The Issue at Hand:
IVF and the Obligations to Embryos

Reproductive Technologies — By on June 14, 2005 at 12:32 am

In a recent press conference President Bush was asked a question that was intended to clarify his position on the moral status of embryos:

If I understood you correctly, the embryos put together for in vitro fertilization do contain life. And if that’s the case, do you believe that those people who create those embryos for in vitro fertilization have an obligation to ensure that they are brought to term if they are, in fact, not needed by the original –

To which the President interjected ‘



  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    Innocent human beings, however they are created, deserve our protection.
    And that, Mr. President, is the issue at hand.
    Actually, Joe, that is only one of the issues at hand.
    Another issue is that embryonic stem cells might be able to prevent tremendous suffering for millions of Americans.
    You can’t really address one issue without addressing the other.

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Joe Carter

    Another issue is that embryonic stem cells might be able to prevent tremendous suffering for millions of Americans.
    Well, killing illegal aliens and harvesting their organs mihgt prevent tremendous suffering for millions of Americans too. But that doesn’t mean its the ethical thing to do.
    ESC are not likely to cure anything. When they are being honest, most researchers will admit the same thing. Adult stem cells are the ones that have, and will continue, to lead to actual cures. ESCs are prized not for their curative ability but for their use in pure research.
    The fact that so many Americans are being lied to on the issue is distressing — a failure on the part of both the media and the scientific community.

  • http://www.watchpost.blogspot.com Tyler Simons

    Wow. I’m surprised Joe discovered my secret identity so quickly. I was sick of the Rock and Roll lifestyle (and the lips) and decided to grow a beard and go to a liberal divinity school. What Joe doesn’t let on is that Evangelical Christianity allows him to travel mentally through fiber optic cable and wireless routers in order to read commentor’s minds.

  • http://inkan.blogspot.com pgepps

    hehe. yeah, that was a funny typo, Joe, and well shot back, Tyler.
    I do (and did) think the point is valid that resistance to embryo-killing stem cell research is inconsistent with support for embryo-killing reproductive technologies.
    OTOH, I can understand the political “thus far, and no further” lines that must be drawn, even when they involve us in logical inconsistencies. I don’t see an easy, clean way out of this one. I do think Bush’s attempt to say, “*at least* we don’t have to have the federal gov’t *mandate* that *all taxpayers* msut support this,” is a valid partial solution, as most political solutions are.
    Cheers,
    PGE

  • http://www.reasonableforce.org/weblog SCPanther

    Also at issue for Christians is the question of whether the desire for children is equivalent to being entitled to them.
    Easy for me to say, already being a parent, but I fear that we are too presumptious in our attempts to “force God’s hand” in matters of procreation.
    I see this as an issue not only when Christian couples seek to have children by artificial means, but when we determine that we will undergo surgery to avoid having any more.

  • http://philosophicalmidwifery.blogspot.com/ Franklin Mason

    So, then, Joe. Is your view that an embryo matters just as much from the moral point of view as, say, a newborn?
    If you were in a situation in which you could save either an embryo or a newborn, and you had good reason to believe that both had an equal chance to live a full, happy life, you would flip a coin?
    Is it simply obvious that an embryo is already a human being? It is of course obvious that is is alive. And it is obvious that is a human embryo, if we mean by this that it has the potential to become an, as it were, organ complete human being and not an organ complete ostrich. But is it thereby obvious that is already a human being?
    I feel lost.

  • http://criesinthenight.blogspot.com Shipwrecked

    It’s a pretty inconceivable situation that you would have to sacrifice a single embryo to save a single child. ESC research will demand the killing of thousands of embryonic humans.
    Franklin’s final question gets to the same line of reasoning many pro-aborts use: is an acorn an oak tree? The comparison, of course, being to preborn and post-birth humans respectively. The answer to the question is that they are both oaks, simply at different stages of development. Similarly both the pre and post birth homo sapien is just that: a human.
    Recognizing that we only permit certain rights under certain conditions (e.g. voting under the condition you are 18 years old) the problem we face is whether the right to life only exists under certain conditions.
    It is my belief that it does not, both out of tradition and reason. Let us look at Franklin’s theoretical requirement of being organ complete. One problem that immediately arises is whether those who lack operating kidneys would then have a right to life. Clearly they do, as we are willing to spend thousands on dialysis to sustain them and would be at fault if we were to willfully deny them that treatment. So an “organ complete” requirement is not logically sustainable.
    More tricky is the requirement, speaking in broad strokes, to be aware of your surroundings. Such was the argument of those in the Schiavo tragedy that said, regardless of her wishes, it was permissible to kill her because she was no longer “there”. Here we are informed by longstanding tradition in the Christian world that all life is precious, regardless of whether you are disabled. Some argue that she was not merely disabled, but permenantly so. Reason, however, suggests that if we adopt even this stricter standard, it is not difficult to slip further down slope. The cause for this slide being that our standards for what constitutes a sufficient quality of life to sustain a right to life would continue to rise as the lowest permissible denominator also rose. Simply put, if we require a quality level of 1, in short order we will be accustomed to that and come to feel that 2 is a more “logical” requirement.
    But now I’m starting to ramble, so adios; vaya con Dios.

