Friday, August 03, 2007

He's a Magic Man.

I stumbled across a website called "Renew America". On that site, there's an interview with Fr. Tom Hopko.

Peter: Some abortion advocates claim the fetus isn't really a human being, so we ask what scientific facts do you have that say that human life begins at conception?

Fr. Tom: I don't have any. I'm not into science and I think, from the Christian perspective, it's besides the point. Those kind of nitpicking questions that suggest it's not a human don't even apply from a Christian perspective.

And, there we have it, don't we? This guy doesn't really care if what he's saying can be backed up by facts or evidence... it doesn't matter. He really doesn't care for what is true. In fact, he shuns what is true for that which he wants to be right.

And, since when did speciation, biology, and development, become 'nitpicking questions'?

Peter: Assuming that the fetus is a human, wouldn't a compassionate God want an unwed mother to terminate the pregnancy so as not to waste her life caring for a baby? Shouldn't she get to have some fun in life before being burdened by a child?
Fr. Tom: Life isn't given to us to have fun with.
Yeah...I know when I got pregnant, I kind of assumed I was gestating a human, but...that's just me and my nitpicky scientific facts. *rolls eyes* And, OF COURSE, the only reason people abort is because they want to have fun and party...do a few lines of blow and go have more sex and more abortions. Duh.

Helen: So often we hear the popular notion that God doesn't want us to suffer, God wants us to be happy all the time.
Fr. Tom: That's not the New Testament teaching. There is not a word in the New Testament about being happy...Jesus never promised anybody a good, happy life in this world.
Oh yeah...I wanna' hang out with this guy. He's so optimistic. NOT! Not only is he a depressing misanthrope, but...he's wrong.

Helen: This boils down to the assumption that there's only one power in the world — God — and it's interpreted as, "God got me into this situation, so God will get me out of it."
Fr. Tom: I don't know what kind of God that is. It sounds sort of like a magician.

*pulls a rabbit out of a hat* TADA! We have a winna'.

6 comments:

Saurian200 said...

P-Momma,

Fr. Tom: I don't know what kind of God that is. It sounds sort of like a magician.

Then why the flying f*@# does everyone spend so much time praying? If God isn't going to get you out of the situation, then they should stop wasting their time.

And, they shoould leave us alone and stop bothering us that we skip the middle man entirely.

Still, the image of god as a magician is amusing.

God: And now, watch me pull out of my hat, the earth! Ta da!

Atheist: There was a hidden pocket in his hat! Boo! Fake!

God: No, really, I created the earth out of nowhere.

Atheist: I saw Cosmology do the same trick last week. Copycat!

God: But...

Atheist: Fake! Boo!

God: Okay, security, throw this guy out.

Satan: Yes, sir.

Anonymous Economist said...

And, since when did speciation, biology, and development, become 'nitpicking questions'?

I don't get you here. Even if we all agreed on the facts of how a fetus develops, how does that help us decide when it becomes 'human'? If different groups have different criteria of what constitutes 'humanity', how can science resolve that disagreement? It seems to me that science can only give us the cut-off date once we have fixed the criteria by some other means.

I think the whole taboo about infanticide is illogical. Every year we accept the death of tens of thousands of innocent people in vehicle accidents so that we can have the convenience of motorised transport.

Either we accept that the same kind of cost-benefit analysis is applicable to abortions (though the answer may still be that the costs are greater than the benefits).

Or we give up cars and ride around in wagons.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

I don't get you here. Even if we all agreed on the facts of how a fetus develops, how does that help us decide when it becomes 'human'? If different groups have different criteria of what constitutes 'humanity', how can science resolve that disagreement?
The cells are human cells from the beginning. It's not like you can conceive a human with cat sperm and dogs eggs. I'm actually not sure I understand your objection or confusion. Science can, and has, told us about various stages of fetal development. We know what it takes, physiologically and chemically, to make someone cogniscant. We know what it takes physically and chemically to make a human capable of function. So, in a way, science does help us define what it means to call yourself human. It's a set of criteria and standards.

