Wednesday, August 31. 2011
That is the name of a conference on IVF to take place in London in November. Reading through the line up of speakers is horrifying. Consider some of the questions being asked and discussed. On the embryo's "out of body experience" which means its life in a dish, conference attenders can ponder the following:
Lab desiccator used by IVF pioneer Robert Edwards to culture embryos. (Bourne Hall Clinic archives)
After lunch attendees will learn about the long term affects of being conceived in a dish instead of a womb. The "Growing Concern?" segment will address the epigenetic changes of the children of IVF:
Congenital disease including marked learning difficulties? Where is the outrage that these questions are being asked AFTER millions of embryos have been created and not BEFORE. It reminds me of a quote from Veronica Thomas, writer of the blog Children Have Rights - Say No to Repro Tech:
Scientists suspect that embryos that have developed in petri dishes are slightly different in some ways from embryos that develop in the womb, but they are still working out the specifics. They have some indications that IVF embryos are more likely to have certain genetic diseases and developmental problems. but they still need more data.... In other words, if you're an IVF child, then you are a walking human experiment. Scientists are waiting to see what will happen to you as you get older, so that they can complete their data collections on the effects of IVF on people. Sounds really ethical, doesn't it?It is not just the questions about the long term health of IVF children that are disturbing. There is a recent story of an IVF clinic that "lost" a couple's embryos and likely implanted them into the wrong woman. Now the couple wants to know what happened to their embryos which may mean genetically testing all of the children born through that IVF clinic. Add in that the majority of embryos are damaged in the freezing process and a quarter do not survive at all, I think it is very obvious that "The Best Possible Start in Life" occurs in the womb and not in an IVF lab.
Tuesday, August 30. 2011
In a time where religion is often portrayed as an enemy of truth, it is nice to be reminded that in Nazi Germany, it was not the newspapers or universities that had the courage to stand against Hitler. Instead, it was the Church. From Time magazine December 23, 1940, Albert Einstein speaks about the Church's resistance in Nazi Germany:
The Church today still stands for intellectual truth and moral freedom. Although the propaganda that surrounds us says otherwise. But it is the Church that speaks for the human embryo that is frozen, sold, discarded or torn apart for harvestable biological material. It is the Church that reminds us that we all began our lives as small as the period at the end of this sentence and our size does not diminish our worth. It is the Church that stands firm against the creation and manipulation of human life in the laboratory. It is the Church that speaks out against the seek-and-destroy mission going on in the womb against those that are not deemed "genetically fit." The truth is that when the Church stands for the embryo and fetus, it stands for the inherent dignity in every human life regardless of DNA or point of development.
The Nazi's dehumanized the Jews and other "undesirables" and the Church stood for them, however imperfectly. Now the Church is nearly alone in standing for the youngest and most voiceless members of our species. Those that many have gone to great lengths to insist are not human. We know better. I pray that those who despise the Church today will see in the future what the Church has done to protect the most vulnerable and innocent of lives and will praise it unreservedly as Einstein did.
Sunday, August 28. 2011
The Transhumanism Trap is out there. I am seeing it more and more often.
If you do not know what transhumanism is let alone know that it has a logical trap into which the average person is likely to fall, don't worry. Most people don't. Transhumanism is a movement that wants to use technology to go beyond curing or preventing disease or disability. Transhumanists hunger for technology that will take an otherwise healthy individual and enhance him or her beyond normal human ability. Transhumanism seeks not just to cure disease but to change the very nature of man. To make him more than human, even immortal, with whatever means are available, whether it is with nanotechnology, artificial limbs, artificial intelligence, or genetic enhancement. Transhumanism is a insidious philosophy because it rejects the nature of humanity and our natural limitations. Rejecting the nature of man, it also rejects the inherent dignity of every human person in the process. In their imagined technological utopia, transhumanists often turn a blind eye to the medical realities of enhancement, genetic, pharmaceutical or otherwise and the possibility that without proper ethical guidance we may no longer control technology. Instead it may control us. You may think that transhumanism is just a fringe ideology but they have journals, societies and even conferences.
Anyone who has seen any science fiction film like "Surrogates," "Limitless,"or "Splice" has seen transhumanism in action. What begins as science enhancing humans with artificial bodies, brain-boosting drugs or genetic engineering, becomes a nightmare where man is beholden to the technology he creates. In "Surrogates," technology that was meant to help the handicapped is used by the able-bodied and eventually everyone uses a robotic surrogate to go about their daily business. People no longer interact face to face, but through their synthetic double. Even husband and wife living in the same house need their surrogates to relate to each other. In "Limitless," Eddie takes a drug that enhances his mental capabilities. He finds out that not only is he addicted, but withdrawal may kill him and he spends the rest of the movie trying to get more. In "Splice," scientists mix human with animal DNA and create a mostly human, part animal organism capable of mating with humans. It does not end well.
