« Links Mentioned on the 4/27/16 Show | Main | When (and Why) Feminism Is Anti-Feminine »

April 28, 2016

Comments

As I’ve explained before, as much as people say they deny the fact that life begins at conception, there really is no scientific controversy over when human life begins; the controversy is over when human life is valuable.
What some people point out here is that human life per se(!) does not begin at conception, because a human egg cell that can be fertilized is neither dead, nor "not human". Conception thus is not the start of human life per se, but rather the start of life that is genetically distinct from the mother.
I’m convinced there are many people who don’t realize they’re doing this—better to convince yourself there really is no human life at conception than to recognize it and then have to justify killing that human life.
I have no problem recognizing that a zygote is human life. I simply point out that the unfertilized egg is human life as well and the mere change of genetic material / the start of genetic distinction, has zero moral implications - there is no rational argument that this makes the zygote any more valuable than the unfertilized egg.

This article doesn't seem to support what you think it does. It just talks about how some eggs flash when fertilized. It's not evidence (pro or con) for life beginning at that point.

Just because the reporter uses the phrase "when life begins" does not mean it is supported.by the research being reported.on.

The beauty of it all. Have you ever considered God wrote the names of all whom he planned to save in the "Book of Life" from the foundation of the world (Revelation 17:8)?

And that each egg and sperm combination produces an entirely different person? So each egg and sperm combination is pre-planned and timed by God, including all the good or evil choices and situations necessary to make it happen.

This includes all events leading up to the conception of every unique ancestor needed to produce each saved individual.

I base this on the Traducian view of life suggested in the Scriptures.

traducianism. The view that in addition to the human body the human soul is transmitted from the parents to the child, rather than being created specifically for that human body by God ex nihilo (creationism). Although it may be dated to the patristic era, this teaching has been especially strong in Lutheran circles, in contrast to the Roman Catholic and Reformed preference for creationism.

Grenz, S., Guretzki, D., & Nordling, C. F. (1999). In Pocket dictionary of theological terms (p. 115). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

I have no problem recognizing that a zygote is human life. I simply point out that the unfertilized egg is human life as well and the mere change of genetic material / the start of genetic distinction, has zero moral implications - there is no rational argument that this makes the zygote any more valuable than the unfertilized egg.

Andy, you're merely making my point about where the controversy really lies. You think that a distinct, whole human organism at the beginning of its existence has the same value as a part of the mother's body. That is where the disagreement is. The point of this post is to draw out the idea that it's scientifically uncontroversial that a distinct human life begins at conception. That's a different claim from saying that a human has value from the beginning of his or her life. People confuse the two claims when they say life doesn't begin at conception (when they really only mean it's not yet valuable).

But after you agree that life begins at conception (but not valuable life), you then say that the article doesn't prove life begins at conception. I think that expresses the confusion I was trying to address in this article. I think what you mean is that the value of the life doesn't begin at conception (and of course that's something science can't prove either way). Again, that's the distinction this post was trying to make clear. You ought to refer to "value" rather than "life" in order to keep the two separate questions distinct and clear. If people want to say that some human lives do not have value, then they need to be clear about it and make a case for it.

As far as value goes, I say a human arm (a part of a whole organism) doesn't have the same value as a human being (whole organism). That's the principle behind my claim that the zygote has value that the egg, on it's own, does not. Science can show there's a difference between a whole organism and a part of one, but it can't make claims about value. So we're agreed on your point that science can't prove value.

I simply point out that the unfertilized egg is human life as well

Is it your contention that a mother's egg is a distinct human organism rather than a part of the mother? You say it's "human life," but surely you can see the difference between my arm and me. My arm is not "human life"; it's not whole. It's only part of the distinct human life which is me. That's the difference between the mother's egg and the distinct, whole human life that begins at conception.

Whether or not you choose to think a new, distinct, whole human life has value will be determined by whether you believe in universal human rights and value, or whether you think there are some human beings who have value, some human beings who don't have value, and that we're qualified to rightly determine which is which. As I mentioned in the article above, that approach to human rights and value has never failed to end in atrocities (see what I linked to above for examples). After the fact, we always eventually recognize the horror of what we've done, of dividing human beings into two groups—value vs. no value—but we keep making the same mistake over and over.

Just as life ends when the soul leaves the body and the heartbeat stops, life begins when the soul ends and the heartbeat begins.

