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June 06, 2006

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"He says that spurning new technologies can be as harmful as failing to regulate them properly and emphasises that the choice of whether to use this method should be left to the individual.

"Even when the technologies of nuclear transfer, genetic manipulation and stem cells have matured, I am sure that some people will still prefer to put up with the random insults of nature than be subject to human intervention, even if it is based on careful consideration of medical issues rather than whims. But at least they will have a choice and, for me, just having the chance to decide is paramount."

Everyone should read the article. I'm not sure about this myself but opposing it on the basis of the definition of an embryo as a "person" is ideological not philosophical and is itself also a bald-faced assertion.

I get the sense from my readings that those who actually work with embryos are less likely to consider them as persons than those who are more removed. This may be familiarity breeding contempt or their closer contact may be informing them in a way that is denied those who lack hands-on experience.

If embryos are human then IVF should be illegal.

>> That’s why it makes sense to say Ian Wilmut was once an embryo.

Sure. But you can say Ian Wilmut was once an ovum. And Ian Wilmut was once some cheesecake that his mom ate. And Ian Wilmut was once butter (that went in the cheesecake). And Ian Wilmut was once a cow (that made the milk that went into the butter that made the cheesecake that was eaten by the women that made the ovum that became the embryo that became the adult, that we call Ian Wilmut).

Of the vastly long chain of chemical reactions that went in to structuring the carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen that make up Ian Wilmut, who told you that fertilization is the event God cares about and is watching for?

And if I don’t believe in God, or am not sure about which religion is the right one, by whose reference would you use to convince me that personhood OUGHT necessarily start at the creation of totpotent_1?

Tony

"Sure. But you can say Ian Wilmut was once an ovum. And Ian Wilmut was once some cheesecake that his mom ate. And Ian Wilmut was once butter (that went in the cheesecake). And Ian Wilmut was once a cow (that made the milk that went into the butter that made the cheesecake that was eaten by the women that made the ovum that became the embryo that became the adult, that we call Ian Wilmut).

Of the vastly long chain of chemical reactions that went in to structuring the carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen that make up Ian Wilmut, who told you that fertilization is the event God cares about and is watching for?"

What differentiates ferilization from the "long chain..." is that once it occured, all that was necessary for a human being was there and could begin to progress through his development. An embryo is a complete human being. The ingrediants you listed are not.
Alan
"I'm not sure about this myself but opposing it on the basis of the definition of an embryo as a "person" is ideological not philosophical and is itself also a bald-faced assertion."
This is a distinction without a difference, and unlike Prof. Wilmut, Steve gives an argument to support his assertion that an embryo "is an end-directed, integrated human organism."

>> What differentiates ferilization from the "long chain..." is that once it occured, all that was necessary for a human being was there and could begin to progress through his development.

An embryo needs many many more items to become a full adult. Just as an ovum needs many items to become an embryo. One of which, yes, is sperm. But why ought this necessarily be the vital component which you feel obliged to cite as the pivotal delimiter between human and non-human.

How come I can’t simply cite, for example, the successful penetration of the umbilical cord as the pivotal delimiter?

Both of which (sperm and umbilical cords) are needed of course.

"An embryo needs many many more items to become a full adult."
You're right, but not being an adult does not make one not a human being. An embryo needs food and a safe environment, just like a human being outside the womb. You could "cite" whatever you wish, but you need to give reasons why that is a better delimiter than conception. You may not find the arguments given for the characterization of an embryo as a fully human entity compelling, but it is not enough to suggest an alternative and then ask us to refute your alternative. An alternative assertion is not an argument.
As an embryo is growing, (and not crystal,) metabolizing, reactive to his or her environment, etc, it is alive. Since the embryos we are discussing are the product of HUMAN reproduction, they are human, and as they have a unique DNA signature distinct from their parents, they are distinct human beings. Before conception, the sperm, having only the father's DNA was a product of the father's body. The ovum, having only the mother's DNA was a product of the mother's body. Once conception occurs, you have a new, distinct human being. Neither further growth, development, nor relocation to the outside of the womb, nor " the successful penetration of the umbilical cord" make it any more human.
I hope you find this helpful, and even more, I hope you find it compelling. If not, then deal with the arguments offered, don't just dismiss them and offer more assertions without supporting arguments.