So what is the Transhumanist Trap? It is the blurring of the line, intentional or otherwise, between therapy and enhancement. Therapy is aimed at curing or preventing disease or disability and returning a patient to a more normal state. Enhancement takes an otherwise healthy individual and makes them more than human in intelligence, strength or other desired characteristic. An example would be artificial limbs. In therapy, an artificial limb would be for a patient who is missing a limb. In enhancement, a perfectly good limb would be chopped off and replaced with an artificial one that functions better than the natural ever could. Therapy and enhancement may employ the same technology, but are two fundamentally different processes.
And there in lies the trap. Transhumanists will insist that therapy is transhumanism because technology is involved. They argue if we embrace the use of technology for therapy, we automatically embrace transhumanist ideals as well. In any article that denounces transhumanism, even on this very blog, there is always a comment suggesting that rejecting transhumanism means rejecting the good use of technology for healing. Here is one example. On a post by Joseph Farrah on the dangers of transhumanism at World Net Daily, a commenter wrote the following:
Sounds good right? Now the trap is set. The average reader immediately takes the transhumanist side and says to themselves, "Well I am certainly not against defibrillators, or heart valves or hip replacements. This transhumanist thing must not be so bad." Trap sprung.
The transhumanist always presents the scenario that in accepting medical progress for treating disease or disability, one must also accept technology to enhance man beyond what can be accomplished by nature. Opposing transhumanism means "opposing medical and scientific progress." That is the Transhumanist Trap: therapy equals enhancement and with one comes the other. Rejecting enhancement means taking away Grandma's hip and Grandpa's defibrillator and only the angry, hate-filled Luddites of the world would want that.
In reality, technologies like genetic engineering, artificial limbs and pharmacology are not all or nothing. We can make the decision to limit technology for therapeutic uses only. Grandma can have her hip replacement and Grandpa can have his defibrillator without embracing a world where every human, not just ones in a deadly accident, has to become the Six Million Dollar Man. The Church draws a clear and convincing line between therapy and enhancement. That which brings man back to natural functioning is good. That which goes beyond therapy to reject the nature God gave is us bad.
The only way to fight the logical fallacy of the Transhumanist Trap is to explain the difference between therapy and enhancement. Every time you see the trap being set in a com box, point it out. It becomes very obvious, very quickly, that the transhumanist philosophy has very little to do with healing. Think about it. If technology was limited to therapy in the movies, there would be no plot in Surrogates, or Splice or Limitless. Hollywood seems to get it. It is time for the real world to take a note.
Friday, August 26. 2011
Discussing cloning in animals is easy. No one seems to have a problem accurately describing the process of cloning, somatic cell nuclear transfer or SCNT, for a sheep or a cow. (SCNT is the process used to create Dolly the sheep. In SCNT, the nucleus of an egg is removed. The egg's nucleus is replaced with a nucleus of a somatic cell, like a skin cell, from an adult organism. The egg with a new set of DNA is zapped into thinking it has been fertilized and a cloned embryo is formed.) In fact, I have never seen a cloning account for an animal that wasn't accurate. For example, this description by Popular Science on plans to use SCNT with eggs from spayed domestic cats to clone the endangered Scottish wildcat. This account of SCNT clearly states that it would produce a wildcat embryo:
For the rest of the animal kingdom, SCNT is a no-brainer. Egg + somatic cell nucleus = cloned embryo. But no so for humans. In humans, many people argue that SCNT is an entirely different process. In humans, it does not create a cloned embryo like in animals. Instead SCNT in humans only makes "a clump of cells." For example, in Minnesota Medicine, an M.D. and a Ph.D. do a real snow job. They write this about SCNT:
SCNT is a laboratory technique that involves the transfer of a cell nucleus from a somatic cell into an enucleated egg (one from which the nucleus has been removed). The technique produces a formless group of cells that is smaller than the cross-section of a human hair.
So SCNT in animals: egg + somatic nucleus = cloned embryo. Got it. But for humans: egg + somatic nucleus = formless group of cells that is smaller than the cross-section of a human hair. Don't got it.
In the cloning advocates eyes, pretending that SCNT doesn't make cloned embryos means problem solved. Create and destroy human life by pretending no human life is created and destroyed. Except we know they are being disingenuous. And there are a handful of scientists who are brave enough to say so as well. Like James Thomson, embryonic stem cell pioneer, who said the following when asked if SCNT only could make cells and not babies:
The paradox is astounding. The same people who say that SCNT does not created embryos in humans would likely also say that humans are just animals. Then why doesn't the animal description of SCNT apply to humans? Maybe because they also know, but will not admit, that cloning human embryos is morally problematic. It is what cloning advocates don't say about SCNT in humans that speaks the loudest.