I think the whole taboo about infanticide is illogical. Every year we accept the death of tens of thousands of innocent people in vehicle accidents so that we can have the convenience of motorised transport.

I don't disagree. Also, I wouldn't categorize abortion as infanticide since we have clear criteria for what constitutes an infant. A bundle of stem cells (in blastocyst or embryonic form) is obviously not an infant. Neither, for that matter, is a fetus. Hence the reason we give them different names at different stages. Every year, we accept the fact that people will cut their hair or nick themselves shaving- but we don't mourn the loss of those human cells.

Or we give up cars and ride around in wagons.
Wagons are freakin' dangerous. :) Ever rode in one? There's a reason why most production companies won't allow their principal actors in a wagon scene... you're at more risk in a wagon than an automobile. But, I do agree with your point.

Anonymous Economist said...

Science can, and has, told us about various stages of fetal development. We know what it takes, physiologically and chemically, to make someone cogniscant.

Aren't you then implicitly asserting that a fetus acquires 'personhood' in the ethical-legal sense only after it develops cognicence. If so, then all I am saying is that this is a purely ethical judgment. And since ethical judgments are not statements of fact, they cannot be refuted by any evidence.

If I come to you and claim that even a blastocyst should have the rights of a 'person' there is no way you can prove me wrong. The best you can do is to try to convince me that your definition of 'person' fits our common-sense notions better than mine.

Wagons are freakin' dangerous. :) Ever rode in one?
Never. And now I will continue to give them a wide berth :)

BTW, I've been a reader of your blog for a few weeks now and I am already a big fan. Do keep the good stuff coming.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Aren't you then implicitly asserting that a fetus acquires 'personhood' in the ethical-legal sense only after it develops cognicence.
I guess I am. *thinks* But,I do realize that that position is problematic, so I concede that you have a point worth more consideration.

I guess I see it in terms of examples:
1. Until term (and sometimes later), the fetus/baby doesn't have the appropriate physiology or chemisty or brain development to do anything purposefully. When the environment is clueless, so is the mechanism. A sperm and egg don't join and create a baby because they have souls that compel them to do so; yet, they are most definetly "living" things. The sperm and egg are driven by hormonal and physical processes. The egg doesn't choose a sperm. The sperm doesn't hang out and wait for "the right egg to come along". There's no consciousness in either of those living things. Why? Because there's absolutely no need for the sperm and egg to have a choice. The uterus doesn't "know" it's going to receive sperm in the same way that the woman knows the man. The uterus receives stimulus from the endocrine system and the brain. The female brain is supposed to work in tandem with the bodies systems to prime the uterus for sex. When the environment is clueless, the mechanism will be too. The moment when sperm and egg join does not produce soul... if it does, as some might argue, then there's no justification to think that animals would not have a soul as well. Theists say that this is the point in which a deity places a soul in the blastocyst, but that's a totally unsubstantiated claim. There's no evidence to support that claim (other than some contrived biblical verses).
Before nine weeks of fetal development, the fetus has not even the ability to move spontaneously (without will or purpose). It's not until the end of the first trimester (about 12 weeks development) that there's even a suggestion that there's the ability (by the fetus) to respond to stimuli - and the only suggestion of such capability is the measure of fetal heart rate with stimuli (Kisilevsky & Muir, 1991). The stem cells that will create the heart begin to pulse before seven weeks...but, such activity is not by will of the fetus, it's by response to the physiological and endocrine system stimuli of the mother's body and the stem cells ability to perform any needed task. It is agreed upon, by the entire medical society and scientific community, that the embryo, fetus, and newborn act almost entirely on reflexive brain stem activity. This activity is produced IN THE ABSENSE of forebrain mediated processing because the forebrain either does not exist at embryonic and fetal stages or is yet to "connect" in the immediate newborn stage. Emotion, thinking, reasoning, and understanding are all performed in the forebrain. This forebrain controls purposeful behavior and, as anyone with an infant knows, that develops AFTER birth.