But also, just as we have strict laws respecting human corpses after life has left them, we can also have strict laws about respecting human embryos before life has entered them and prohibit creating human bodies except to become living people.

That should be, Life begins when the soul "enters" the body.

John, a person dies when the heart stops because at that stage of life the heart is necessary for survival. It doesn't follow that the person is not alive before the heart is formed since the human being doesn't, at that time, need the heart for survival. It lives just fine as it's growing and forming the heart. At the very beginning of life, a human being does not yet need a heart to survive, and it lives and develops for a time before the heart forms.

Secondly, I have no reason to think "the soul enters the body when the heartbeat begins" (particularly since that would reflect a very divided view of body and soul that the Bible does not indicate), and that certainly isn't something science could assess. What we can clearly observe is the beginning of a human life. Before that time, no human being. After that time, there's a new human being. It's an objective moment in time, not based on speculation. So if we have any laws related to this, they ought to reflect this objective event.

Thanks for this post. I agree with you that the real issue is the value of human life. It is unfortunate that people can throw away life so easily. Keep getting the truth out there.

Amy,

But after you agree that life begins at conception (but not valuable life), you then say that the article doesn't prove life begins at conception. I think that expresses the confusion I was trying to address in this article.
Nope. The second comment was written by a different Andy.
Is it your contention that a mother's egg is a distinct human organism rather than a part of the mother?
No. It is rather my contention that a) the unfertilized egg is both alive and human (not a contention actually but just a scientific fact), that b) conception involves nothing but changes of genetic material within a cell, and c) that genes per se have no value and it thus makes no sense to say that one cell has more value than another because its genes are different.
You say it's "human life," but surely you can see the difference between my arm and me. My arm is not "human life"; it's not whole. It's only part of the distinct human life which is me. That's the difference between the mother's egg and the distinct, whole human life that begins at conception.
Both the zygote and the unfertilized egg are part of the mother - neither one can exist without her (you can of course extract the zygote and let it grow in a cell culture, but the exact same is true for an unfertilized egg - it can be fertilized in vitro as well). Again, the difference between the two is genetic distinction wrt the mother. That's it.
Whether or not you choose to think a new, distinct, whole human life has value will be determined by whether you believe in universal human rights and value, or whether you think there are some human beings who have value, some human beings who don't have value, and that we're qualified to rightly determine which is which.
And whether or not you choose to think that an unfertilized human egg cell is a human person just like you and me, depends on whether you think that the value of human life is 100% reducible to the genes we have.


As I mentioned in the article above, that approach to human rights and value has never failed to end in atrocities (see what I linked to above for examples). After the fact, we always eventually recognize the horror of what we've done, of dividing human beings into two groups—value vs. no value—but we keep making the same mistake over and over.

The only way that you could try to avoid any demarcation lines is to just categorically say that every living cell with human genes is a fully human person, period. But you don't do that, you pick conception as a demarcation line and thus divide human life into two groups with different value. You think that this is rational because before conception, this life is just part of the mother (which the zygote is just as well), and because it is genetically distinct (which reduces human value to genes) - I think that it is irrational.

Andy,
Every living cell with human genes is not a full human being. The word "cell" itself gives that away. But a fertilized egg is actually not an egg at all. At that point it is neither an egg or a sperm. It is a distinct being who's development is self-governed. If given a proper environment and nourishment (which we all need), the being will mature, not change but mature into an infant, a toddler, an adolescent/teen, youth, man/woman.

The zygote is NOT a part of the mother. I have to conclude you are being purposefully obtuse if you are going to argue that the zygote is part of the mother.

You say for e.g., "one cell has more value than another because its genes are different"
Let me see - you are just a bunch of cells. I hope you are not arguing that a bunch of cells however has more value than one cell, are you? By your own logic, I see no reason why I should value you - you are just a bunch of cells.
Your worldview taken to its logical conclusion is well described by the word "sheol"

Before ensoulment (which is a necessary belief to equal rights and dignity) the body is alive like the egg was and like plants are, growing and developing, but not under its own volition, under God's control. Even adults can't control how their body functions, so obviously an embryo does not direct its own development. When the body has grown enough and implanted in the womb, God sends in the soul and starts the heart. The soul leaves when the heart stops. We live in a living body built and operated by God, but the soul is the part that is our own, the will to move the body around and live in it.

kpolo,

Every living cell with human genes is not a full human being. The word "cell" itself gives that away.