Thursday, August 25. 2011
Behind the bar at the Turf
In my junior year of college, I took sometime off from my chemistry studies and went to Oxford University to study English literature, philosophy and Latin. To pay my way, I poured pints at The Turf Tavern. The Turf's motto is "Find us if you can!" because it is a pub nestled right outside the old city walls with only two small alleyways that lead to it. It was purposefully hidden due to the illegal activity like drinking and gambling that would take place there over the centuries. The Turf is an old pub, possibly the oldest in Oxford, dating all the way back to the 13th century.
What does my beloved Turf Tavern have to do with the engineering of humans? Well, if there was one thing I learned working at the Turf was that people back in the 13th century were short. And they were small. The Turf Tavern is notorious for its low ceilings. Trying to squeeze my average size 12 backside up the stairwell while simultaneously ducking, each time I had to go speak to my manager, (his name was Biff Clifford - no joke) I realized how much bigger humans are today. It made me ponder how much bigger we will get in the next 500 years.
Turf's low ceilings
Fast forward to modern day, and I am married to a man who is 6'7" and weighs around 325. He is a giant that wears size 16 shoes. I would take him back to the Turf Tavern for a visit, (if his scary long legs would fit in a coach airplane seat) but he would not be able to stand up straight in there. Because my husband is such a large man, we make different choices. Our furniture does not come from Ikea. No pressboard for us, only real wood. Our cars do not get good gas mileage. Watching him try to squeeze into anything other than a Suburban is a pretty entertaining sight. And do not even get me started on the laundry. A few of his items, and the washer is full. My four children will be giants as well. At 5'4" I will be the shortest and smallest by far.
Which brings me to the human engineering. I found this MIT review called "The Shrinkage Solution." It is about a decades old proposal that we should consider engineering humans to be smaller. In 1967, at the same time the Western world was fearful of overpopulation, civil engineers Robert Hansen and Myle Holley suggested that we use technology to make people shrink with the idea that smaller people consume less and take up less space. Hansen and Holley wrote:
This may seems like a ludicrous idea. But remember at the time this was written the West was panicked about overpopulation. The Population Bomb, a book by Paul Ehlrich that warned of food shortages as early as the 1970s, came out in 1968. As reported by Mara Hvistendahl in her book Unnatural Selection, western population control advocates, the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, Planned Parenthood, the guy who made Dixie cups and even Disney poured money and propaganda into Asia convincing them that they needed to control their population or their children would suffer and the world would starve. Some also argued that it was morally acceptable to abort their girls to achieve population goals. Now Asia is faced with not only an aging population, but one where there is a dearth of women.
Why should we care about a decades old proposal to engineer humans to be smaller? It is a warning. Then it was overpopulation, now it is "climate change." True believers that humans are destroying the planet will suggest anything to "save the environment." From a global one-child policy, to volunteer extinction, to a virus that wipes out 90% of the human population, draconian ideas to control the virus of humanity lurk everywhere. Be mindful that the environmental movement of today hides a real hatred for humanity and may embrace all kinds of craziness to rid the planet of our over consumption. Evidenced by the MIT reviewer ending his piece with Hansen and Holley's question:
It is not lost on me that it would be my family that would be the most worthy of "study."
Wednesday, August 24. 2011
But apparently Dr. Robert Blake, and many other people nowadays, do not understand the difference. Blake recently wrote an opinion letter insisting that science does not know when human life begins. The fact that a new genetically distinct organism identifiable by his or her own unique DNA is created at fertilization is not important. Blake argues that same DNA is in every cell in our body and so the cell created at fertilization, the zygote, is no different than say a skin cell. They totally ignore the fact that a skin cell is just a cell and a zygote is an organism that self directs toward more mature stages like embryo, fetus, baby, child and so on. A skin cell will never do that on its own. I have heard the argument more and more that fertilization is not the beginning of a new human being because an embryo is no different than any cell or group of cells in our body. I marvel at the rationalization required to come that conclusion. For example, Blake writes that a transplanted kidney that lives on past the donor does not mean that a person is still alive:
Of course not. A kidney is not an organism. But an embryo is. An embryo, even though it is only a small group of cells, can and will self direct into a fetus, then a crying infant. A kidney will not. In other words, when you place an embryo in a womb, you will likely get out, 9 months later, a red-faced, pointy-head newborn. If you implant a kidney in a womb, 9 months later all you will have a misplaced kidney. It seems like such an easy distinction to make, but unfortunately when people go to such great lengths to rationalize away the humanity of the embryo, logic is difficult to come by.
Hat Tip: Jivin J
Many of my readers already know Nick Vujicic. Nick was born without arms or legs and has dedicated his life to spreading the Good News. His accomplishments are numerous including starting his own non-profit foundation, Life Without Limbs and starring with Eduardo Verastegui (of Bella fame) in The Butterfly Circus.