  • http://razorskiss.net/wp RazorsKiss

    Keep hammering at the ASC alternative, Joe.
    They will realize what we’re saying, eventually, and quit reciting the media mantra of “ESC promises great results” like mouldering zombies. One day. That would involve them realizing that there is, actually, no evidence whatsoever for ESC promise, and every evidence for adult cell promise.
    It would also require a mindset which ceases to disregard life.
    I find it absolutely apalling that there is a group of Americans who will make any excuse, and take any road which involves the destruction of human life – just to be able to say “I have that right to choose their death”. Not their right to choose life – that is the road of ASC, or abortion alternative counseling – or even adoption proponents! Instead, they consciously, staggeringly, and even viciously end the life of another human being – just because they can then say they chose it.
    Pro-Choice. Yeah. I’m Pro-Choice too. Except my choice is for life. I get to choose too, you know. That’s fine, though. Call yourself “Pro-Choice” – we know better. It’s not about our choices, though. It’s about theirs – the ones the “Pro-Choice” movement never offers a choice to at all.
    It’s easier to talk about as a “fetus”, or a “blob of protoplasm” – or even “research with such great promise”. Never mind THEIR choices. Just pack em into the freight cars. We know what it is you’re doing. We aren’t quiet about it, though. Is that why you’re so hot to drag us away from in front of the abortion clinics? We’re actually refering to the “Solution of Choice” sans euphemisms? In public?
    That just won’t do, will it? Then people would know about the freight cars and the suction hoses used to rip babies into pieces, and the saline solution used to burn them to death. They would know that you were creating babies solely to kill them, for some ephemeral chance with no history of success. They would know that for every baby that is successfully brought to term with IVF, that others are simply discarded like detritus.
    That’s the problem. We’re using non-euphemisms, and speaking about the “Solution of Choice” before the country is fully “sanitized” of all these “religious fanatics”. No wonder there’s the huge media push to silence the “religious extremists” these days. We don’t speak of the “Choice Solution” in it’s “pretty” little euphemisms. We call it what it is.
    That, my friends, is what they can’t stand. Any more than that grain of truth to make the lie sound believable, and they get uncomfortable. They don’t want to know – and they’re mad at us for dragging it all out into the light of day, instead of the comfortable euphemistic corner they’d buried it in.

  • beloml

    “Innocent human beings, however they are created, deserve our protection.”
    True. But what does this have to do with the clump of cells known as an embryo?

  • http://razorskiss.net/wp RazorsKiss

    Point in question… the commenter previous… but they don’t deal in euphemisms, do they?
    Pfft.

  • http://reasonableforce.org/weblog SCPanther

    beloml: “Innocent human beings, however they are created, deserve our protection.”
    True. But what does this have to do with the clump of cells known as an embryo?
    It has to do with the respect that should be shown to the human organism as distinct above all other living creatures. It has to do with the DNA that makes that embryo distinctive and unique.
    It has to do with the fact that if your “clump” had been divested of its stem cells and discarded you wouldn’t be asking that question right now.

  • Verne

    A very hard argument to make to the public. The average don

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Joe Carter

    Tyler Wow. I’m surprised Joe discovered my secret identity so quickly.
    Good grief. Where did I come up with Steven Tyler? That

  • http://www.sufficientscruples.com Kevin T. Keith

    1. A couple using IVF should decide ahead of time how many embryos to implant and attempt to create only that number of embryos. If more than the ideal number of embyros are created, the extras may be implanted with the others or frozen (to be implanted later) . . . .
    2. Only a limited number of embryos should be implanted following in vitro fertilization.
    These two rules, together, would require that every IVF attempt proceed from a distinct egg-harvesting procedure. (Unless extra embryos are somehow created during the first IVF attempt, which doesn’t make a lot of sense – you can control exactly how many embryos are created, so it is possible to avoid creating any “extra” ones if you insist on doing so.) Most IVF attempts, especially with only 2 or 3 embryos per cycle, as is now the practice, require multiple implantation attempts – which is why extra embryos are fertilized and frozen, in anticipation of further implantation attempts.
    These rules mean that, to have a reasonable chance of success, a woman who follows these guidelines must expect to undergo two or three extra cycles of ovary stimulation and endoscopy to recover fertile eggs – procedures that would be completely unnecessary if she could simply store some embryos for repeat cycles instead of discarding most of her eggs unfertilized the first time. (Note, too, that these egg-harvesting procedures are the same ones Joe was recently saying were immoral and impractical in the case of therapeutic cloning. Apparently they’re impermissible if an embryo is at risk, but you should have extra ones if it’s only a woman’s safety in question.)
    In other words, these rules impose multiple hormonal treatments and surgical procedures on women for no reason other than that this man regards a woman’s safety as less important than that of her fertilized egg cell. I suppose anyone is free to follow them who chooses. My hope is that more women will realize how little regard such men have for them and act accordingly.
    Note, also, that these rules are (almost) functionally equivalent to the Italian IVF policy that was unsuccessfully challenged yesterday. The New York Times described the effects of that policy:

    As Italy’s most powerful men – from politicians to bishops – debated the ethics of the country’s restrictive fertility law this week, Lorena Pennati lay gingerly in a hospital bed here, rubbing the sore spot where doctors had just removed nine of her eggs.
    Because of the law’s strict limits on the use of eggs, sperm and embryos – the subject of a contentious national referendum here this weekend – Ms. Pennati, 34, is embarking on what doctors universally regard as substandard infertility treatment.
    Since the law passed last year, the only treatment now permissible in Italy produces less than half as many pregnancies as the usual care does in many cases, a new study shows. . . .
    Ms. Pennati had undergone weeks of painful and risky injections to produce the eggs that will be now be combined with her husband’s sperm. . . . The chance of a pregnancy is very low, she knows.
    “Everyone presents this as a political or religious position, but no one looks at this from the point of view of women and how it touches their lives,” Ms. Pennati said,
    [M]edically assisted fertility is an imperfect science, so three eggs often yield no embryos at all, requiring the woman to start over.