If the word "cell" gives it away, then this applies to the zygote, because the zygote is a cell.

But a fertilized egg is actually not an egg at all.
Indeed. But it's still a cell.
At that point it is neither an egg or a sperm. It is a distinct being who's development is self-governed.
1. "self-governed" is not a meaningful biological term. 2. The "distinction" refers to one thing and one thing only: genetic material.
If given a proper environment and nourishment (which we all need), the being will mature, not change but mature into an infant, a toddler, an adolescent/teen, youth, man/woman.
The exact same is true for the unfertilized egg, the list of developmental steps it has to go through is just one single item longer - fertilization (assuming that it is a mature egg, if it isn't the list would be several items longer).
The zygote is NOT a part of the mother.
Actually, it is. If it isn't, try removing it from the mothers body and observe what happens. Both it's further development and mere survival are conditional on it being part of the mother (well, you could keep it alive outside of the mother's body, but it would not further develop).
I have to conclude you are being purposefully obtuse if you are going to argue that the zygote is part of the mother.
If that conclusion would be rooted in any rational argument, that might bother be.
You say for e.g., "one cell has more value than another because its genes are different" Let me see - you are just a bunch of cells. I hope you are not arguing that a bunch of cells however has more value than one cell, are you?
Actually, I do. Because from the cooperation of those cells emerges a mind that is aware of itself, can recognize itself as a thinking being, conceive mental models of the world around him, form beliefs, fears and desires based on all of this and act on those - you know, "being human". That is what the difference between a single cell and many billion cells working in concert means. And the difference between a zygote and an unfertilized egg amounts to differences in genetic material - the amount of genetic material and the epigenetic state it is in. That's it. If you say that the zygote is more valuable than the unfertilized egg, then you necessarily attribute this change of value 100% to the changes of genetic material because nothing else has changed. In other words, you reduce humans to their genes.
By your own logic, I see no reason why I should value you - you are just a bunch of cells.
Actually, that was your "logic", not mine. I claimed that changes of genetic material have no moral implications. That a "bunch of cells" thus has no value is a complete non sequitur. But according to your logic, I could say that you are not any more valuable than a random human liver cell (you would be more valuable than a human red blood cell - because they have no nucleus).

Ah! Two different Andys! That explains it. Sorry about that.

The only way that you could try to avoid any demarcation lines is to just categorically say that every living cell with human genes is a fully human person, period. But you don't do that, you pick conception as a demarcation line and thus divide human life into two groups with different value. You think that this is rational because before conception, this life is just part of the mother (which the zygote is just as well), and because it is genetically distinct (which reduces human value to genes) - I think that it is irrational.

Again, a cell in my body is not a whole, complete, distinct human organism. A zygote is. I do not say a cell in my arm has the same value as a human being. Neither do I say a hand has the same value as a human being. Only a human being has the same value as a human being, and a zygote is a human being at the very earliest stage. It will be the same human being from that moment, through the fetal stage, through childhood, through adulthood, and until death. The cells in its body will come and go, but it will remain a whole, distinct organism throughout all this time.

This doesn't reduce human value to genes at all. It defines human value as belonging to human beings because of the very type of being that they are. And the zygote is a distinct human being from the beginning, through all stages of development.

Both the zygote and the unfertilized egg are part of the mother - neither one can exist without her

"Not being able to exist without her" is not the same as being "part of her." If a person is on life support, he can't exist without it, but it's not part of him. Just because the life support is another human being in this case, that doesn't change this principle.

Andy is right that reducing us to genomes is horribly materialistic. Is a genome stored on a computer a human that has a right to be synthesized and inserted in an egg and then a womb? DNA synthesis is not yet able to make long enough chains, but it is just a matter of time, refining the process. I say no, it is just a genome, or just an embryo, and is not a human being until it is ensouled, which happens after pregnancy begins, a week or so after fertilization occurred.

And interestingly, that "synthetic life" bacteria created by Craig Venter from sythnethised DNA a few months ago still had to be inserted into a living cell that had been denucleated, it wasn't created from just the DNA and the DNA wasn't alive, it just is necessary for the cell to function.

And regarding death, death isn't always caused by the heart stopping, rather the heart stopping is often caused by death. Death doesn't come gradually, as the body stops being able to function the person remains fully alive until suddenly they are fully dead, the soul has left the body. Sometimes perfectly healthy people suddenly die for unexplained reasons.

