Wednesday, January 30. 2013
Transhumanism is not just about transforming humanity. Part of the movement seeks to redefine what it means to be a "person" extending personhood rights to any kind of intelligence, artificial or otherwise. (This, of course, means that humans without a sufficient intelligence, determined by elite minds, would not qualify as persons.)
Yale is hosting a conference to discuss non-human personhood. It is called The Personhood Beyond the Human conference and the transhumanist group The Institute of Ethics and Emerging Technologies has the details:
Personhood Beyond the HumanWhen Peter Singer is involved you know that some humans will not be considered "persons" while some animals will be.
Frankly, it is beyond time that the average citizen started taking notice. Pretty soon we might have days old babies without rights and African grey parrots with rights and we will be wondering "How did this happen?"
Tuesday, January 29. 2013
Last week the world was talking about Harvard’s George Church who suggested we use Neanderthal DNA to resurrect Neanderthals.
From the UK’s Daily Mail:
They’re usually thought of as a brutish, primitive species.And while the world focused on the creation of a fictional Neanderthal, I was horrified by Church’s “need” for a very real “adventurous female human.”
Continue reading at LifeNews >>
Sunday, January 27. 2013
In October of 2012, scientists in Oregon announced they had created a dozen human embryos with the genetic material from two women and one man. While these embryos never made it to a womb, these researchers are hopeful that they will be given federal approval to, as USA Today reports, "test the procedure in women." This, of course, means transferring these genetically modified embryos to mothers willing to gestate them.
A few weeks later, in December 2012, scientists from New York proclaimed they have improved upon the technique that created these three-parent embryos and are intent on further developing their breakthrough for use in humans.
Continue reading at the National Catholic Register >>
Thursday, January 24. 2013
This is exciting. A documentary film by Doug Wolens about transhumanism and the singularity with some serious players like Ray Kurzweil, Aubrey De Grey and Bill McKibben. It is called "The Singularity" and it asks right under the title "Will we survive our technology?" I am interested in finding out what the film maker suggests is the answer. Regardless, I applaud Doug Wolens for taking a serious look at what is no longer science fiction and is quickly becoming reality. Wolen writes:
Singularity advocates argue that consciousness is just another problem to solve or that it will just happen when a system is sufficiently advanced. But I was not too sure. The promise of this new future began to lose its luster. I started to see holes in some of the arguments and I began questioning the philosophical and moral implications. If smarter than human computers were created, how would they treat their human creators? Would everyone have the means to augment their intelligence or just the rich? What would happen if something went wrong with these super powerful technologies and destroyed everything on the planet? Or if these powerful technologies got in the wrong hands and were maliciously used? Maybe the singularity wasn’t such a good idea.
Wednesday, January 23. 2013
As the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade dawns, my friends that have adopted children have been posting pictures on Facebook of their beautiful families and thanking the birth mothers for their courage and sacrifice. These adoptive mothers asked everyone to choose adoption over abortion. As I contemplated praising my friends for telling their story, I remembered I had a story to tell as well. I had forgotten.
This month, my husband and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary. My oldest daughter turned 17 a few months ago. You do the math.
Eighteen years ago, I was staring at two blue lines in the bathroom, and I felt my world crashing in around me. I was a senior in college, but, because of my year abroad, I had three semesters left before I could graduate. I had just received a grant for research in organic chemistry with toxic chemicals that no doubt would cause birth defects. My now husband was nowhere near graduating and I feared my conservative Catholic family would never forgive me for getting pregnant out of wedlock.
It was the textbook definition of a crisis pregnancy. My situation was exactly the hard case that everyone talks about when they say they are "pro-choice." I could have been the poster child for Planned Parenthood.
Continue reading at Creative Minority Report >>
Tuesday, January 22. 2013
Another great episode of BioTalk with my friend Chelsea Zimmerman from Reflections of a Paralytic about the new technique that creates embryos with three-genetic parents and how the lack of any federal regulation is going to lead to the Brave New United States.