    Finally, this bit:
    [E]xtras [embryos] may be implanted with the others or frozen (to be implanted later)–whichever option poses less risk to the lives of the mother and embryos. No embryos should ever be discarded.
    seems to give women one of three choices: implant an impractical and possibly dangerous number of embryos; save embryos with the obligation to implant them later, whether or not they want that many children, simply because they exist; or pay ($1,000 per year or more) to maintain those embryos forever just because they exist. (The unlikelihood that any but a tiny fraction of stored embryos will be “adopted” by non-donor couples was dealt with in my comments to the therapeutic cloning post.) Aside from being absurdly impractical at best, these rules again betray a callous indifference to women’s health or their desires regarding their own childbearing.
    I see no reason anyone should take this seriously, but many reasons why this sort of callous arrogance should convince women what a bad deal extremist Christianity is for them.

  • Nick

    Joe has presented a consistent approach to IVF and ESC research.
    My understanding is that the problem of excess embryos was created by the inability to freeze unfertilized eggs. Since superovulation is not without risk, doctors would want to subject a woman to the procedure as few times as possible. Harvesting eggs without superovulation is not really practical, because women only produce one egg a month at somehwat unpredictable intervals. Since superovulation produces numerous eggs, and a woman was not ready for implantation of an embryo immediately after superovulation, it was necessary to fertilize the eggs and then freeze the resulting embryos to store them. Can anyone confirm whether that is a correct summary?
    However, there seems to be some recent research into new techniques for freezing eggs. If it is demonstrated that children derived from frozen eggs have no higher risk of birth defects than children derived from frozen embryos, IVF may present fewer moral conundrums for those who object to destroying embryos.

  • http://philosophicalmidwifery.blogspot.com/ Franklin Mason

    Ship said: “It’s a pretty inconceivable situation that you would have to sacrifice a single embryo to save a single child. ESC research will demand the killing of thousands of embryonic humans.”
    Perhaps you meant that it’s quite improbable, and of course you’d be right. But it is not inconceivable.
    My question did not concern the use of embryos in research. Rather it concerned a certain theoretical point, and it was this: if x and y matter the same from the moral point of view, and if the only kind of consideration that could weigh in the decision to save x over y or y over x concerns the intrinsic moral vale of x and y, then if one is presented with a situation in which one can save either x or y but not both one should just, as it were, flip a coin. Substitute ‘embryo’ for ‘x’ and ‘newborn’ for y, and you have the claim on which I wanted to focus.
    And it seems to me that the choice in this case is clear, and that we have to conform our idea of the moral worth of an embryo to fit this.

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Joe Carter

    Kevin

  • http://reasonableforce.org/weblog SCPanther

    Franklin: if x and y matter the same from the moral point of view, and if the only kind of consideration that could weigh in the decision to save x over y or y over x concerns the intrinsic moral value of x and y, then if one is presented with a situation in which one can save either x or y but not both one should just, as it were, flip a coin.
    And it seems to me that the choice in this case is clear, and that we have to conform our idea of the moral worth of an embryo to fit this.
    Franklin, your argument presumes that there is no moral difference. Yet you force one to pick which to save, claiming that all other factors outside of moral worth be disregarded. You rightly state that, if you exclude those factors and their moral worth is the same, it comes down to a coin flip.
    There are no moral lessons to be drawn from that result.
    But you then posit that the choice most will make, which I grant is the newborn, demonstrates that they are not morally equivalent even though that decision is made on the basis of the factors that you attempt to exclude.
    My brain hurts.
    Setting aside your false dilemma, let’s just say that when all the factors are weighed, that the more moral choice overall, taking parental attachment and anything else into account, is to save the newborn. That does not answer the question as to the moral worth of the embryo or the morality of destroying it for supposed benefit to others.

  • http://www.watchpost.blogspot.com Tyler Simons

    I appreciate your correcting of my name, but now my clever comment makes no sense! I can’t win!

  • AndyS

    Joe, I think your way of thinking also entails we do something incredibly special in terms of health support for any sexually active woman since she might conceive and miscarriage. Few people (perhaps none) on the “pro-life” side are consistent in this regard. To me that says this is more intellectual gamesmanship as opposed to deep moral thinking.

