Saturday, August 05, 2006

Re: Life and Morality

This is one thing Grandpa John and I agree on: religious faith doesn't play a part in my position on embryonic stem cell research. I became pro-life before I became a Christian.

The one point I most want to leave this debate with is: there's no way to have an objective standard, when it comes to deciding which life is actually life and worth protecting, vs. which isn't and thus can be discarded, experimented upon, etc.

Caveat: I understand some people don't believe human embryos are human beings, and thus don't deserve the same protections. But that brings me back to my question: how do you know?

In the comments to the previous post, Jesusisjustallrightwithme says we should continue experimenting on embryos. His cutoff point is brain development - a being can't be aware of itself until it has a brain.

If we establish that as the standard, someone else will point out that, even after the brain begins to develop, the embryo (fetus, baby) is still not self-aware. So we should move the standard back even further.

On the other hand, Scott asked me why my standard doesn't include individual sperm. On a practical level, that's ridiculous. Millions of sperm are wasted in each and every effort to fertilize an egg (how's that for a euphemism?). Most eggs are also wasted. That's just how nature (or, as JIJARWM would surely say, God) made us. Plus, you try telling a woman she has to try to have a baby with every single egg.

And anyway, a single sperm or egg isn't its own individual person (yes, it's got your DNA, but so does every drop of your blood). An embryo is, with its own DNA.

Still, Scott reinforces my point. where is the line, and why is it drawn there? Unless and until we have conclusive, objective proof that a 3-hour-old embryo is not a human life, we have to treat it as such.

One more thing: what's our record on comments? We had 13 on that post. And with that, I go on vacation.


Scott H said...

Well, my point was to be ridiculous.

It was also to try to make the point that you can extend your "err on the side of caution" argument very far if you want, but you need to draw the line someplace. I wanted to force you to draw an actual line for some reason, which you chose as the joining of DNA.

That is a fine answer for me, but it isn't consistent with birth control pills, in-vitro fertilization, etc. Personally, I don't know where to draw the line, but I don't necessarily see the logic in allowing zygotes and embryos to be destroyed for birth control or invitro-fertilization, but protecting them against limited scientific use.

Where can one logically draw the line?

No unnatural destruction of anything - sperm, eggs, embryos - all are stages of life.

A person begins at the joining of DNA representing a unique person.

A person begins when the embryo implants successfully in the uterus. Until this point it has been like sperm or an egg: a simple reproductive unit unable to exist on its own.

A person begins when the embryo begins to evolve specialized cells and systems resembling adult ones. (Somewhere around 3 weeks).

A person begins at some specified level of complexity. (how to choose when?)

A person begins when the fetus is capable of surviving on its own outside the mother (third trimesterish).

A person begins at birth.

You can argue for any of these with some logic, but obviously the argument at each end (sperm or birth) has serious flaws.

Anonymous said...

"Unless and until we have conclusive, objective proof that a 3-hour-old embryo is not a human life, we have to treat it as such."

Nuh-uh. Even if it is "human" and "alive" it doesn't mean it is a human being. It might as well be a lab rat. We have to treat it as such--for the sake of the children.