souls only go into one individual
> human being. Not another.
>
> I think if we lose the concept of soul as a civilization,
> well then Christianity is essentially dead.
>
>
>
> On Fri, Mar 13, 2009 at 9:16 PM, Alexanian, Moorad
> <alexanian@uncw.edu<mailto:alexanian@uncw.edu>>
> wrote:
> Is the DNA of a fertilized egg the same as the potential
> adult that it will develop into? If so, then since the DNA
> is what constitutes or characterized a person as purported
> by most scientists, then a fertilized egg is in essence a
> person.
> Moorad
> ________________________________________
> From:
> asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu<mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu>
> [asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu<mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu>]
> On Behalf Of Christine Smith
> [christine_mb_smith@yahoo.com<mailto:christine_mb_smith@yahoo.com>]
> Sent: Thursday, March 12, 2009 9:59 PM
> To: asa@calvin.edu<mailto:asa@calvin.edu>
> Subject: Re: [asa] scientific fact vs. ideology?
>
> 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<http://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<http://www.cleanup.org>
>
>
> --- On Thu, 3/12/09, Stephen Matheson
> <smatheso@calvin.edu<mailto:smatheso@calvin.edu>>
> wrote:
>
> > From: Stephen Matheson
> <smatheso@calvin.edu<mailto:smatheso@calvin.edu>>
> > Subject: Re: [asa] scientific fact vs. ideology?
> > To: "David Opderbeck"
> <dopderbeck@gmail.com<mailto:dopderbeck@gmail.com>>
> > Cc: "ASA List"
> <asa@lists.calvin.edu<mailto: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<mailto: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<mailto: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<mailto: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<mailto: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<mailto: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<mailto: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<mailto:majordomo@calvin.edu>
> > with
> > > "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the
> body of
> > the message.
> > >
> >
> >
> >
> > --
> > Burgy
> >
> >
> www.burgy.50megs.com<http://www.burgy.50megs.com> (
> http://www.burgy.50megs.com/ )
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > To unsubscribe, send a message to
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> the
> > message.
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > To unsubscribe, send a message to
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Received on Tue Mar 17 17:41:38 2009

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