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Joe Carter

    AndyS,
    Joe, I think your way of thinking also entails we do something incredibly special in terms of health support for any sexually active woman since she might conceive and miscarriage.
    I

  • Verne

    I am a big fan of the idea that if you must error, then make your error on the side of life. So personally I am in full agreement with you on this one. The thing I love about blogs, especially yours is that we can get to the hard truth of the issues. Even if as an argument for the hearts and minds of the masses the hard truth is a loser. As we go down that slippery slope maybe the lost arguments will be remembered and we can win the next battle. It was not so long ago that a majority of people thought that a

  • http://www.sufficientscruples.com Kevin T. Keith

    You left off the more ethical alternative [regarding excess embryo production]: storing eggs (rather than embroyos) for later use.
    That alternative doesn’t work well. Eggs, for some reason, are far less likely to develop when thawed and then fertilized than are embryos frozen after fertilization. That’s why excess embryos are produced.
    KTK: save embryos with the obligation to implant them later, whether or not they want that many children, simply because they exist;
    Joe: Whether or not they want that many children? If you don

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Joe Carter

    Kevin,
    I’ll let you have the last word on this round of exchange. But I did want to point out this peculiar statement:

    And I am increasingly disturbed by this emphasis on “outcomes” and “consequences”.

    Is the guy who wrote the definitive blog introduction to consequentalist ethics really disturbed that right-wingers are adopting that stance? ; )

  • http://www.sufficientscruples.com Kevin T. Keith

    Scare quotes, Joe – note the scare quotes.

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com Macht

    “That’s hardly an unusual position, and it has the advantage of resting on a reasoned argument about the source of moral value, as opposed to an arbitrary (and, historically, suspiciously variable) religious pronouncement.”
    I find it really hard to believe that you, a graduate student in bioethics, thinks that this position is an arbitrary religious pronouncement. There are numerous philosophical arguments for the position that Joe’s talking about in this post. While I have no doubt that most people that hold this position don’t know all of these arguments and do hold their position for religious reasons, I am equally sure that just as many people who hold your position aren’t aware of the philosophical arguments for it.
    I see nothing religious, nor arbitrary, about holding the position that our moral status as human organisms rests on what we are, as opposed to resting on certain characteristics we may acquire (or lose) at some point in our lives.