Andy:

"Actually, it is. If it isn't, try removing it from the mothers body and observe what happens. Both it's further development and mere survival are conditional on it being part of the mother (well, you could keep it alive outside of the mother's body, but it would not further develop)."

The mother's body actually releases hormones to suppress T-cells that would otherwise kill the zygote, recognizing it as a foreign body.

A zygote is not a part of the mother even if its survival depends on being inside the womb. Perhaps you are using the word "part" in a very very lose sense. But the pro-abortion people take that sense to mean the same as the fingernail being part of the mother.
When I'm in an airplane flying, my survival depends on remaining inside the airplane. I do not become part of the airplane.

Andy,

You were once a zygote, then an embryo, then a fetus, then an infant, then a toddler, then...

But a woman isn't a mere incubator, supplying nutrients and eliminating waste, when the pregnancy begins she becomes intwined with the baby in a way that makes the embryo part of her, and that is when conditions are ready for ensoulment and life.

Let me ask you and Amy what you think about frozen embryos? Should they be implanted in a woman? How about an artificial womb? How about in a male's body somehow? How about cloned human embryos?

My answers are, turn off the freezers and respectfully release the embryos into the ground, do not implant them in anything, ban artificial wombs, ban male pregnancy, and ban cloning embryos and implanting embryos that are not created by joining a man and a woman's unmodified egg and sperm.

John Howard,

Andy is right that reducing us to genomes is horribly materialistic.

And pretending as if the pro-life position reduces humans to genomes is horribly misleading.

Pro-lifers have never argued that human DNA = human person. Rather, the argument is that the human DNA is evidence that the zygote is human and it is a piece of evidence that we are dealing with a distinct entity (rather than simply a part of the mother). What kind of distinct entity? The DNA is evidence that it is a distinct human entity.

People who try to misconstrue this reasoning as reducing humans to DNA or genomes or materialism are either confused or are being dishonest.

John Howard,

I say no, it is just a genome, or just an embryo, and is not a human being until it is ensouled, which happens after pregnancy begins, a week or so after fertilization occurred.

i) How do you know when ensoulment occurs? The most obvious point at which ensoulment happens is when a distinct, self-directed human organism begins to exist (at conception).

ii) Any reason you give for rejecting ensoulment at that point and pushing it to some further point down the road will be ad hoc, arbitrary. And what confidence can you have that THIS is when ensoulment begins rather than at some earlier point? Thus, even if you are skeptical that ensoulment begins at conception you have to admit that you can't really be sure when it begins. And in that case the more rational and loving position is to withhold killing something for which there is good reason to think is a human being.

iii) The idea that we could have distinct, self-directed human beings that are not ensouled leads us into complete skepticism regarding the existence of other minds. For all I know, John Howard is a human being that hasn't been ensouled yet. You can't argue that you are ensouled based on your normal functioning at your stage of development, since that argument would also prove that a zygote is ensouled since it functions just like a normal human being at that stage of development.

Andy,

Both the zygote and the unfertilized egg are part of the mother - neither one can exist without her

At a specific point in time, an unborn baby boy who can’t live without his mother might have a penis. Is the unborn baby’s penis part of the mother?

John Howard,

But a woman isn't a mere incubator, supplying nutrients and eliminating waste, when the pregnancy begins she becomes intwined with the baby in a way that makes the embryo part of her

The fact that the baby is dependent on her bodily functions does not logically entail that the baby is "part of her." Otherwise we must come to the absurd conclusion that a toddler who depends upon the bodily functions of its mother (lactation) is a part of her too.

So your criterion is insufficient to support your assertion that the unborn baby is a part of the mother.

How do we know that John Howard and Andy are an ensouled human beings?

I suggest that whatever John Howard and Andy points to, we accuse them of being overly reductionistic.

So if John Howard or Andy try to prove that they are ensouled by their interactions with us, then we tell them they are being horribly reductionistic to say that ensouled human being = words on a screen.

If they try to prove they are ensouled human beings because of their rational interactions we can accuse them of being overly reductionistic to say that human being = rational discourse... After all, I guess that makes God a human being.

If they can create simplistic caricatures of our position, by pretending as if it's our position that human beings are just DNA, then we can do it to them too.