Imagine my surprise when I found Nick covering my favorite artist Tyrone Wells. "More" is itself an inspirational song, but it transcends with Nick and his story, becoming an anthem for the Culture of Life. Check it out:
Tyrone is an amazing musician in his own right. If you ever have the chance to see him live, do it. You won't regret it! Here is Tyrone's version of "More."
Monday, August 22. 2011
Eugenics is a movement of the early 20th century that tried to create a better human race by preventing the birth of those deemed "unfit." Eugenics literally means "good birth" and it seeks to "improve" the human gene pool. The eugenics movement of the early 20th century was championed by advocates and intellectuals like Margaret Sanger, H. G. Wells, Theodore Roosevelt, and George Bernard Shaw. They believed that encouraging those with desirable traits to reproduce and preventing those with "undesirable" traits from having children was the key to making sure the human race was always improving. Eugenics assumes that the individual is nothing more than what is encoded in their genes. The American Eugenics movement resulted in the forced sterilization of over 60,000 Americans in 33 states.
But eugenics did not stop there. Adolf Hitler was a huge fan of eugenics and brought it to its natural conclusion: the Holocaust of World War II where millions of the "genetically unfit" were exterminated in an effort to create a master race. Those considered unfit were not just Jews, but the also the criminal, weak, feeble-minded, insane, and disabled. Before the war, American eugenicists openly supported Germany's program and American research institutions financially supported Hitler's eugenic experiments. Some who visited Germany were excited about how the eugenics movement was spreading there. After returning from a visit to Germany, one American eugenicist wrote to another:
"You will be interested to know, that your work has played a powerful part in shaping the opinions of the group of intellectuals who are behind Hitler in this epoch-making program. Everywhere I sensed that their opinions have been tremendously stimulated by American thought.…I want you, my dear friend, to carry this thought with you for the rest of your life, that you have really jolted into action a great government of 60 million people."
Eugenics is back, but now instead of taking place in concentration camps, it is taking place in IVF clinics and abortion clinics all across the globe. PGD and eugenic abortion are systematically ending the lives of millions who are view by their parents as "genetically unfit." Whether it is because they have an extra chromosome or they are the wrong sex, embryos and fetuses everywhere are being destroyed because their genetic make up is not what is desired. In many countries the rate of abortion for fetuses with Down Syndrome is over 90%. This is clear indication that eugenics is back in full force but this time it is the youngest members of our species that are the victims.
Our society has somehow rationalized our eugenics as something other than it is. Often PGD and eugenics abortion are presented as the compassionate alternative to bringing a genetically defective child into the world. Parents are told that it would be cruel to continue their child's life because the child will undoubtedly suffer. What well-meaning parents do not realize is that Hitler used the same argument for his extermination of genetically defective children. Hitler praised the ancient Spartan practice of disposing of any weak or deformed babies as the compassionate way to deal with them:
The exposure of the sick, weak, deformed children, in short, their destruction, was more decent and in truth a thousand times more humane than the wretched insanity of our day which preserves the most pathological subject, and indeed at any price, and yet takes the life of a hundred thousand healthy children in consequence of birth control or through abortions, in order subsequently to breed a race of degenerates burdened with illnesses.
Killing embryos and fetuses with disease does not elevate their status or prove how compassionate we are. It instead screams that these lives were better off dead than diseased. As uncomfortable as it is to hear, that was also Hitler's approach and we all know how that ended. The proper way to treat disease is to treat the disease, not to get rid of the patient. But we have somehow fallen into the same eugenics trap of last century. Of this I am certain. It only takes a look at eugenics past and present.
"The feeble-minded person is not desirable, he is a social encumbrance, often a burden to himself. In short it were better for him and for society had he never been born. Should we not then, in our attempt to improve the race, begin by preventing the birth of more feeble-minded?"
Thursday, August 18. 2011
Potential is a great adjective meaning "existing in possibility." It is useful for describing nouns such as "opportunity", "benefit" or "risk." But it is not an adjective that can be used in the biological sense with the noun "life." Unfortunately, it is used exactly in that manner. We have all heard that a human embryo not human life, only "potential" human life. But in biology there is only life or non-life. Either an organism is living or non-living. There is no "potential" life. So an living human embryo is human life, period. I found this great quote from Dr. C. Ward Kischer, emeritus professor of Human Embryology at the University of Arizona, that explains:
No human embryologist has ever, nor would ever, use the word potential describing human life or even "life." In fact, "potential" human life does not exist. All matter in the universe is classified as either living or non-living. One does not convert to the other. All that are living are either alive or dead. Those that are alive eventually become dead; once dead they cannot revert to living. There is no "potential" when referring to biological life!