  • Elwood

    Joe Carter,
    I applaud your intellectual honesty and consistency in trying to find a solution to the ethical dilemma that frozen embryos created by IVF procedures and destined for destruction or expiration bring about. I’ll bring up denominational attempts to discern God’s will about this later, but for now, let me just pose a question. Would God’s perfect will about these sexual reproduction ethics create moral confusion and bad consequences? Or would following God’s will in an area lead to more clarity?
    Consider:
    1. I have seen many pro-life politicians opposed to ESCR challenged as you described above with the logic that if it’s bad to destroy embryos for research, it’s also bad to destroy because of IVF. You are consistent in that you agree with that charge. But the sad reality is that many anti-abortion pro-life Christians have had embryos created that won’t be brought to term. Those opposed to IVF to begin with would not have created embryos that are destined for destruction, and would not be susceptible to the arguments by those in favor of ESCR. This is really a case of the world pointing out the plank in the Christians’ eye while we were pointing at their speck (not totally, experimenting on humans is worse still). I grant that there are some pro-IVF Christians who understood and worked within the framework you laid out above, but I’d bet the majority didn’t, likely out of ignorance and based on the advice of their doctor.
    2. I have also observed pro-same sex marriage advocates argue that in the past creating an environment for raising children was a fundamental reason that societies sought to encourage and support marriage. Now, since the widespread use of contraception, child-bearing need not be and often is not a fundamental aspect of even heterosexual marriages. It’s “just” about 2 people who love each other. (although, of course, many gay people would also like to raise children, either by adoption or IVF or some other method other than the “one-flesh union”.)
    3. You raised the specter of the need for couples dealing with infertility and their recourse to IVF. Let’s not forget that some cases of infertility are a result of not following God’s plan for sexuality resulting in STD’s, abortions, etc., even delaying childbearing for the sake of a career, forsaking their prime child-bearing years. Those are dangerous words, to be sure. Many people have perfectly legitimate, God-given reasons to delay childbirth, such as not having gotten married yet, or true financial constraints. But, could we Christians also have fallen prey to a consumerism mentality that values the American Dream vision of delaying the raising of kids until all of our material desires are in place and all our ducks are in a row, including those we don’t REALLY need in order to be a responsible parent. Those are questions only a couple can answer between the wife, husband, and God. But are we as a Christian community asking the question? However, my real point in #3 is adoption. Perhaps infertility is an opportunity to adopt not only infants with no diseases, but also older kids with emotional or physical problems. We spend what is it, millions or billions, on IVF in this nation while there are still kids waiting to be adopted. On the other hand, there are fertility treatments that even the conservative Catholic hierarchy gives their blessing to. So we all draw lines on this issue. Reproductive health service is not a bad thing in itself obviously.
    4. Recently, an identical twin was born 15 years after his brother. The first twin was conceived through IVF, the 2nd frozen for 15 years. Sincere Christians may disagree on whether God imparts the soul at conception, or in the womb. But what if it is at conception? Is the soul of the 2nd twin now one year old or 16 years old? Is it a 16 yr old soul in a 1 yr old body? Where was the soul while the embryo was frozen? Maybe God didn’t create the soul until implantation in the mother’s womb? We don’t honestly know the answers to those questions. So should we be messing around in God’s work in that realm?
    You stated, if I understood you correctly, that if more embryos were accidentally created than could be safely implanted at one time, that would be unfortunate but should be remedied by having those leftover embryos later implanted. If the first procedure was successful, and there was a pregnancy, you’re looking at at least a year before the mother could have another embryo implanted. Do you want your child frozen for a year or more? Alot can happen in a year, circumstances could change to the point that it would no longer be wise to start another pregnancy. Car accidents, cancer, financial ruin to the point that you can’t afford the implantation and pregnancy health care. Now, your child is frozen in limbo. Does that story sound like it has God as the author? or man?
    We are starting to see that IVF leads to ESCR and cloning. Contraception has led to abortion in at least 4 ways.
    A)In society as a whole, contraception has led to more abortion, not less, when it is promoted because of increased promiscuity. This is one reason why evangelicals oppose pushing it in the schools.
    B)Even in pro-life marriages where couples use the pill: The pill works in 3 ways. 1) prevents ovulation 2) if ovulation occurs it hardens the lining of the egg to prevent fertilization 3) if the egg is fertilized, it prevents implantation into the uterine wall causing a spontaneous abortion. I believe this is also how the morning-after pill works which many evangelicals are rightly opposed to. Most pro-life Christians that use the pill are unaware of #3, and just think about #1, so they don’t see a problem with it. In reality, over the last 50 years there have probably been millions of spontaneous abortions that are similar to the destruction of embryos that you try to avoid with a more refined approach to IVF.
    C) In law: Roe v. Wade was not the first to talk about a right to privacy. It was discussed in the Griswold case of 1968, which was about laws against contraception. RvW cited Griswold.
    D) In Christianity: Why were there state laws against contraception in the country? (not only in more Catholic states, but also in the more numerous Protestant states) For the same reason we had anti-sodomy laws. Until the 1930’s, Christendom as a whole condemned contraception. You can find the Reformers speaking against it vigorously. In the 1930 Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church, they broke new ground and said that contraception would be okay within marriage in extreme circumstances. Reading the texts from the conference, you’d see that even then, the church leaders had no intention of that allowance being taken to the extremes that it was within Christianity. It even said it was preferable, even in an extreme circumstance such as a danger to the health of the wife due to a potential pregnancy, that the couple would abstain, but if they couldn’t they should avail themselves to the lesser evil of contraception (“lesser evil” is my interpretation, not a paraphrase). Now, we have Christian churches that allow that even abortion is justified in some cases. I hate to say it, because there are many great Christians in that church, but is it not also the denomination leading the way on homosexual marriage and ordination?
    On an earlier topic, you discussed the problem of divorce within Christianity. Someone stated that part of the problem is that we as Christians have adopted too much of the culture, and with it susceptibility to divorce. Perhaps acceptance of a small portion of the world’s view of sexuality (contraception and IVF) is one such blind spot for us as Christians. I use first person pronouns because even though as a Catholic, my leadership denounces contraception and IVF, I know that acceptance of same among American Catholics is around 90%. And, there are many Protestants who have discerned for themselves that contraception is not the way to go. It wouldn’t take much for Protestants to outdo us Catholics in obedience to God’s will in this, if indeed God is not in favor of artificial contraception.
    (A short book on the topic is “Open Embrace – A Protestant Couple Rethinks Contraception”. Worth reading, at least to give Christian couples a resource. There are many Christian couples who find that artificial contraception just isn’t workable for them, so they may be well served to find out about alternatives. I mention to you or any leader in the church who may be in the position of advising couples, especially engaged couples. Just one more tool in your box.)
    On the other hand, what if the arguments that the unitive and procreative aspects of conjugal love should not be separated are correct. This is why the Cath. Church has held her position consistent against BOTH contraception and IVF.
    THIS is just a start of what JPII meant when he talked about a Culture of Life vs. a culture of death, along the dignity of every human, even death-row inmates, and especially the poor around the world. I’m a moderate Bush fan, but when he adopts the use of the phrase culture of life but only applies a small portion of it, it loses much of its punch.
    I contend that artificial contraception and IVF, along with cloning, are described nicely by the phrase “Industrial Sex” which you posted about earlier.

  • JCHFleetguy

    Joe,
    While we differ here – I do applaude you for being consistant. You could not take the position on ESC without this position on IVF. Again, good job.

  • Larry Lord

    Speaking of consistency
    http://www.cnn.com/2005/HEALTH/06/15/schiavo.autopsy.ap/index.html
    What do you know — the experts were right (that is, the credible experts who didn’t pretend they were Nobel prize nominees).

  • W.

    I think the reason that a majority of Americans aren’t quick to jump into the fray of this issue is because you have to have an awful lot of time on your hands to fret incessantly over embryos that aren’t even attached to a human being (nothing much happens until then). Most folks have a lot more pressing stuff on their minds.
    I personally am not willing to fret over what I consider to be “potential” life. (If you’re that concerned about it, you can go rescue some semen out of used condoms.) It’s much more important to deal with the here and now, not some potential, quasi-being that may or may not happen.
    Life ain’t as simple as pro-life, pro-choice. Read on.
    I’m pro-death. I’m pro-abortion when the mother’s life is in danger (and yes, I personally know of at least two cases, both quite dissimilar) and incest. I’m pro-death penalty for hardened murderers, molesters and rapists. I eat meat, so it doesn’t bother me that animals are killed for my meals. I kill tomato worms when I see them on the vines. I kill mosquitos that bite me. I will have my rescued greyhound put to sleep if he ever bites someone unprovoked. I’ve killed gravely ill baby pigs that had no chance of recovery because it would end their suffering. Growing up on the farm, you deal with life and death every day. You try to make the best choice you can and hope it was for the best.
    I know one of the 10 Commandments supposedly says “Thou shalt not kill.” But unless you live an impecciably vegan lifestyle, there’s no way you can follow that edict.
    To cherry-pick an issue and wring hands over it when, in fact, we are all guilty of violating that commandment over and over seems terribly hypocritical.
    Go by your own moral code, not the Bible’s. Don’t take the book literally. When you have a book that’s been translated dozens, if not hundreds, of times from various ancient languages, something’s bound to get messed up.
    Who knows? Maybe we’re interpreting the so-called Good Book all wrong.