Andy and I are alive, thus we are ensouled. When we die, our lifeless bodies will be proof that our souls have left our bodies. Medical examiners are trained in determining the time of death. The body doesn't vanish, it stays around and begins the process of decomposing, directed by God, not by it's own direction. The soul and the body have to be separate, the body has to exist before the soul enters it, just as it continues to exist after the soul leaves.
We know that ensoulment has to occur after the body has developed a circulatory system and blood and implanted in the uterus and safely connected to the mother's blood, because the life is in the blood, and the soul is the life. And God wouldn't ensoul embryos that He knows will not implant, and that happens frequently in nature, and no human society has ever mourned the loss of those embryos that might have formed after intercourse but did not implant. We often do grieve over miscarriage after quickening, as indeed a soul has gone to the next life before it could experience many wonders, but not when there was no pregnancy.

John Howard

Andy and I are alive, thus we are ensouled.

A human zygote is alive by any medical definition, thus it is ensouled.

The soul and the body have to be separate, the body has to exist before the soul enters it, just as it continues to exist after the soul leaves.

Nothing you've said supports the conclusion that the body must exist before the soul enters it. How do you know the soul and body don't come into existence simultaneously? You're just making this up as you go along?

We know that ensoulment has to occur after the body has developed a circulatory system and blood and implanted in the uterus and safely connected to the mother's blood, because the life is in the blood, and the soul is the life.

Ah, I see. You are going to try and taken an extremely wooden reading of Leviticus 17:11. But your argument fails. Life exists where there is no blood. For example, microbes and spiders don't have blood but are alive. And blood can exist where there is no life. For example, a machine can pump blood through a headless body. So it's not the case that blood = ensouled.

And God wouldn't ensoul embryos that He knows will not implant

1. What's your argument that God wouldn't do that? You're making a controversial assertion without giving any argument.

2. Your conclusion, in light of whatever reason you could possibly give for it, is absurd. For instance, we could just assert that God wouldn't ensoul any fetus that results in a miscarriage. Any reason you give for your assertion will also support that assertion. Since the latter is clearly absurd, so is your assertion.

John Howard,

Two further thoughts on the implied argument from Leviticus 17:11 (and parallel passages):

1. Even if we assume the very literally meaning which you have to assume, it doesn't logically follow that the soul is only present when the blood is present. The verse merely says that the life (or soul) is in the blood. But such a statement is logically parallel to observing that a person is in the driver seat. If I say "Jones is in the driver's seat." The negation of that sentence doesn't entail that Jones is not in the car if Jones is not in the driver's seat. In other words, Jones may be in the car (in the passenger seat) and yet not in the driver's seat.

So *if* we take the very literal approach that you have to take, it still isn't sufficient to prove your point. But you might think that is splitting hairs. You might say that while the text does not tell us that the body is only ensouled if there is blood, that is still the most reasonable assumption. After all, if the soul isn't in the blood then where is it? Does it exist in the toe and then move into the blood once the heart starts pumping? But raising that issue exposes another weakness of your implied interpretation:

2. The soul is an immaterial thing. As an immaterial thing it doesn't make sense to say that the soul is literally in the body or in the blood. Thus, reading Leviticus 17:11 literally is problematic.

There is another way to understand the verse that doesn't run into that problem. Namely, we can understand 17:11a ("the life of the flesh is in the blood") to be a synonymous parallel to 17:11b ("it is the blood that makes atonement by the life."). So what does the author mean when he says the life of the flesh is in the blood? He does not mean that the soul somehow inhabits the blood; rather, he means that the blood is how God makes atonement for life. The life is "in" the blood in the sense that it is through blood that God makes atonement for sin and, thus, sustains life.

It's way worse than arbitrary to say ensoulment occurs at fertilization, it contradicts many bible stories and strict principles about the difference between living things and living humans, the distinction being children of Adam and Eve being different from the animals and certainly different from the plants and bacteria and forms of life that didn't even exist until they were discovered a few hundred years ago. And that life is in the blood and not the body is not a wooden reading of Leviticus, it's still relevant to Kosher and Halal meats, Jehovas Witnesses, and it's the basis of the Eucharist and last supper and salvation. The bread is his body, and it is the "bread of life" in that life depends on it for nourishment. The wine is his actual blood, distinct from his body, and it is shed, meaning he dies, for the New Testament.