At birth and for the ensuing weeks, the forebrain is so immature that its influences are limited to signaling distress in reaction to hunger or thirst; a function of the immature hypothalamus (Joseph, 1982, 1992, 1999) in conjunction with the midbrain periaqueductal gray (e.g. Larson, Yajima, & Ko, 1994; Zhang, Davis, Bandler, & Carrive, 1994). Although various limbic nuclei become functionally mature over the course of the first several postnatal months and years (Benes, 1994; Joseph, 1992, 1999), the neocortex and lobes of the brain take well over seven, ten, and even thirty years to fully develop and myelinate (Blinkov & Glezer, 1968; Conel, 1939, 1941; Flechsig, 1901; Huttenlocher, 1990; Yakovlev & Lecours, 1967).

So...I guess my argument about "personhood" isn't really based in ethics, but on the ability of an organism to perform the tasks and display the physiological tools to do and think in the manner we normally define as having a conscience.

Now...I realize the problem with that is thus: If a person were alive and well, but got into a massive car accident and became a vegetable, then does that person still considered a person? I'm not sure. I would say that if the functionality of the body and brain are so severely compromised that they cannot function or think, then... *thinks* I don't know. If they retained any ability to *do* or *think*, then I suppose they deserve the label of human. But, as cruel as it may sound, if a body is just lying there... not comprehending the world and functioning without massive medical intervention, then I'm not so sure that there's a "person" in there. *thinks* I don't like the way that sounds though... I realize it's, again, problematic and difficult. Would you allow me the time to think about it and get back to you? I think it's a very interesting quandry.


If so, then all I am saying is that this is a purely ethical judgment. And since ethical judgments are not statements of fact, they cannot be refuted by any evidence.

See above. I don't think we would have to go so far as to say it was "purely ethical". As a society, we may find science useful in helping us determine personhood. Can you really be a person if, for example, you had only a brain stem that operated only to perform instinctually (to breathe, to make the heart muscle contract, and/or to digest)? Is that really personhood? At the same time, I can see how the definitions would be problematic because - if a baby IS born with such defects, we typically refer to it as a baby and not a bad arrangement of matter. Again, interesting... mind if I give it a few hours to think about it?

If I come to you and claim that even a blastocyst should have the rights of a 'person' there is no way you can prove me wrong. The best you can do is to try to convince me that your definition of 'person' fits our common-sense notions better than mine.
Actually, I think I could. As humans, we have created a set of criteria for the label of "human being". I can, for example, prove to you that a blastocyst cannot grow or function without taking advantage of a parasitic relationship with it's host. I can explain to you that the number of cells in a blastocyst are less than the number of cells you flush down the commode when you defecate. AND, I can prove to you that: when woman miscarry in the first trimester, there's no elaborate social grieving (like a funeral or whatever) to give that embryo the "goodbye". So, even in the context of our society, there's a gross hypocrisy with regard to when life starts. Pro-lifers will go on and on about the murder of innocents and how each of those lives were special...but, where were those people when I lost four fetuses to miscarriage? Where were the cards celebrating the "lives" of my feti? The doctor who observed our birth (through induction and D/C) of our 14 week twins didn't offer us any burial options or even refer to the feti as "children". And, society DEFINITELY didn't recognize the loss as something on par with the loss of a child. If the fetus is a child/human life... then, shouldn't the method of culturally acceptable loss customs be observed? Just something to think about.

Anonymous Economist said...

That certainly is a lot to think about. I too am not sure what my position would be on the limits of 'personhood'. My comment about infanticide was an attempt to escape the difficulties by saying that even if fetuses are persons it is alright to kill them in some situations. But now I realize that this way also leads to difficulties. Would it then be alright to kill off my aged grandma because the burden of taking care of her is harming my own well being? I guess not. *Must rethink.*

But one thing that all this shows is that it is not the case that:
As humans, we have created a set of criteria for the label of "human being"
Not only do fundamentalist humans and atheist humans differ on the correct criteria, even all rational humans may not agree on where exactly the borders are.

For example, what do you think of the Great Ape Project? This project campaigns for great apes to be given some basic rights on the grounds they possess complex cognitive and emotional abilities.