Re: [asa] scientific fact vs. ideology?

From: Jack <>
Date: Mon Mar 23 2009 - 08:38:50 EDT
I understand what you are saying about personality being bestowed upon the conceptus at some point.  But this is a spritual idea, and completely unscientific.  Can you come up with a way that this would be testable?  A manifestation of this endowment so that we can decide what to look for?
Second, your idea about God knowing which ones are going to be viable, and therefore only bestowing this personality on them is problematic.  What about the child that is born with a severe congenital abnormality, that is incompatible with more than a few hours, weeks, days of living post partum, ( anencephaly comes to mind.)  Do they not have personality too?  Are they not persons?  If they are, why would God, who is omniscient, allow such suffering to ocurr?

Mar 23, 2009 04:58:17 AM, wrote:



I understand that my scriptural references are nonspecific and therefore weak. There may be better references to support my position but there are to my knowledge no specific scriptural references that spell out exactly when a person becomes a person and how. There is a Christian tradition that a person becomes a person at conception [fertilization]. You say you are inclined to say this happens at implantation. I can understand how you might be comfortable with this position considering that the majority of conceptions do not implant.


My position is that what makes a person a person is not just the fertilization of a human ovum but also the bestowal of a unique personality by the Father. This personality will serve us during this life but it is noncorporeal, not of flesh and blood. And if we choose to take the path that has been given us this personality will occupy a spiritual body after this life. I believe that the bestowal of personality by the Father occurs at conception, which is consistent with Christian tradition.


The second part of my position is: considering the large number of conceptions that are naturally nonviable. [I don’t want to use the various terms that mean aborted.] I have concluded: A. The Father being possessed with free will is not mandated to bestow personality on every conception.  B. The Father being omniscient discretionarily graciously bestows personality on those conceptions that will produce a live newborn infant. C. A and B are applicable to IVF.


The second part of my position is derived from reason, logic and a good deal of communion with the Father spanning twenty plus years. It has given me some peace of mind simply to trust in the Father to do the right thing. But as with almost any other idea, there is another side. It is not a sentimental position; it will not comfort a family with a lost pregnancy. It might also be used to cover-up the personal responsibility of using therapeutic abortion as a form of birth control.


Although the first part of my position varies somewhat from the current worldview, I can support it with additional information and references if you wish. The second part of my position is based almost solely upon my absolute trust in the Father. That he understands the inequities of this world and does all that he can to compensate for them. This absolute trust in the Father is much more than a way to cope with those inequities. In a world where we are forced to believe more than we can ever know, trusting in the Father’s over care provides me with an anchor point to which all else can be referenced. It gives me a frame of reference in deciding what I should believe and in forming my opinions. I cannot be sure that this is the way the Father deals with conceptions that are not viable but this is my opinion of how he does.


You are right Jack “waste” is much too strong a word. In fact, the whole of my first post on this subject seems too strong to me now. They speak of authors finding their voice. I don’t think I’ve yet found my voice here. There are parts of the preceding paragraph that come close to how I’d like to sound when speaking here. That sounds more like me when I’m speaking in person. 


Thanks Jack


Michael McCray

On Sat, Mar 21, 2009 at 9:38 AM, Jack <> wrote:
The issue here is when in the course of fertilization through birth and early childhood, does this entity become a person.  And I use the term "as a person" as a shortcut for whatever any one else wants to call it, personhood, human being, ensoulment, etc.  And the term would change depending on what the criteria you are arguing for.  But the question remains when does this entity become something with enough moral value that it is considered something more than a collection of cells, and has rights to some extent, that would prevent treating this entity as "waste" and would then invest it with rights that are such that the state has an interest in protecting it.
It sounds as if your use of the term "viable  conception" is the same as my idea that a conceptus is not endowed with significant moral value until implantation.  (I say significant moral value because I think that frozen embryos still have some moral value, i.e. I am uncomfortable calling them waste.)  But, we have a tradition within Christianity that believes that conception (fertilization) is the start of this significant moral value, and I dont think that your scriptural argument carries any weight.  I also think you are using philosophy and reason to make your point, and have not developed the argument enough that it is convincing.  (Just saying you dont think the Father would do it needs to be flushed out more.)
As far as regulation of medicine in general, including IVF, there is some state regulation of course.  There are requirements to practice medicine that each state uses to allow physicians to practice.  But that is about it as far as government regulation.  Yes there are standards of care,  but often these are typcially not well defined and it is not certain if a practitioner has overstepped his or her bounds until it is decided at a malpractice trial.  And yes, there can be revocation of privileges by hospitals, and suspension of licensure.  It is my understanding that the IVF specialist involved in the octomom situation is in fact under disciplinary investigation on several fronts.  At my hospital the clearly would have been a reason for discipline.