  • Larry Lord

    W.
    “But unless you live an impecciably vegan lifestyle, there’s no way you can follow that edict.”
    Vegans intentionally kill harmless bacteria all the time (at least, the ones that wash themselves with hot soapy water).

  • Larry Lord

    W.
    “When you have a book that’s been translated dozens, if not hundreds, of times from various ancient languages, something’s bound to get messed up.”
    Surely this is a true statement on planet earth. But are some people from other planets?
    Let’s wait and see.

  • Larry Lord

    W.
    “I’ve killed gravely ill baby pigs that had no chance of recovery because it would end their suffering. Growing up on the farm, you deal with life and death every day. You try to make the best choice you can and hope it was for the best.”
    And Bill Frist performed experimental surgery on kittens to satisfy his curiosity.
    That’s where Mr. Frist, a self-proclaimed Christian, learned how to play a doctor on TV. You know, like when he spent an hour with Terry Schiavo and concluded that she could see things.

  • JCHFleetguy

    I know one of the 10 Commandments supposedly says “Thou shalt not kill.”

    Universally (at least by Christian theologians) this is “Thou Shalt not Murder”. There are different words in the base language for killing and murder (taking innocent life). Your burger is safe.

  • Elwood

    W: “Go by your own moral code, not the Bible’s. Don’t take the book literally. When you have a book that’s been translated dozens, if not hundreds, of times from various ancient languages, something’s bound to get messed up.”
    I’m sure there’s more to it for you than “Go by your own moral code.” Otherwise why do we lock up serial killers or any other criminal? Perhaps you only meant to apply this advice to the issue at hand. Or perhaps you meant, go by any other basis of forming a moral code EXCEPT for the Bible.
    I think you also need to clarify your criticism of the Bible. You don’t mean it was translated hundreds of times, do you? Hand-copied hundreds of times maybe. But most of the English Bibles (and most other language Bibles) that are popular today have been translated from Hebrew or Greek straight into English, and some from those languages into Latin into English. So most are only one or two languages away from the original. Yes, before the printing press, these texts had to be hand-copied which allows the possibility of errors, but there is much study that’s been done on why we can trust that there was very little variation that entered into the texts due to the procedures and care taken. Although I trust the Bible as a guide, I can understand why others don’t. But they have better reasons than you’ve given for their doubt. Not that this is the thread for that.

  • http://www.leanleft.com/ tgirsch

    JCHFleetguy:
    I agree that “murder” is the technically correct translation, but there are plenty of Christians still around who say that the King James Version is the only acceptable translation. So I’d say “universally” is a bit of a stretch.

  • W.

    Remember, many of the books of the Gospel came from oral traditions for many years, even centuries, before they were put down on paper. So, yes, the interpretations definitely could have been messed up by misinterpretations or biases before they were put down in physical form.
    Also, one also has to question whether some books were divinely inspired, or simply opinion. The Apostle Paul was no doubt earnest in his beliefs. But a man who goes from persecuting and killing Christians for a good chunk of his life to becoming a Christian himself is an extremist (the literal term, not the politicized term).
    As some folks would say, Paul had “issues.”

  • Larry Lord

    Getting back to the subject of human reproduction, I think everyone will get a kick out of this amusing educational video.
    http://www.plannedparenthood.com/pp2/portal/files/portal/medicalinfo/resource-050527-implantation-animation.xml;jsessionid=FDBBE701C1AFC30A28E783659E2914B1
    Spot any inaccuracies?

  • JCHFleetguy

    Tgrisch,
    I have a New King James; New American Standard; and New International – they all say “Kill”. It isn’t really bad – especially if you read the context in Exodus. The next section are the laws you will be killed for violating.
    If you read the book you can see what is meant – but it is better to take things out of context so you can talk about vegetarianism.

  • JCHFleetguy

    W.
    You need to understand how Jewish oral tradition worked to get an idea for just how accurately the traditions held. It is kind of a fascinating discussion. Of course a good chunk of what we take as ancient history came from long oral histories – and we do not question a lot of that accuracy.
    The bottom line really is: the textual tradition of the Bible has infinitely more manuscripts than any other ancient book – and the ancient transcripts (across language and local) are about 98% in agreement.
    Everyone knows what word is in the ancient manuscripts – they just choose to keep writing “kill”. Then, we get to explain that it means murder a lot.

  • JCHFleetguy

    Also, one also has to question whether some books were divinely inspired, or simply opinion. The Apostle Paul was no doubt earnest in his beliefs. But a man who goes from persecuting and killing Christians for a good chunk of his life to becoming a Christian himself is an extremist (the literal term, not the politicized term).