Tuesday, August 16. 2011
There is a lot of buzz lately about "selective reduction." Ever since the New York Times published "Two-Minus-One Pregnancy" about aborting one twin for parents who only want one baby at a time, born triplets, twins and singletons alike stand horrified. Like so many unethical practices that slide down a very slippery slope, "selective reduction" was never intended to be used to kill a twin. It began as a response to the multiple pregnancies created by the fertility industry in their attempt to boost success rates. They would implant 3, 4, 5, even 12 embryos (in the case of Nadya Suleman) in hopes that one would take. When more than the desired fetuses resulted, doctors would recommend eliminating some to make the pregnancy more manageable.
The selective killing of multiples is a gruesome process described in an article by The Washington Post from 2007. "Selective reduction" is a euphemistic term referring to the aborting of multiple fetuses to reduce a pregnancy down to twins or even a single fetus. It involves injecting the unlucky fetus chosen to be eliminated with potassium chloride, the same chemical used in the death penalty, to stop the heart. The Washington Post story describes the procedure where two different fetuses, conceived with IVF, C and D, are selectively aborted by Dr. Mark Evans, a pioneer in selective reduction:
No one knows how pervasive selective reduction is in the IVF industry because practitioners are reluctant to discuss much less report the procedure. What started as a procedure to "reduce" the number of fetuses resulting from over zealous fertility treatments has become more commonplace for naturally conceived multiples. At first Evans would never have reduced either naturally conceived or IVF twins to a single fetus. The New York Times article quotes his as saying that reducing twins “crosses the line between doing a procedure for a medical indication versus one for a social indication.” But now his ethics have changed as the procedure becomes more common:
Evans also originally would not "reduce" for sex selection and now will do so to provide the parents with "the Holy Grail of the modern two-child family: one boy and one girl." A National Post article from 2010 also profiles Dr. Evan's selective killing of twins. A counselor speaks of the practice:
When do children become a commodity? They already have. It happened we bought the lie that a fetus was no more than a "clump of tissue" that was part of a women's body instead of a distinct human being onto itself. It happened when we began creating life outside the body. Life that is marginalized, bought, sold, frozen and handed over to be destroyed in research. Now it is life that maybe selected for elimination in the womb. Selective reduction is the fruit of the rejection of the Catholic Church teaching on procreation and the sanctity of life. Ever since Roe vs. Wade, unborn life is always in peril but now one twin maybe marked for destruction. Twins used to be a blessing, now they are endangered.
Monday, August 15. 2011
The Catholic Church's stance on reproductive technologies is wildly unpopular. I think it is for two reasons. The first is that the U.S. Supreme Court has made up a constitutional right that is not actually in the U.S. Constitution, the "reproductive right." It is the idea that not only do we have the ultimate right to destroy our offspring in the womb if we don't want them, but we also can create genetic offspring anyway we see fit. Even if it means putting those offspring at greater risk of birth defects, being implanted in the wrong uterus, being destroyed by embryonic stem cell researchers or dying in the deep freeze. The idea of "reproductive rights" has spread all over the world.
The second is that the members of our Church have not done a great job explaining why creating life outside the body, outside the martial union, is so unethical. The Church is not against infertile couples having babies, it is simply acknowledging the fact that the best, safest and most loving place to begin our lives is in our mother's womb. The minute life is created outside the body it becomes an object, a product of technical intervention and in many places the property of the parents. The Church's focus is on the resulting child and their well-being and not on the desires of the parents. William E. May said it beautifully:
A recent story about "selective reduction" illustrates the wisdom of the Church's teaching on technologies like IVF. Many people do not realize that abortion and IVF go hand in hand. To boost success rates, IVF practitioners implant more embryos than the couple wants babies in the hopes that at least one will take. When more embryos than are desired implant, doctors "reduce" the pregnancy down to the desired number of fetuses. "Reduce" is a euphemism for killing the unlucky fetuses with a shot of potassium chloride. It used to be that doctors would only "reduce" triplets or above, but now have taken to "reducing" twins down to a single fetus. One such story of reduction was recently in the New York Times. Jenny discusses why she is killing one of her IVF twins:
Jenny has articulated Church teaching on procreation and she doesn't even know it. There is a natural order to things and when that is bypassed and life is created in an artificial manner, it is easy to rationalize the killing of an innocent life down to a simple matter of "control." Just like William E. May (and the Church) said it would.
Hat Tip: Jivin J
Saturday, August 13. 2011
No longer just an embryo, but a boy or girl. Photo: Westside Pregnancy Clinic
No longer just an embryo, but a boy or girl.
Photo: Westside Pregnancy Clinic
At the news, there was a collective groan from both sides of the abortion debate. Prolifers and prochoicers alike realize that this test will make sex selective abortions much easier. I am encouraged to see that both sides realize that this is bad. But as usual many people, whether they realize it or not, lay the blame for the sex selective abortion on the test and not on the abortion.