So not only does bloodshed mean taking a life, but when life is passed on from generation to generation, we say they share bloodlines, not genetic lines, because it is the life that is passed from one generation to the next, not just the genomes.

John Howard,

Your webpage seems very thoughtful, and you've obviously worked through some of this in detail.

However, your concerns demand a sort of non-dualism and even leave the Imago Dei entirely within the reach of evolution, or carbon atoms, or physicalism, or stem cells, and so on. While there are ethical concerns in play in all of that, there are simply no *means* by which *any* version of evolution (Man-guided, God-guided, Un-guided) can build the Imago Dei, the Soul as that which outdistances the merely corporeal, out of, say, carbon, phosphate, covalent bonds, and etc.

The Self as distinct from the genome seems left out of your terminus of explanation altogether and as Christians we may want to be more careful with our terms. Stem cells are simply of no metaphysical concern in this arena.

At all.

David Oderberg and others may be helpful on the metaphysics here within the womb (etc.).

As for the blood and the soul:

Cardiopulmonary bypass is done for many reasons, some of which are in the midst of critical scenarios. If we are going to assign the Soul to any one physical part of a human being like, say, the blood, well then we have to be consistent with that if we mean to run with that as Christians. Just as the critic must also be consistent (or at least try to pretend to be consistent) when making the incoherent assertion that genetic chimerism somehow presents a “problem” for dualism (it doesn’t).

If we take it that the Soul is in the blood, and if we take one’s blood volume (the amount of blood constituting one’s entire blood volume) in the setting of cardiopulmonary bypass (or any massive transfusion setting), we run into several problems.

First of all, not only one blood volume may be replaced, but even two or three entire blood volumes are, at times, replaced during bypass. In fact, even in non-bypass cases, any massive transfusion scenario forces our hand here.

Another nuance is that even a blood type which is not the patient’s own blood type may be used (such as O negative and so on). Another nuance is that several different donors are used to re-blood/re-soul the patient.

We find here blood (Soul) from several donors entirely replacing one’s own blood (Soul) and ensoulment becomes here (if the literal soul is within the literal blood) a great big mess subject to all sorts of inconsistent work-arounds.

This is quite unlike more coherent forms of dualism wherein, say, genetic chimerism (or blood, or changing parts, etc.) isn’t an actual problem as the “Ship of Theseus” is metaphysically immune to changing “physical parts” there in this or that self. Evolution’s reach (any bare naked physicalism etc.) just can’t build the Imago Dei, the Soul, out of carbon atoms, covalent bonds, ionic bonds, potassium, and so on, as the Imago Dei streams from the immaterial (literally).

On the view of blood/soul being presented, we find at the end of the massive transfusion a body with its entire blood volume replaced several times over and from multiple donors. We are left, then, with the bone marrow as the “blood maker” in the body to now have to scavenge from the environment things such as iron, calcium, phosphate (and so on) and go about “re-souling” the body.

But then we must say that the body is Soul-less until the bone marrow re-makes it – a feat not always undertaken right away given the marrow suppressive states seen in critically ill patients (often). Even cancer patients can be, for some time “T”, dependent on transfusions in this way. The body is therein, for some time “T”, either Soul-less or else ensouled by many Non-Self-Souls via the many blood donors filling one’s vascular bed. Even worse, the bone marrow must rely on food and nutrients, carbon atoms, and so on, to re-soul the patient via re-making the patient’s own blood.

That reduces the Imago Dei, the Soul, that which yet lives once the (physical) body dies, per Scripture, to carbon atoms and covalent bonds and…… and…. and… And it leaves us Soul-less (or "Many-Souled") in settings in which we (one’s Self) are alive, awake, and interfacing with other “selves”.

"At bottom" we find no true, thorough going dualism here which can survive the Ship of Theseus' journey as it traverses the ocean in question. One is certainly free to posit such a non-dualistic approach to “Man”, though others are also free to, for Scriptural reasons, at first disagree with such a model, and even reject it outright, first for scriptural reasons, and secondly for metaphysical reasons.

Your comments here have certainly forced me to think harder about my terms. I would offer to you that your concerns about stem cells flow from a kind of physicalist's reductionism where the Self/Soul is concerned, and that we have rigorous Scriptural, logical, and metaphysical lucidity which permit us, as Christians, to rationally reject those concerns.