    Jesus forgave sins! Not yours against Him; but yours against a thrird party. If He was not God he was one of the worst blasphemers on the planet. Saul saw His followers essentially worshiping a second God, breaking Judaism’s monotheism – Saul should have hunted them down as a pharasee.
    Of course, meeting and talking to Jesus on the road to Damascus could change your view on the above. We all have issues – but his radical change of heart is just amazing, not extreme.
    Paul incidentally is very careful in his letters to make clear those things which were revealed to him; and those things that were his opinion.

  • W.

    Paul incidentally is very careful in his letters to make clear those things which were revealed to him; and those things that were his opinion.
    But in the end, we really don’t know for 100 percent certain which of John’s writings is divine and which is opinion, do we?
    I have no doubt that Paul’s conversion was sincere. But Paul was a flawed man — an extremely flawed man — and he was so gung-ho that his biases were bound to taint the text at least somewhat.
    And though Paul tried to make it clear which was opinion and which was divine, that doesn’t keep readers from ignoring those distinctions (as I’ve found, to my dismay).
    And though you have transcripts and translations of the Bible that match 98 percent, that still leaves 2 percent that are wrong.
    And, again, with oral traditions used before they were put down on paper, the error rate inevitably is going to be much higher.
    The greater point is this: Paul’s writings and the Bible in general should be treated with respect, but with a skeptical mind. God gave us brains; we should not be zombies who read an ancient text and follow it without question.
    Faith is strengthened through deliberation and thought, not mindless acceptance.

  • http://www.leanleft.com tgirsch

    JCHFleetguy:
    Whoa, calm down there! Remember, I started by acknowledging that “murder” is the appropriate translation. I’m simply stating that not all Christians see it that way (which you seemed to claim they did).
    My NIV shows “murder,” and the on-line NASB shows it that way (as do most of the other on-line versions). In fact, the on-line KJV was the only one I could find that still used “kill.”
    Most controversy surrounding the “kill” translation versus the “murder” translation doesn’t involve vegetarianism anyway, because even where “kill” is the translation given, the context makes it clear that we’re talking about killing people. The “murder” translation allows for things like war and execution, where the “kill” translation makes that grayer. And, in fact, it’s this understanding of the “kill” translation that sets up the encounter in John 8. Without that contradiction, Jesus’ answer is easy.

    The bottom line really is: the textual tradition of the Bible has infinitely more manuscripts than any other ancient book – and the ancient transcripts (across language and local) are about 98% in agreement.

    Well, I think that rate only holds if you include those transcripts that are accepted as canonical. Those that weren’t mostly in agreement were rejected from canon, so it’s difficult to hold up that the manuscripts agree as proof that they’re accurate; anything that didn’t agree would have been eliminated.

  • Larry Lord

    tgirsch
    “Well, I think that rate only holds if you include those transcripts that are accepted as canonical. Those that weren’t mostly in agreement were rejected from canon”
    Watch out tgirsh! As FleetGuy once warned me, there are “eternal consequences” for holding certain beliefs. Was the Bible assembled by humans attempting to create a pleasing self-serving document for powerful preachers, clerics, prophets and scribes?
    Seems very likely to me and — what do you know — most of the world thinks it’s mostly garbage.
    FleetGuy is capable of reasoning about such matters only to a point: the point where he starts to wet his pants about the possibility of “burnin’ in hell”.

  • JCHFleetguy

    Tgrisch,
    Actually, I had looked it up after the post [good time for it huh] — so a big Emily Latella “never mind”.
    I do not think there is much textual variation in the deutrocanonical texts either [My mother in law is Catholic – so I have two or three versions of those around the house too] – and probably a lot of manuscript evidence also. Cannot really speak to the texts that didn’t make the Catholic or Protestant “cut”. Obviously, once the cut was made previous manuscripts would start to disappear by destruction or lack of care (same difference). Further, when I talked about text conformance – I meant one ancient transcript of John vs other ancient transcripts of John.
    But my actual rant was aimed at people who do not believe in scripture trying to turn lines like “Thou shalt not kill” back on me to prove me inconsistant – and the trolls are happy to bring up vegetarianism – heck, I have had plants and insects brought up (maybe bacteria once – not sure); and of course the more sincere questions about war and the death penalty. The likes of Larry have never allowed logic to stand in the way of infinite regress, or just good ole’ slaps.
    W

    But Paul was a flawed man — an extremely flawed man — and he was so gung-ho that his biases were bound to taint the text at least somewhat.

    We are all extremely flawed men, and all the apostles could only be described as gung-ho, so its easy to let this pass. Which flaws are you talking about, and how do you think that impacted Paul’s theology?

    And, again, with oral traditions used before they were put down on paper, the error rate inevitably is going to be much higher.

    There is no real reason to believe oral tradition/myth impacted the New Testament in any meaningful way. Old Testament tradition is certainly different.

    The greater point is this: Paul’s writings and the Bible in general should be treated with respect, but with a skeptical mind. God gave us brains; we should not be zombies who read an ancient text and follow it without question . . . Faith is strengthened through deliberation and thought, not mindless acceptance.