My readers know that I will not do that. Is there something inherently wrong with using a non-invasive test to find out the sex of your baby at 7 weeks? Of course not. (Unless you are getting the test with the intent to abort.) There is nothing wrong with being curious about the life you have growing inside you. In fact this test allows what was once called an "embryo" to now be called a "boy" or "girl." It further humanizes what has previously been dehumanized. I believe the sooner we can relate to the life growing inside the womb the better. I will be radical and say that because they inherently show us that the life inside the womb is indeed a human being with a distinct genetic make-up, such early prenatal tests may prevent more abortions than they "cause."
It is the abortion that kills, not the testing. Many would like to limit access to early prenatal testing. I understand that as a practical way to protect life in the womb in world where there is abortion on demand and begrudgingly support that. But I cannot shout it from the roof tops enough: the problem is the abortion not the testing. I feel blaming the test for sex selective abortion is somewhat like a white flag. As if unconsciously we are acknowledging that abortion is a permanent fixture in our society so the only way to fight it is to label other things that may lead a woman to abort as the problem.
I will not do so. I may stand alone but I lay the blame for sex selective abortion on the abortion. Abortion is the procedure that kills. It is the abortion that taints every prenatal test from ultrasound to amniocenteses and now this early blood test.
Imagine a world without abortion. In such a world we would be rejoicing about technology that lets us peek inside and find out more about the boy or girl (no longer just an "embryo") in the womb without putting their life at risk. I refuse to the raise the white flag and will say that the only way to ensure that sex selective or eugenic abortions do not take place is not to point a finger at prenatal testing, but to get rid of the evil that is abortion.
Thursday, August 11. 2011
Voting is now open for the Catholic New Media Awards. Surprisingly, Mary Meets Dolly is in a few categories! So thank-you to those who nominated me. Vote now for your favorite blogs and podcasts!!!
Fiction is as instructive as non-fiction, maybe even more so. The best fiction catches us up in a world outside our own all the while teaching us truths about ourselves and humanity. The pleasure of reading a great story cements those truths into the deepest corners of our mind. Dean Koontz has been quietly reeducating the masses for years. Now there is Brian J. Gail and his trilogy Fatherless, Motherless, and Childless. I have just finished Fatherless and Motherless and am eagerly awaiting the release of Childless scheduled for this fall.
Brian J. Gail's trilogy is uniquely Catholic taking on the American sacred cows of contraception in Fatherless and IVF and embryo destructive research in Motherless. Through Father John Sweeney, the reader discovers the destructive nature of the Pill, the evils of creating life in a dish and the transhumanist underpinnings of embryonic stem cell research. The characters are real Catholics faced with real problems. True to life, Gail's characters make their decisions in the face of life's dilemmas and their choices reverberate through their spiritual lives. Gail is clearly a business man with many passages in both novels taking place in New York board rooms. I admit I sometimes felt lost amongst the business speak, but Gail depicts a reality: that many of our current moral conundrums originated with decisions made by powerful businessmen willing to obscure the truth to maximize profits.
Fatherless and Motherless go beyond the obvious and address issues that lay hidden in the background. One is the lack of leadership from our priests and bishops. Gail is courageous to write about what many Catholics feel but are afraid to articulate: we are hungry for guidance but many of our religious lack the courage to tell us the truth and lead us to spiritual food and water. I feel this acutely when I am invited to speak at a parish on genetic engineering or genetic testing or cloning and the priest does not attend. Attendees are always shocked about how much they did not know about topics they thought they understood. They nearly always lament, "Too bad Father wasn't here for this." In fact, of the dozens of presentations that I have given, only 2 priests have attended. One busted in halfway through and then, when it was over, proceeded to scold me about all the things I didn't discuss. The first time I offered to give a presentation on stem cell research during the height of the stem cell debates, one pastor quickly interrupted me and said, "Well I am no theologian, go talk to Father C." I went to Father C. He looked at me like I had a third eye growing out of my forehead and, like a hot potato, passed me off to the parish education coordinator. She told me to talk to the Knights of Columbus.
I believe there is something for every Catholic in Gail's trilogy, well unless you are a Cafeteria Catholic. Then you will find Fatherless and Motherless a scathing indictment of either your ignorance or your arrogance depending on what ails you. Childless will probably deliver a similar smackdown. I can't wait!
Until then, I found this video of Gail speaking in London at Westminster. I couldn't stop watching. He is a fantastic orator as well as author.
Wednesday, August 10. 2011
I love the Fixx's "One Thing Leads to Another." I found the video, with the white-lab coat doctor/scientist looking into his microscope, mildly prophetic. (I apologize in advance for the inappropriate Adidas ad that may proceed.)
Sometimes we can learn something from rock. (Mostly classic rock, because music nowadays is only about clubbing and hooking up, even from mothers who should have left that life behind once the pregnancy test was positive.) I digress. LifeNews reported that statistics from the UK show that for every 1 adoption there were 2,235 abortions. In the United States, Planned Parenthood has 1 adoption referral for every 333 abortions.