John Howard,

Off topic, but, for the sake of being complete:

I stated "...there are simply no *means* by which *any* version of evolution (Man-guided, God-guided, Un-guided) can build the Imago Dei, the Soul as that which outdistances the merely corporeal, out of, say, carbon, phosphate, covalent bonds, and etc...."

However, to be complete on the possible version-s (plural) of evolution, causation, and agency, it seems worthwhile here to add a fourth to the list of possible versions of evolution: that of "Final Causes". Given that the perceived evil of "Tooth and Claw", and given that the perceived evil of "Good-Minus-Something" which permeates such models as life strains towards reciprocity, or cooperation, or unicity, or whatever, such may in fact be real (ontological) Evil and therein find the Fall of "the Adamic" to be a fall into a (literal) world (our world) laced through and through with both Good (Final Causes) and Good-Minus-Some-Thing (Evil).

From the ground up. Literally.

Again, that is off topic, and it is a question asked from centuries ago (the "nature" of Eden) and which is still being asked today. Though, of course, it is interesting that all four "versions" of Genesis' "dirt-to-man" find dualism from the get-go as our Ship of Theseus rationally and scientifically (no disagreements with the physical sciences or with reason need arise) traversing the particular ocean in question.

I'm not saying that the soul is physically present in blood, the soul inhabits the body and experiences reality and actually creates reality through the eyes and ears and brain of the body it is in. It's God who sustains our soul/ life until God stops and the soul...well I don't know what happens to our souls when God takes them back.

And God doesn't ensoul every new embryo that is created, God waits until it has a blood connection to the mother which passes life. It might even happen gradually, I don't know. But it happens after the body is created, because it is not part of the body but inhabits it and controls it, to the extent we control our bodies. We didn't control our own embryonic development, and we don't control our heartbeat.

John Howard,

It's way worse than arbitrary to say ensoulment occurs at fertilization, it contradicts many bible stories and strict principles about the difference between living things and living humans

You don't explain why it's arbitrary or what Bible stories and "strict principles" it contradicts. Instead you just assert your conclusions.

And I've already explained why it is NOT arbitrary to say that ensoulment is simultaneous with conception: because this is when a new self-directed human life begins it's rational to think that the soul (the essence of life for humans) comes into existence simultaneously with the new human being. Instead of giving me a response, you simply assert it is wrong.

the distinction being children of Adam and Eve being different from the animals and certainly different from the plants and bacteria and forms of life that didn't even exist until they were discovered a few hundred years ago.

Your comments consistently show a lot of confusion. You've created an elaborate scheme for your position, but apparently you haven't thought through the scaffolding or logic behind it very much.

How does placing the soul "in" the blood make Adam and Eve different from animals that also have blood and souls in the blood as affirmed by your esoteric reading of Leviticus 17:11?

And that life is in the blood and not the body is not a wooden reading of Leviticus, it's still relevant to Kosher and Halal meats, Jehovas Witnesses, and it's the basis of the Eucharist and last supper and salvation.

This is another strange assertion without any supporting argument--or even explanation. How does your idiosyncratic view of the soul being in the blood explain the Kosher principle of not being able to eat rabbits but being able to eat cows?

What the cultic Jehovahs Witness think is hardly relevant to me (though if you are a JW... that would explain some things). Their view makes no sense anyway.

Your idea of life being in the blood explaining the last supper and salvation has no specific merit. There is a focus on blood because it is one of the primary things we need to survive. And recognition of that fact is all that is needed in order to explain the last supper and salvation. We also need to breath to survive and in light of that we see "breath" also being used as a symbol for life (Rev. 11:11). To read into the picture (synechdoche?) of breath of life the idea that the soul is somehow in our lungs would be just as silly as your own attempt to locate the soul in the blood. Both are cases of woodenly over-interpreting a passage.

The wine is his actual blood, distinct from his body, and it is shed, meaning he dies, for the New Testament.

No, the wine is not actually his blood. And your view becomes even more strange as we flesh it out here: by drinking his blood are we drinking Christ's soul? Are we soul-mixing with God?

So not only does bloodshed mean taking a life, but when life is passed on from generation to generation, we say they share bloodlines, not genetic lines, because it is the life that is passed from one generation to the next, not just the genomes.

We talk about "bloodlines" instead of "genetic lines" because the colloquialism was developed prior to our understanding of genetics.