    Absolutely! Luckily, as J. Budziszewski points out:

    The New Testament contains literally hundreds of precepts. However, Christianity is not a legislative religion. While the Bible recognizes the Torah as a divinely revealed code for the ruling of Israel before the coming of Messiah, it does not include a divinely revealed code for the ruling of the gentiles afterward — The Problem with Conservatism

    Actually, there really is not much to blindly follow except those precepts; and as to the precepts:

    The first thing to get clear about Christian morality between man and man is that in this department Christ did not come to preach any brand new morality. The Golden Rule of the New Testament (Do as you would be done by) is a summing up of what every one, at bottom, had always known to be right. Really great moral teachers never do introduce new moralities: it is quacks and cranks who do that. As Dr Johnson said, ‘People need to be reminded more often than they need to he instructed.’ The real job of every moral teacher is to keep on bringing us back, time after time, to the old simple principles which we are all so anxious not to see — CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

    Most of what christians succeed in following without question are not what is written in the Bible – but what has been layered on it by convention, denomination, and legalism. I would guess (or at least hope) that evangelicals, who are most likely to express a belief in the Bible free from that distortion, should be the most likely to check distortions against scripture. And scripture is not really the source of most christianity’s theological errors.
    General:
    I have no problems with the Catholic Church examining the canon and rejecting some scripture – every religion has set its canon in this way. Or with the Protestants rejecting some more of even that.
    If folk want to believe this was some political process I cannot stop them – or disprove it. If I want to believe that they weeded through pseudo-scripture (oooh, I like that parallel to pseudo-science) and prayerfully rejected works that seemed out of place in the general flow of God’s plan and revelation – hey, they cannot disprove that. Its all about faith.
    Larry [Why do I feed him?]
    I am not worried about my salvation. I promise never to again express a worry about yours. As to:

    most of the world thinks it’s mostly garbage

    This statement is true about every philosophical or religious set of ideas on the planet – hey, including yours. Probably quite a bit of hard science that would fall below 50% here. So this statement of yours says nothing and means nothing. But never one to let you off the hook that easy:
    Religions that believe Jesus was the Messiah, born of a virgin, and still lives in Heaven constitute 64% of the world’s population. Christians comprise 39% of the planet, with the next largest “minority party” sitting at 25%. All non-Abrahamic religions (including lack of religion) combined equal 35% of the population. So, na na na na na – my gangs bigger than your gang. (Not that it matters to me, or you for that matter – despite your garbage comment)

  • http://www.leanleft.com tgirsch

    JCHFleetguy:
    I certainly understand your trigger-happiness, but I’d thank you to leave me out of that group. I thought we had gotten past that a long time ago. :)

    Religions that believe Jesus was the Messiah, born of a virgin, and still lives in Heaven constitute 64% of the world’s population.

    Is that really true? I mean, fully a third of the world’s population is Hindu or Buddhist alone, and they believe no such thing. I can’t believe that Jews and all other religions besides Islam and Christianity make up less than 3% of the world’s populace.
    And I assume you’re including Islam, but there’s a certain duplicity about that. They may acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, but they assign less importance to that title than Christians or Jews do. Jesus isn’t even the top prophet according to Islam…

  • Larry Lord

    “This statement is true about every philosophical or religious set of ideas on the planet – hey, including yours.”
    Funny that there are no jewelled preachers on cable TV who preach anything remotely resembling my “set of philosophical ideas” and who use those ideas to discriminate against humans with different beliefs.
    Too bad we can’t say the same thing about certain Christians — e.g., those who brag about the popularity of their religion while simultaneously whining that the legitimacy of their marriages is challenged by a relatively tiny minority of gay families.

  • JCHFleetguy

    Tgrisch,
    Hey, I worded it carefully :)
    Islam calls Jesus the Messiah (although they are monothesist and do not assign diety to that). Of course, the Jews were not expecting an incarnate God as Messiah either. I think actually Islam assigns the same weight as Judaism – and think the Jews missed it.
    He is 2nd in their list of prophets behind Mohammed. When mentioning Jesus’s name, the put the same type of honorific behind it as for Mohammed.
    They believe he was born of the virgin Mary. In fact, their story has no Joseph at all; and baby Jesus speaking from the crib to tell the Jews (ready to kill his mom for sexual impurity) to leave his mom alone. {I like that story – do not believe it but like it). They believe Mary was blessed above all women – a big step because Mary was a Jew – and actually criticize Christians because we do not hold her in high enough regard.
    They believe he ascended to Heaven without dying at all (no death and resurrection) like Elijah, and that God fooled people into believing He hung on a cross when He never did.
    I got the numbers from Adherants.com. I did make a mistake transferring the numbers to an Excel spreadsheet so I could get totals and percentages. So the numbers should have been:
    55% instead of 64%
    33% instead of 39%
    22% instead of 25%
    44% instead of 35%
    They put Buddhism and Hinduism together at about 21% not 33%; but any list will have flaws. (I picked this out of an atheist website just to make sure I didn’t pick on the ungodly unfairly)

  • JCHFleetguy

    Tgrisch

    I certainly understand your trigger-happiness, but I’d thank you to leave me out of that group.

    I’m sorry. Forgive me. Our relationship is still growing :)

  • http://www.leanleft.com tgirsch

    See, now a little better than half I can more easily buy. Especially when you consider that those numbers still need to be revised downward somewhat, based on their methodology. However I still think your inclusion of Islam is suspect, particularly considering that they don’t recognize the divinity of Christ, and that in the grand scheme of things, Christ isn’t a terribly important figure to them particularly not among the rank-and-file. You can safely say that about one-third of the world’s population is Christian, and that’s about as far as it goes.
    Of course, we’re splitting hairs at this point anyway… :)