Add the lack of babies to adopt to the fact that couples are starting families later in life and you get a booming fertility industry that has created half a million frozen embryos waiting to continue their lives. That has fueled both embryo destructive research and the push for cloning. This in turn creates a market for human eggs that puts young women's health and lives at risk.
The lack of babies for adoption has also fed market in international surrogacy where rich Western couples rent a womb from a poor woman, usually in India. Never mind that many of these surrogates are kept under lock and key and forced to give birth by C-section.
A lack of babies for adoption also means there is a market for babies as well as wombs. Which leads to the selling of infants to unsuspecting couples. One San Diego lawyer just plead guilty to trafficking in babies. Theresa Erickson, a surrogacy lawyer and self-proclaimed "guide to IVF and third party family building," has been busted for paying women to travel to the Ukraine, become impregnated with IVF embryos and then come back to the United States and pretend they have a baby they want to give up for adoption. From the LA Times:
One thing certainly does lead to another. Just like sex-selective abortion creates a lack of women which then in turn makes women a valuable commodity to be bought and sold, abortion creates a lack of babies and turns them into commodities instead of the the God given gifts that they are. The Fixx? (Sorry I couldn't resist.) Stop aborting babies and put them up for adoption! Obviously there are couples out there willing to open their homes to new life and shouldn't have to pay $100,000 to a shady "reproductive rights" lawyer do it.
Monday, August 8. 2011
Just when I think I have seen every possible way a pro-choicer can perform mental gymnastics trying to convince themselves that somehow a fetus is not human, they surprise me. This one takes the cake. In the comments section on Salon.com:
I would love to say that this argument dropped like a rock, but others responded as if it was totally rational:
I feel I am stooping to a new low by actually addressing the insanity of comparing a fetus to a rock, but apparently it is urgently necessary. Unlike most pro-choicers, I like to use more scientific measures to discuss the nature of organisms. While they use "feelings," "beliefs," "plans," and "hopes" to qualify and categorize life, I will use more objective means to decide whether a human fetus is more like a rock than a human adult.
A human adult is a living organism that self-directs toward more mature stages and belongs to the species Homo sapiens. How does a human fetus compare? Well a human fetus is also living organism that self-directs toward more mature stages and belongs to the species Homo sapiens. And a rock? Well it belongs to the species...oh right it doesn't have a genus or species because IT IS NOT EVEN ALIVE!!!!!!
Now the pro-choicer would always argue that a fetus is not alive either because it doesn't have such non-quantifiable essentials to real life like "hopes" and "dreams." Again, I like more solid measures, you know like the ones scientists use to decide if something qualifies as "living." I have taught biology and know that there are four criteria that science uses to determine "life":
1. All life contains DNA: Rock-0 Fetus-1 (The entire prenatal genetic testing industry wouldn't exist without it.)
2. All life extracts energy from its environment and uses it: Rock-0 Fetus-2 (Any pregnant women who has eaten an entire half gallon of ice cream knows this is true!)
3. All life forms sense their environment and respond to those changes: Rock-0 Fetus-3 (Just ask any ultrasound technologist.)
4. All life forms can reproduce: Rock-0 Fetus-4 (And before you scream that a fetus cannot reproduce, just check out this story about using eggs from female fetuses for IVF treatments.)
Rock-0 Fetus-4 using objective criteria for life. So tell me again how prolifers are the unscientific ones?
Wednesday, August 3. 2011
163 million women are missing from Asia. That is the entire female population of the United States. The culprit is sex selective abortion according to Mara Hvistendahl's fascinating book Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men. Hvistendahl is not pro-life nor is she Catholic, but that is what, I believe, makes this book courageous. Of course in typical pro-choice fashion, she refuses to address the facts of when human life begins, but she does tackle the sacred cows at the root of the devastation that now faces Asia: widespread abortion and the population control movement of the West.
What I loved most about this book is that it goes beyond the typical reasons why Asians are aborting their girls in record numbers. We know they have a preference for boys and China has a one-child policy. But Asia has always prized their sons and only China has a one-child policy. Yet all over Asia, in the last few decades, millions of girls have gone missing. Why? Hvistendahl makes a compelling case that the Western world shoved population control down the throats of Asians and presented sex selective abortion as the "ethical" means to do it. The typical arrogant and fearful Western minds thought they had to control the growth of Asian populations and reasoned that if Asians kept having children until they got a boy, then providing sex selective abortion was the answer. They could just abort all their girls until they got a boy and then they would be happy with only one child. Hvistendahl writes:
In the 1960s and 1970s, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the World Bank, the United Nations and even Disney told couples all over Asia that they had to limit their family size or their children, and the rest of the world, would suffer. China took up the baton and implemented their one-child policy. This "reeducation" took the form of forced sterilization, forced contraception and even forced abortion. One sign in China read:
Eventually, decades later, the coercion was no longer needed and families are now voluntarily limiting themselves to one child. And with portable ultrasounds and legalized abortion, they can ensure that one child is a boy. Now they are faced with the fruit of the population control movement that came from outside their borders: a world full of men unable to marry because their brides were aborted.