And again as your view is fleshed out we see how odd it becomes. Blood isn't literally passed from one generation to the next. Genetic material is passed from the parents to the child--blood isn't directly passed on (only through genetics) and the baby can have a different blood type from the mother.

I'm not saying that the soul is physically present in blood,

If you concede that the soul isn't physically present in blood then you lose the force of argument from Leviticus 17:11 (and parallel). You're forfeiting a simplistic straightforward reading based on your philosophical understanding of the soul as a non-physically located thing. But if you forfeit already concede that we can't interpret the passage in that woodenly literal way then why should we think the text means anything more than that the blood has symbolic significance for its role in the atonement and it's necessity to embodied life?

And God doesn't ensoul every new embryo that is created, God waits until it has a blood connection to the mother which passes life. It might even happen gradually, I don't know.

It's odd that you're willing to admit you don't know about whether ensoulment is a gradual process, yet you are very confident that God doesn't ensoul every new embryo that is created. And the reasons you've offered for that idea are so poor. You've reasoned that God wouldn't ensoul embryos that will not implant. I pointed out the absurdity of this and you haven't responded. Your only argument that isn't absurd on its face comes from an idiosyncratic reading of Leveticus 17:11, which you've admitted you don't even understand literally because of your philosophical commitment to the soul as an immaterial thing.

Why is it better that life starts at fertilization, as opposed to after implantation? What is gained?

Most forms of life are not ensouled, even if they are alive with blood, which is a higher form of life than being alive like plants. Only us descendants of Adam and Eve are ensouled, not descendants of the animals. So only for humans are life and soul synonymous.

John Howard,

Perhaps the reason many align the time frames of "zygote" and "human" is because we, as Christians, believe that science and theology affirm the same overall metanarrative. Science recognizes a "human" at conception. That in itself does not commit the Christian to demand that en-soul-ation occurs then, but, "natural theology" is perfectly happy to accommodate science.

After all, God invented the zygote and when we look at the adult and the zygote, the lines of differentiating "human" from "bird" are all there both in the zygote and the adult (scientifically speaking). As WL and Brad point out on occasion, there is an unbroken chain of continuity both in biology/science and in theology/metaphysics (and in logic) which coheres quite nicely with placing the term "human" at the juncture of zygote.

Theologically speaking, again, we're not "committed" to that timeline where the Soul is concerned.

However:

If one is a Hylemorphic dualist, the "substances" of "man" are on scene already there in the zygote, though the Cartesian paradigm does? allow the soul to come on scene at some other point.

Perhaps it is the cohesiveness amid [1] science and [2] natural theology and [3] scripture and [4] metaphysical lucidity which finds many of us appealing to "human" at that particular juncture (zygote). As in: That unbroken chain of logical lucidity across all disciplines.

One is free to insist that upon implantation we find the ontological seam wherein the Soul comes on scene, but that seems to run the risk of fracturing the continuity within [1] through [4].

God invented biology too, and hence there's no need to avoid seamlessness -- in fact such convergence is what we (in general) seek as we go about unpacking the nature of reality.

Of course:

Our Non-Theist friends do not have the means to share in that unbroken chain of logical lucidity across all disciplines.

Not in this arena.

The vague, the nebulous, the self-negating, and the arbitrary all come roaring in once the Non-Theist arrives on scene.

At least non theists make rational practical decisions. It's just as important to convince theists that embryos are not ensouled as it is to convince non theists that we shouldn't let males gestate babies. Do you think we should let males gestate babies?

John,

We can possibly convince a subset of Cartesian dualists that a zygote is not ensouled, while we obviously couldn't convince a hylemorphic dualist. It would be interesting to see if that subset of Cartesian dualists counted the zygote as that which, given normal care and feeding (etc.), is not on the singularly human continuum. On the other topic of male gestation, I'm just not interested as it's a change off of this topic so perhaps in another thread. BTW, they are separate topics and so while they can inform each other, solving the question of the soul / zygote does not put the other topic to rest.

So wait, they prove that live begins at conception, but then they're going to destroy the ones that didn't give off enough light? So they're admitting that
1) live begins at conception
2) Since life begins at conception, abortion is then to be categorized as murder
3) By disposing of those that were conceived that didn't give off much light, regardless of the reason for it, they are not only committing murder, but pre-determined murder, for they're already talking about doing it.

The comments to this entry are closed.