The Professor seems to be saying that there is a difference between cloning a person (implying that a person is one who has been at least born) and cloning an embryo for the purpose of "fixing" it up. That is a way of looking at it that I hadn't considered and I believe the professor has a point - one that needs more thought on my part. Steve is wise to come down on the prof as the POV of his approach somewhat undermines the egg + sperm = person approach.

Now we have an element of fairness here. This is a newspaper article written by a reporter not a book or paper written by the prof. to make his point. Coming down on him for a quote seems unfair - read the book seems a better approach. Also the prof could be contacted (or googled) to see if he had expanded on his concepts of personhood elsewhere. I would remind Steve that I had criticized him for somewhat the same thing recently and he replied that he wasn't required to repeat everything every time he wrote - a point I have to admit makes sense.

Philosophy does not equal ideology. If e+s=p is rigidly maintained out of the necessity of maintaining a social construct then we leave philosophy behind. If I do a thought experiment, I can see Steve and Melinda's point on personhood. However if I insert the Prof's idea (repair of the embryo by cloning) it adds an element and perspective that seems to change things.


>> You could "cite" whatever you wish, but you need to give reasons why that is a better delimiter than conception.

I should give a reason as to why I think the creation of the ovum event is a better delimiter than the fertilization event?
Hmm ok. Well what if my reason is that this construct is the construct that will become totipotent_1.

>> As an embryo is growing, (and not crystal,) metabolizing, reactive to his or her environment, etc, it is alive.

This is a nice definition of life. But why ought I accept it? Who told you these four rules?

>> Since the embryos we are discussing are the product of HUMAN reproduction, they are human, and as they have a unique DNA signature distinct from their parents, they are distinct human beings.

That doesn’t matter – cuz you consider identical twins human too and their signature is not unique.

>> Once conception occurs, you have a new, distinct human being. Neither further growth, development, nor relocation to the outside of the womb, nor " the successful penetration of the umbilical cord" make it any more human.

Note that you are just simply and merely stating your opinion. How is it that you have come upon this knowledge of exactly which constructs of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen are human? How come the constructs I cited are not right and your constructs are?

"This is a nice definition of life. But why ought I accept it? Who told you these four rules?"
These are atributes shared by most living things (except maybe plants,) but not by non-living things. Your question is a fair one, but do you have any real doubt about the validity of this definition? BTW, I got these rules from Gregs teachings on abortion.
"That doesn’t matter – cuz you consider identical twins human too and their signature is not unique." This is true, but the twins genetic identity is still distinct from their parents.

"Note that you are just simply and merely stating your opinion. How is it that you have come upon this knowledge of exactly which constructs of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen are human? How come the constructs I cited are not right and your constructs are?" If you refer back to the argument from DNA/ genetic identity, if that is not what identifies us as human, then what else is needed? If remains are found somewhere and one does scientific testing to determine the nature of them, what does one look for? Usually DNA is tested to determine the identity. At what stage of development does this occur?

Daniel,

>> These are atributes shared by most living things (except maybe plants,) but not by non-living things. Your question is a fair one, but do you have any real doubt about the validity of this definition?

The definition is a categorization exercise in circling and arranging some things in the cosmos for some purpose. No more or less. So arguing that the circle of matter that I call life is in fact not life, is the same as arguing over whether or not Pluto is a planet or a rock. It’s just an appeal to convention. There is no lifeness contained in any given blob of matter. See vitalism.

>> BTW, I got these rules from Gregs teachings on abortion.

Uhmm ya. And where did Greg get them?

>> twins genetic identity is still distinct from their parents.

Why?

>> If you refer back to the argument from DNA/ genetic identity, if that is not what identifies us as human, then what else is needed?

Well keep in mind that Watson and Crick published their paper in 53. And people were categorizing way before that. All a DNA analysis can give you is a string of AGTC. You can sample every string of every creature on the planet and put them on a big poster and say, “see, these strings over here are kind of like my string, so I will call these creatures human and myself human too.” Division by dna is entirely dependent on the tolerance threshold you elect to use when dividing strings.