Thursday, January 17. 2013
It happens almost every time. When I write a piece about embryonic stem cell research, I get an e-mail or comment, sometimes polite, most of the time not, that goes something like this, “If you were not such a scientifically-ignorant pro-lifer, you would know that Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) can make embryonic stem cells without harming the embryo at all. I am much smarter than you and now that you are enlightened with this revelation, you can support embryonic stem cell research like I do.”
Continue reading at LifeNews >>
Wednesday, January 16. 2013
See the Church was totally wrong when she said that removing sex from procreation would turn procreation into manufacture and the next generation into a commodity. IVF is only for infertile couples desperate to have a child. It will NEVER lead to the buying and selling of human beings.
Except that it did. William Saletan has it exactly right in his Slate piece "The Embryo Factory: The business logic of made-to-order babies" about Jennalee Ryan who doesn't sell egg and sperm. She sells made-to-order embryos. Saletan writes:
It's temping to label Ryan a madwoman, as many critics have. But that's exactly wrong. Ryan represents the next wave of industrial rationality. She's bringing the innovations of Costco and Burger King to the business of human flesh....When Slate begins to spot the man behind the curtain, it is time to sit up and take notice America. We are allowing the wholesale buying and selling of the next generation. It is time to get some laws regulating the fertility industry like every other sane nation in the world. It is time to stop looking at children like they are the latest accessory and start revering them as begotten, not made. Again, I pull out this quote from William E. May:
"When a child is begotten through the conjugal act, he comes to be as a gift from God, a gift crowning the spouse's mutual gift of themsleves to each other. When a child is 'produced' it comes to be, not as a gift from God, which in truth it is, but as a product of human control."
Tuesday, January 15. 2013
These days it seems we have a "right" to everything except the rights that are actually given to us by our Creator and enumerated in the Constitution. (My latest favorite is the "right to be unlimited." A right for iPhone5 users according to Sprint.) Chelsea Zimmerman over at Reflections of a Paralytic sent me this article from the MIT Technology Review over the Christmas holiday. It says we have a "right to consumer genetics."
What exactly is consumer genetics? Well, you can go about getting your genes tested in a couple of ways. Your doctor can order a test for a genetic predisposition for a particular disease. You give a blood sample or a sample of cheek cells and a clinical genetics lab tests that for the mutation of interest. (That was my job.) Your doctor, or genetic counselor, gets the results and interprets them for you.
Or you can, without your doc's involvement, spit in a cup and send your saliva to a for-profit company like 23andMe which will test your DNA for all kinds of things like ancestry (where they tell you what percentage of Neanderthal DNA you have) and health (where they tell you the percentage chance you will get Alzheimer's or diabetes etc.) And you can enter your spit into research projects for cancer or Parkinson's disease. With this kind of genetic testing though, you are left to try and interpret the results yourself.
Continue reading at Creative Minority Report >>
Friday, January 11. 2013
I think of all my geeky t-shirts, this one is my favorite. For me these eight little words are not just chuckle-worthy, they say so much more than what is apparent.
What is entropy? Without going into a thermodynamic treatise on usable and unusable energy, I will say that entropy is simply the disorder or randomness in a system. The higher the entropy the more disorder there is. Without adding anymore energy, the entropy of a system will increase but not decrease. For example, if I knock over a glass and it shatters on the floor, the entropy has increased. The glass is very disordered laying on the floor in a bunch of pieces. The glass will never spontaneously reassemble. That would require a decrease in entropy. The only way to decrease the entropy of the glass is to add energy: the energy required to collect all the pieces and glue the glass back together.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics states the entropy of the universe is increasing. As time goes on, the universe is becoming more and more disordered. Hence the "Entropy. It ain't what it used to be."