Mar 20, 2009 07:58:08 PM, wrote:
Hello Jack
My responses interspaced below > <

On Fri, Mar 20, 2009 at 7:35 AM, Jack <> wrote:
I am glad you sent this, there is a lot to respond to.  My first question for you is what exactly is a viable conception and where did you get this idea?  You make several statements regarding this without evidence to support that statement, such as:  "Personality is bestowed by the Father at the time of a "viable conception" ".  Do you have any scripture reference for this?  Conception is typically defined as fertilization, when the two gametes fuse, and does not typically refer to implantation, or any other definition of viability. 
     >A viable conception is simply a conception that results in a viable pregnancy [medical term] a live newborn infant. Conception does not insure a viable pregnancy. I chose the term viable conception because I think that the Father can and does distinguish between those conceptions that are viable, that result in a viable pregnancy and a live new born infant and those conceptions that do not. Scripture--- I think Jesus said don't waist your time dressing a rotten log that you will have to reject in the end. Terrible scripture to use here, I know. I was hoping you might recognize that the Father is smart enough not to invest in something that has no chance of knowing him.
       >George was concerned with when does a ___ become a person. In your last paragraph you say "life begins." As a life seperate from the mother's life, a seperate person. I think you both understand that moment to be conception. The RCC says that at conception the soul is ____. 
[I want to say bestowed but perhaps there is a more appropriate word.] We are all shooting for something special to happen at conception, and indeed it does, but it is not the soul that is bestowed at conception, it is a human personality. The Father is the First Personality and he bestows personality on a large number of intelligent beings that are not mortal and he bestows personality on all humans. So a human life comes into the world with a unique and imortal personality. As has been mentioned by a few on this thread, the human soul, seems to need the facilties for making decisions, I would agree and say the human soul begins to grow when a child makes, on his own his first moral decision. Scripture, He is our Father and we are his sons and daughters, how could we be His sons and daughters unless he gave something to us that is our own. My earthly mother and father gave me my body, my heavenly Father gave me my personality. That personality although it interacts with this mind and this body is not made of this body.<  
You point out that IVF is not an industry.  Ok, but who here called it that?  You also claim that it is not un-regulated.  Tell me exactly what you mean by this. 
      >David O referred to the IVF industry as being unregulated. I sounded to my when I first read it like he was insinuating that medicine was like AIG. I was caught up in Green Bay when the older model of medicine where patients were treated with respect morphed into the business model of medicine. I don't like the business model for medicine, considering medicine as an industry is even worse.
      >You as a Doc should understand what I mean by medicine is not un-regulated. A doctor follows guidelines that are called the standard of care. Just as with a normal citizen if the doctor follows the standard of care, or the citizen goes around without causing trouble nothing happens. But if the doctor has a bad outcome and he has violated the standard of care. more and more restraints can be placed upon him. Loss of privliges in a hospital, censure or loss of liscense to practice medicine and always if the patient is not happy they can sue.
      >Most Docs follow the medical guidelines, just like most citizens follow the laws. But every once in a while a doctor will violate the ethics, morals, and standard of care so blatently as to make every other doctor cring. Octamom is such a case. If the doctor involved had privilages at your hospital, would you try to see that his priviliges were revoked? Would you refer your findings to the state medical board along with any other situations in the past where this doctor showed poor judgement? In short would you do everything you could to see that this clown never got to practice again? Of course you would not do any of this without first having a fair hearing. I would not be surprized if this doc found himself in front of the state medical board, I doubt that you would be either.<
I chair our hospital ethics committee.  Last month our topic was the the octoplet mother, and it focused on a) why she had so many zygotes implanted and b) why she was undergoing the procedure in the first place.  The technology for IVF has improved significantly over the years.  In the past they used to implant multiple zygotes hoping that at least one would become viable, if this resulted in multiple pregnancies they would reduce the number through abortion.  Fortunately now they usually only implant one or two zygotes because their success rate is much better.  The question in this case is why did the IVF clinic implant so many in this woman especially since she had made it known that she wouldnt allow any to be reduced if she had more than one that became viable.  The risk to the mother and the babies goes up dramatically with multiple babies, so to put the mother, and the babies at such risk (by implanting more than one) is questionable at best.
I was also concerned about why a mother with six children, with no job and no husband was undergoing this procedure in the first place.  Again, you mention that IVF is not un-regulated.  My question for you is, by whom?  When asked why they performed this procedure in this woman, the IVF physician stated that he didnt think it was his role to be the gatekeeper of fertilization procedures. (Or that it wasnt his job to decide who can get pregnant via IVF, something to that effect.)   And my point is, if he is not, THEN WHO IS?  I was very saddened by his statement.  For years I have been claiming that we as a medical profession have given up too much to patients regarding decision making.  In the coming years, we are going to have to make harder and harder decisions about who gets what care, resources are not unlimited.  Instead of patients getting to choose whatever they want to have, Iaccording to their wishes, I  believe that it is time to swing the pendulum back a bit, to a more communitarian model for medical decision making.  But statements by physicians like this make me concerned that it is too far gone, and we have given up something that we will never get back.
I previously mentioned the IVF problem.  This problem that I was referring to are the 400,000 or so frozen embryos in the freezers of the IVF clinics across the country.  If one believes that life begins at conception, (conception as it is typically defined) then we have a pending disaster of holocaust proportions here.
      >Jack, I've been up for better than 36 hrs. and I'm a long way from the days in residency when this was a common occurance. The last thing I want to do is give you the impression I have not heard you, I have.
"My Father is the God of the living and not the dead"
Michael McCray 

Mar 19, 2009 10:42:09 PM, wrote:

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
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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