Re: [asa] scientific fact vs. ideology?

From: Don Winterstein <>
Date: Fri Mar 20 2009 - 02:09:09 EDT

Michael asserts: "When the flesh and blood dies, what continues [is] the personality."

Charles Austerberry earlier referred us to an essay by Ted Peters at<>. Peters asserts: "Nothing in our present make-up of either body or soul can by natural means persist beyond death." Christian teaching promises only resurrection by an act of God, not survival of something after death. Earlier I argued from various passages that the Bible does not support the idea of an immortal soul. (It seems you're pretty much substituting "personality" for "soul" here.)

Michael asserts: "Personality is bestowed by the Father at the time of a 'viable conception.'"

This also seems to be out of the blue. Since you provide no basis for these two assertions, your associated arguments lose force.


----- Original Message -----
  From: Michael McCray<>
  Sent: Thursday, March 19, 2009 2:41 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] scientific fact vs. ideology?

  President Obama's speech seems to have sparked a reaction here. Although the speech seems specifically about Bush's ideology concerning ESC. It appears to me to have undertones of other ideologies that Bush seemed to cling to even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Both scientific and economic. I speak of Bush's denial of global warming and his support of a free market ideology largely without regulations. I hope that Obama has ideals and not just ideas. I think that he has ideals and is also practical. I hope that he can find practical solutions that also maintain his, our ideals.

  There are some depictions here that I would object to. Physicians in general and IVF physicians are not unregulated. And IVF should not be pictured as an industry.

  George has suggested that in order to take a proper stand on the question of ESC and other questions of early human life, it is first necessary to answer the question, "When does a person become a person?" I agree. But as George and anyone else who has been paying attention knows, this is a difficult question to answer. There are many pieces that may be brought to bear upon this question. Science cannot answer it completely and I do not think that theology has answered the question completely in light of the new science. Hence the rub.

  I would like to offer an opinion that takes into account a universal view [ideal] and a worldview [what is in our world] in the hope of maintaining the ideal while offering a practical approach to our problem.

  George I think that the personality- person conundrum needs to be gone into if only briefly. We think of persons as being composed of flesh and blood. But when the flesh and blood dies, what continues, the personality. So it is the personality that makes us a person.

  The personality is a gift of the Father and is unique in all the universe. No two persons receive exactly the same personality. Personality is bestowed by the Father at the time of a "viable conception." Having the power of complete foreknowledge He would know what constitutes a viable conception. Fertilization within a Petri dish would not constitute a viable conception scientifically or legally nor do I think the Father would consider it so.

   Once the embryos are implanted in the mother they may become viable. Embryos that are not implanted in a female have no chance of becoming viable. Again, the Father having perfect foreknowledge would not bestow personality upon an embryo that has no chance for viability. They are only potential people if they are implanted; otherwise they are only so much medical waste.

  Now let us approach why and how this waste is generated. There are couples who wish to but are unable to conceive normally. They will typically seek medical help and if unable to conceive otherwise will find themselves in the care of a fertility expert. After a thorough evaluation that expert will delineate the medical options for that couple. Typically the expert will choose the least complex and expensive option first and IFV would only be considered near the end of the options. IVF utilizing donor ovum and or sperm is also an option.

  In the normal female hormones initiate follicular development of many follicles but only one, occasionally more, are released at ovulation. In IVF the ovaries are artificially stimulated by hormones so that a large number of follicles all mature at one time. The ova thus produced are harvested utilizing an endoscopic procedure. I understand that this procedure typically produces eight to ten ova. The ova are then mixed with sperm and fertilization is allowed to take place. The fertilized ova are allowed to develop somewhat and because of typical losses more than one embryo; typically four are injected into the mother's uterus.

  The waste is a result of medicines inabilities. The inability to produce only those ripe ova necessary for subsequent implantation and the inability to determine which federalized ova will produce a viable pregnancy when implanted. I am sure that Doctors and other researchers are working on these problems.

  For now we produce embryos that have zero chance of becoming persons in the medical, legal sense. And as I've said, I do not think that the Father has recognized these embryos as persons. Rather than throw them out, since they appear to have some utility to us why not use them. We were not given curiosity and the ability to do science for nothing. God intended us to utilize our abilities while decreasing our inabilities.