But entropy has theological implications. If the universe is becoming more disordered, then at some point, in the beginning, it was infinitely ordered. In the beginning. Perfect order. I don't know about you, but to me that screams, "Creator!"
Dr. Robert Jastrow, in his book God and the Astronomers, wrote:
"Theologians generally are delighted with the proof that the universe had a beginning, but astronomers are curiously upset.... For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."
Tuesday, January 8. 2013
This is depressing. Costa Rica, the only country to have an outright ban on IVF because IVF creates and destroys human life on an industrial scale, has been told by a "human rights" court that they have to abandon their prohibition.
You would think that the numbers recently reported by the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority would bolster Costa Rica's case. In the UK, nearly 2 million IVF embryos have been created and then simply been discarded "unused." These shocking numbers prompted Lord Alton to say:
“It happens on a day-by-day basis with casual indifference. This sheer destruction of human embryos – most people would not know that it took place on such a scale."But it seems that the mythical "right to have a child anyway I see fit" is more important than the very real "right to life." From the Costa Rica Star:
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) has overturned a prohibition on IVF in Costa Rica saying that it infringed provisions under the American Convention on Human Rights.There is so much misdirection here I cannot handle it. First IVF does not "treat" infertility. It does not attempt to fix any of the causes of infertility. It only mass produces offspring in a dish in a desperate attempt to give parents a child. NaPro Technology actually addresses problem that is causing infertility so couples can get pregnant naturally, and not just once, but again and again. That is real treatment for the infertile.
Second, I know activists have been trying to keep pushing the definition of conception as far away from fertilization that they possible can, but I thought implantation was the farthest away they could get. But now the moment of conception takes place "after implantation"? How far after exactly? Pretty soon "human rights" courts are going to be telling that the moment of conception is right before birth. As Dr. Antony Caruso, an American reproductive endocrinologist, points out this ruling may set a dangerous precedent. He warned:
“The court appears to have radically changed the legal definition of conception, and is applying an artificial description to a natural process. Indeed, this could have a far reaching impact.”And last but not least is the idea that childlessness is a somehow a human rights issue. Not just any human rights issue, but one that is more important than the right to life. This is the money quote:
Piero Tozzi, legal counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organisation of Christian leaders, said: ‘A preliminary reading of the ruling indicates that the Court elevated secondary rights-such as the right to privacy, a right to personal autonomy, and a right to sexual and reproductive health-above the right to life, which by necessity takes precedence over all the other rights’.This is the world we live in. The right to life should trump all others but unfortunately it is shoved to the back of the line behind the "right to sexual health."
Looks like Costa Rica is going to bow to international pressure and comply with the court's demands which is really a tragedy since they were a beacon of reason in a ever increasing sea of emotional relativity.
Monday, January 7. 2013
In an attempt to stop the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, two researchers sued the Obama Administration saying that the administration's funding of research that requires the destruction of a human embryo violates the Dickey Amendment. Unfortunately, while a lower court agreed that using tax-payer money to fund embryonic stem cell research is in conflict with the Dickey Amendment, higher courts have not agreed, and the Supreme Court has decided not to hear the case. So for now the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research continues.
But what is the Dickey Amendment anyway? Why does everyone refer to it when discussing the battle over embryonic stem cell research?
The Dickey Amendment, also known as the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, is a very, very important piece of federal legislation inside the Omnibus Appropriations Act that states:
SEC. 509. (a) None of the funds made available in this Act may be used for--Why is this little bit of a much larger piece of legislation so very important? Let's start with some history.
In 2001, President Bush, allowed federal funds to be used for research on human embryonic stem cells. Bush was the first president to allow tax-payer dollars to fund human embryonic stem cell research. But, these funds were restricted to research on human embryonic stem cell lines created before August of that year. Contrary to popular belief, Bush's executive order did not outlaw embryonic stem cell research nor eliminate funding altogether. It simply meant that from that point forward no federal tax dollars could not be used to fund the research on stem cell lines created by newly destroyed human embryos. Bush's policy was a compromise to allow some funding on existing embryonic stem cell lines without violating the Dickey Amendment.