This abundance of unmarried men is not a small problem. Unmarried men are more violent than their married counterparts. Crime is now on the rise:
And as women become more scarce, their value rises which one would think would mean that women would be treated better. But exactly opposite is true. Women have become commodities to be bought and sold. Parents all over Asia are guarding their girls against kidnappers who would sell them to rich families who want to guarantee a future bride for their son. Women are routinely kidnapped and dragged across boundary lines to be forced into the sex industry. Poor families, who could not afford sex selective procedures are selling their daughters to rich families who could. Some women are bought to be a wife to several men, usually brothers, a practice called polylandry. Sex selective abortion ensures that women are born only to poor families and then are treated as commodities. Hvistendahl points out the ugly truth:
And where are the feminists? The champions of women and their reproductive rights? They are mostly silent. They championed choice and now that choice is being used to kill millions of female fetuses and subjugate women, they have nothing to say lest the sacred abortion cow be slaughtered. The United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) thinks honor killings and domestic violence are more important issues than the killing of millions of women. Hvistendahl boldly declares:
Now Hvistendahl would argue that abortion is still a right. She believes there is a difference between aborting to not have a child at all and aborting to not have a girl. She would argue that it is the access to technology like ultrasound and lax enforcement of laws against sex selection that is the problem, not legalized abortion. I disagree. Ultrasounds are not inherently immoral. Without legalized abortion, they would be simply a way to peek inside the womb at the life growing inside. It is the abortion that is killing millions of female fetuses. If killing a female fetus is wrong then surely killing any fetus is wrong as well.
Hvistendahl falls into the same trap as the population control advocates did in the 60s and 70s. They thought that they could control the evil they inflicted on Asia because it was for the "greater good." Abortion is evil and we cannot control its devastating effects. We cannot dance with evil, expecting to confine it to a nice waltz, and then wonder why we are suddenly being trampled in a crushing mosh pit.
All in all, I applaud Hvistendahl for her work so far and recommend reading her book. She has done a great service linking the gendercide going on in Asia to the population control movement. I hope she takes that final step and realizes that abortion is far from the liberator of women that feminists say that it is. Abortion is the greatest deliberate killer of women in the world today. The sooner the women of the world wake up, the better our lives will be.
Monday, August 1. 2011
David Horsey captures how I am feeling today (that would be the bottom panel)...
For decades the U.S. Patent Office has been issuing patents for naturally occurring genes. This affects you directly whether you know it or not. Because a company legal "owns" a gene sequence, they control who is able to test or research that gene. In the case of genetic testing, labs are limited on what genes they can offer tests for because of gene patents, which limits the choices they can offer patients. Labs that are allowed to test a patented gene pay royalties to the companies that own the genes which drives up the cost of the genetic test. Many labs, like ones I have worked in, just chose not to offer the test at all.
The U.S. Department of Justice agreed:
"...the unique chain of chemical base pairs that induces a human cell to express a BRCA protein is not a ‘human-made invention.’ Nor is the fact that particular natural mutations in that unique chain increase a woman’s chance of contracting breast or ovarian cancer. Indeed, the relationship between a naturally occurring nucleotide sequence and the molecule it expresses in a human cell – that is, the relationship between genotype and phenotype – is simply a law of nature. The chemical structure of native human genes is a product of nature, and it is no less a product of nature when that structure is ‘isolated’ from its natural environment than are cotton fibers that have been separated from cotton seeds.”
Of course Myriad appealed the ruling. Last week the appellate court ruled for Myriad and stated that genes CAN be patented because isolated DNA is fundamentally different than DNA in the body. From the New York Times:
“The claims cover molecules that are markedly different — have a distinctive chemical identity and nature — from molecules that exist in nature,” Judge Alan D. Lourie wrote for the court.
I find this ruling to be ridiculous and this is why. I have personally isolated DNA from thousands of patients for genetic testing. I find the ruling that all that DNA I isolated is so fundamentally different that it is eligible for a patent laughable. Is the DNA I isolated still have all of the proteins that surround it naturally? No. It is in the same shape that it was when it was in a white blood cell? No. Is it still in a continuous piece? No. Is it still a naturally occurring molecule that has information about the organism from which it was isolated? Absolutely!!!
On this subject, we rejoice that numerous researchers have refused to allow discoveries made about the genome to be patented. Since the human body is not an object that can be disposed of at will, the results of research should be made available to the whole scientific community and cannot be the property of a small group.
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