  The question arises, "Does the Father bestow personality on those "viable conceptions" that will later be miscarried, undergo therapeutic abortions, be born dead or die as a newborn?" I do not know.

  I am setting here now wondering if I should send this. I'll miss David.

  Michael McCray

  On Thu, Mar 19, 2009 at 7:59 AM, George Murphy <<>> wrote:

    Your 2d paragraph is to the point. As I noted before, many theologians today would rather understand "person" as a relational concept rather than as one defined in terms of static "natures." That suggests that an embryo in a woman's uterus & one at the same stage of development in a laboratory container may differ with regard to their personhood. Of course that is just the beginning of an argument & we can't immediately conclude that the 1st is a person & the 2d isn't.

    & I should have noted last night in commenting on the supposed expertise of "people who study personality professionally" in this matter: The modern concept of "personality" is not the same as a technical definition of "person" in philosophy, theology or law. Bringing in the concept of "personality" when we aren't yet agreed on the concept of "person" is an unnecessary complication.


      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Jack<>
      Cc:<> ;<>
      Sent: Thursday, March 19, 2009 8:18 AM
      Subject: Re: [asa] scientific fact vs. ideology?

      One of my biggest disagreements with the freedom of choice group, is that they want to treat a woman's right to abortion simply as a choice about her right to determine what happens to her body. It is clearly not that simple. There is another entity involved.

      There is also a relationship here. A unique, wonderful, HUMAN relationship between mother and child (for lack of a better term). I think this creates a very sharp line between in vitro embryos, and an implanted embryo. I really have no trouble considering this entity a person at this point, because it is involved in this relationship. This perspective also is less arbitrary than any functional definition, and avoids any discrimination against anyone. (Until the point that clones can be gestated without a human uterus, something I doubt will ever happen. I am willing to cross that bridge when we get to it.)

      However, it is a different question entirely to ask what point can the state intervene to protect the interest of its weaker citizens. I do not think that implantation alone gives the embryo that level of protection, and maybe some functional definition is needed for that. But the implantation view is more conservative, well defined, and occurrs much earlier than neural development, yet still avoids the stem cell/IVF problems as I have stated before.
      Mar 18, 2009 08:24:26 PM,<> wrote:

        I am not suggesting that "life begins with neural activity" but that "rationality begins with neural activity," and that therefore personhood does not begin any earlier than that.


        ---- David Campbell <<>> wrote:
> > The "certain level of ...mental function" that I (& others) have suggested
> > is anything above zero. I.e., I would be happy to say that once the brain,
> > or any neural structure, begins to form, the embryo should be considered a
> > person. It seems to me that with this criterion there is no question about
> > the personhood of those with Alzheimers, the comatose, &c. Part of the
> > rationale for this is the parallel with the criterion of brain death at the
> > end of life - which means whole brain death, not coma, vegetative state, &c.
> That is certainly a coherent and reasonably precise criterion
> (determining exact line between zero and some is likely to be
> difficult, and "any neural structure begins to form" would need to be
> defined as to whether it includes the point at which a cell is
> definitely destined to form neurons versus the point at which a cell
> first shows any sign of neuronal features). However, "life begins
> with neural activity" seems no less arbitrary than "life begins at
> conception".
> Some things that might be of interest philosophically, though not
> directly applicable to human development, come from consideration of
> other animals. Sponges do not have any neurons at any point, though
> they have some capabilities for slow motion, internal communication,
> etc. They easily reproduce asexually by fragmentation, so the concept
> of an "individual" is somewhat blurry.
> Looking at more advanced animals, the vast majority have cell fates
> set from the start of embryonic development. There are no twins
> formed the way human twins are (some can asexually multiply embryos,
> though). From the very first cell division, the exact part of the
> embryo that will become neurons is fixed. Thus, the scenario would be
> somewhat different if arthropods or mollusks were considering the same
> issue.
> --
> Dr. David Campbell
> 425 Scientific Collections
> University of Alabama
> "I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
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Received on Fri Mar 20 02:09:51 2009

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