Once elected, President Obama overturned Bush's funding restriction. Suddenly, our tax dollars could go to research on new cell lines created by ripping open human embryos. Obama's executive order only allowed funding for research on embryonic stem cell lines created from embryos left over from IVF treatments. Since federal funds still cannot go to fund research that creates or destroys human embryos thanks to the Dickey Amendment, with federal money researchers cannot destroy the embryos themselves. Instead, they can use federal money to work with embryonic cell lines created elsewhere by destroying embryos.
Theresa Deisher, co-founder of the Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute, and James L. Sherley, a biological engineer at Boston Biomedical Research Institute claim that their research is negatively impacted by the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. They sued the Obama Administration saying that its funding policy violated the Dickey Amendment. Initially the courts agreed. In the decision, Judge Lamberth wrote:
“If one step or ‘piece of research’ of an E.S.C. research project results in the destruction of an embryo, the entire project is precluded from receiving federal funding,”Lamberth's ruling was overturned by a higher court and the Supreme Court has now refused to hear the case.
Because the Dickey Amendment is seen as the fly in the embryonic-stem-cell-research ointment, newspapers, lawmakers and scientists have called for the Dickey Amendment to be overturned. That would clear the way for unfettered money to all kinds of embryo-destructive research. If the Dickey Amendment is overturned our tax dollars can go to fund embryo farms where human life is created and destroyed as a research tool for scientists. It would also allow the federal government (that means you and your tax dollars) to fund the cloning of human embryos for use in research.
Think that the worst would never happen? Think there is no way that our tax dollars would go to Frankenstein-like experiments if the Dickey Amendment fell by the wayside?
Well, remember the scientists in Massachusetts who created human embryos cloned with cow, rabbit and mouse eggs in an attempt to harvest patient-specific embryonic stem cells? One could argue that the creation of human-bovine, human-rabbit, and human-mouse embryos clearly falls under the umbrella of stem cell research since obtaining embryonic stem cells was the goal.
And what about the scientists in New York that purposefully created embryos with the genetic disorder "triploidy" in an attempt to harvest embryonic stem cells? The work was funded by the New York Stem Cell Foundation and was called a "landmark finding" in stem cell research. Might that not qualify for federal funding of "stem cell research" as well?
Even the scientists in Oregon that recently created three-parent embryos lament that restrictions on the federal funding of their work are "standing in their way" of bringing the three-parent embryo to the clinic to "test the procedure in women." I am sure the funding restriction they refer to is the Dickey Amendment.
Unlike other countries, the United States has no federal laws regulating the creation, manipulation and destruction of human life for research purposes. All we have is a law against funding such research. This means that the research is allowed, we just don't have to pay for it. But that funding restriction is still important. The Dickey-Wicker Amendment is the last impediment to a government-funded Brave New World where human life is created, manipulated and destroyed in the name of science. A very important little piece of legislation indeed.
Thursday, January 3. 2013
Peering into the abyss of biotechnology, I have often mused that the problem with much of what goes on in fertility clinics and laboratories of the world is a denial of human nature. The denial that living human organisms, regardless of how they are created, are indeed human beings. They are small and immature, but human beings none-the-less.
This denial of the nature of humanity can be seen in nearly all the moral problems in our society: from the denial of the humanity of the unborn, the sick and the disabled; to the denial of our need of an intact family unit with both a mother and a father; to the denial that sex is a procreative event; to the denial that the safest most loving place to begin our lives is in our mother's womb, not in a laboratory; to the denial that the sex of your next child should be decided by God and not by you.
I was heartened that the Holy Father spoke about human nature in his Christmas address to the Roman Curia. It is the denial our God-given nature that threatens to destroy our families and our civilization.
Continue reading at Creative Minority Report >>
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