Again just a chosen number – usually in the name if utility or relative difference to neighboring blobs.


"So arguing that the circle of matter that I call life is in fact not life, is the same as arguing over whether or not Pluto is a planet or a rock. It’s just an appeal to convention."

Now its my turn. How do you know this? And by the way, while Pluto can be a planet and a rock at the same time, that which is life cannot be not life at the same time. And if all we are are "neighboring blobs," why do you feel it necessary to comment on this blog? I would argue, that you and I are so much more.

Daniel,

>> "So arguing that the circle of matter that I call life is in fact not life, is the same as arguing over whether or not Pluto is a planet or a rock. It’s just an appeal to convention."
>> How do you know this?

How do I know if Pluto is a planet or a rock? I don’t know the answer to this question. There is no planetness nor rockness in the matter that makes up Pluto. Its just a circle of the universe that we find interesting. So we give it a name and label it. Same with life.

>>that which is life cannot be not life at the same time.

Your statement is simply espousing a belief in vitalism. But why do you think vitalism is true?

>> And if all we are are "neighboring blobs," why do you feel it necessary to comment on this blog?

Cuz its fun of course!

>> I would argue, that you and I are so much more.

Sure – let us assume that all parties involve agree with the statement, “humans are valuable and ought not be experimented upon”

All we have to do now is figure out who among us holds the schematic which tells us exactly which constructs of C N O H are human. If, for example, we were all the same religion, and this religion had a book written by God, and in this book was the definition of humanness, well then it would be easy to identify the starting line of humanness.

But no such luck…

Tony,
>> "So arguing that the circle of matter that I call life is in fact not life, is the same as arguing over whether or not Pluto is a planet or a rock. It’s just an appeal to convention."
>> How do you know this?

"How do I know if Pluto is a planet or a rock?"


Sorry, my question was too vague. I meant "It’s just an appeal to convention" when I asked how you know.
As for may statement about life and non life, I was merely stating the law of contradiction (or noncontradiction) that A cannot be not A at the same time in the same sense, shereas Pluto can be a rock and a planet at the same time.

While my motives for arguing this issue are based on an worldview informed by my convictions, it has been my understanding that scientific study of genetics has enabled us to differentiate between beings based on DNA signatures. We can see if a sample of genetic material comes from a human being, and if we have refernce samples to compare, we can differntiate identify the individual the genetic material came from, and differentiate between that individual and his or her parents and siblings. My arguments have been from the point of view that all of this genetic material is present as of the moment of conception. My religious convictions inform my view of how one ought to treat such a member of the human race. One ought not to intentionally take the life of an innocent human being for the purposes of experimentation, or for the reasons given for most abortions, for that matter.
BTW, if my view of the "book written by God" is true, we don't all have to belong to the same religion for that book to be true. The book contains the truth (that which corresponds the the way the world actually is) independent of whether anyone believes it.

Daniel,

>> Sorry, my question was too vague. I meant "It’s just an appeal to convention" when I asked how you know.

If it’s not an appeal to convention you have to argue that one of the properties of the cosmos is the existence of natural categories. i.e. even if the earth blew up tomorrow, a cheesecake would still have a platonic referent.

>> As for may statement about life and non life, I was merely stating the law of contradiction (or noncontradiction) that A cannot be not A at the same time in the same sense, shereas Pluto can be a rock and a planet at the same time.

Why don’t you just say, “what I call life is construct x and what you call life is construct y, and x and y are different so your definition is wrong and mine is right.”

>> We can see if a sample of genetic material comes from a human being

Of the following chart of samples of DNA, can you tell me which ones are the human beings you speak of?

http://www.gregiswrong.com/site-gregiswrong/sandwich_board/chart.gif


>> My arguments have been from the point of view that all of this genetic material is present as of the moment of conception.

Conception is not a necessary event
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parthenogenesis


>> BTW, if my view of the "book written by God" is true, we don't all have to belong to the same religion for that book to be true.

Oh yes the bible may indeed be written by God. But if your opponent doesn’t think it is than citing it to identify the starting line of human-ness is worthless. You must first convince him that his religion is a lie and your religion is true. The abortion issue comes down to arguing which god is the right one and what is God’s opinion about when human-ness starts.

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