The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bioethics Part 1: Denature nails it...

On ...ahem... another blog, I've been having a discussion about stem cells with some folks who are convinced that unique DNA is the definition of life... in fact, PP seems to think there is no life without it. I disagree of course. Anyway, I suggested that DNA was more like the blueprint for a house, as opposed to the house itself and that there was no reason whatsoever to consider a single cell a "person." One of the opponents snapped back that my metaphor was all wet... you can build a house without a blueprint he says... well yeah but...

Anyway, as usual, I wasn't getting very far along the pathway toward mutual enlightenment on this particular sticking point in the bioethics discussion when the blogger "denature" weighed in with this:

"You can’t build a house by throwing a bunch of nails, shingles, and lumber on the ground. There has to be organization, or in biological terms–emergent properties. A house is more than the sum of its parts, and a human being is more than a collection of DNA.

Solely using DNA to define life is weak. Are viruses alive? Or just the ones that use DNA instead of RNA? Or are no organisms that reproduce asexually alive? What about living organisms that reproduce without mixing together two genomes? What about living organisms whose dominant phase of life is the haploid (like sex cells) rather than the diploid (like body cells)?

A taxonomist would call a zygote a zygote. Perhaps a human zygote, but not a human being. To claim scientific definition of life, but to redefine what is meant by pregnancy or stages of embryological or fetal development is disingenuous. One shouldn’t pick and choose in science. Sperm cells and egg cells are just as genetically unique as a zygote. Destroying these cells destroys a potential life just as much as an embryo. The cells that give rise to sperm cells and egg cells play an active role in development.

If conception is the point where a unique human being is created, does that mean twins are not unique? When embryos fuse does that mean two unique human beings have been destroyed, despite the fact of a healthy newborn?

If removing a nucleus from an embryo equates with killing a life, does replacing the nucleus with one from a skin cell equate with saving a life? Due to accumulated mutations, this cell would also be a genetically unique individual."

Wow. Nice work, denature. Discussion?


Steve Sibson said...


You call this bioethics part 1, but we have yet to address the most fundamental ethical issue:

You should have the highest authority...God or man?

Bill Fleming said...

Well you have a point there, Sibby. Around 70% of all fertilized eggs fail to be born (miscarry) due to natural causes. Seems like God doesn't really worry too much about that kind of thing. Plus, he even allowed his own son to be tortured and murdered.

I'm thinking I'll stick with the science guys who want to use God's gift of intelligence and organic chemistry to help save lives and reduce human suffering.

Bill Fleming said...

Sidenote: It occurs to me that when the Lord gave Moses the 10 Commandments, he probably wasn't talking to his chosen people on the molecular and cellular level. Just a thought.

Steve Sibson said...


What impact does Satan have on the 70% of fertilized eggs that fail to be born?

Why would the commandment on idoltry be more relevant to those that put sheep herders above God, than those who put scientists above God?

Bill Fleming said...

I don't have any idea what you're talking about with those last two questions Steve. Do you?

Steve Sibson said...


The first question was a direct response to your first comment. The second was in response to your sidenote regarding Moses delivery of God's laws, which includes the issue of idolatry. Seems that applies to the second paragraph of your first comment...putting scientists above God. What say you?

Bill Fleming said...

Oh, ok, Steve. I see now.

1. None. Satan can neither create, nor destroy, only manipulate. Satan is of the mind, not of substance. Satan is not God. To attribute God's powers to Satan would be blasphemy.

2. In my opinion the scientists would be acting in accordance with God's will as per Jesus's 2nd Commandment.

The idolatry would be to follow old law without regard to revision by the Messiah — worship of a single, mistranslated, misinterpreted, literal word (murder) over the symbolic meaning and ultimate sense of the whole concept.

i.e. Stem cell research is benevolent and altruistic — an act of compassion not of murder — and is thus in perfect accordance with both of Jesus's overarching commandments (love of God, God's gifts to Man and Man's Neighbor).

Bill Fleming said...

Besides, you can't kill a person who's not here yet. More on this in the next Bioethics post. Stay tuned.

Steve Sibson said...

Point 1. I agree on the creation part. I need to do more research on the destruction part. We are destroying what God created every day in abortion mills.

Point 2. I agree that those who are pusing this issue are well intended. The Bible does address the well intended, but wrong. And it is wrong to take away the lives of some for the sake of society. Hitler did that. Don't get me wrong. I am not saying those pushing this issue are the same as Hitler. I am saying they want to go down the same path.

And in regard to life not here. Just because we can't see it, it can still be here just the same.

"In my opinion"; Bill, twisting the Bibile to fit "your opinion" is putting yourself above God. That is adolatry. I pray that you will repent.

Bill Fleming said...

Ok, Steve, you go do some research. Find out how someone else has twisted the Bible to fit their opinion, copy down that opinion, bring it back here and paste it in to the comment box, ok? We'll wait. We're dying to know what your new opinion will be, and heaven forbid you should have one all your own.

Bill Fleming said...

Maybe I can help Steve along with his research a little bit. The word "Satan" comes from the Hebrew "ha-Satan" which translates "the accuser" and the Arabic "al-Shaitan" which translates "the adversary."

Both Hebrew and Arabic are Semitic languages.

Satan is an "angel" in Judeo/Christian cultures and a "jinn" (genie) in Islamic culture.

In both cultures, the character Satan is a master antagonist, but is neither a creator nor a destroyer of anything.

Sound familiar?

Steve Sibson said...


Can Satan destroy a marriage?

And it is true that we all fail the idoltry test. True love is helping each other understand when we fail God's laws and get us back on the path that leads to Him. We need to swallow our pride.

And Bill the more we get on that path, and the closer we get to Him, the greater will be "unity". Unite is your goal too. Right?

Steve Sibson said...


I found this question:


Satan is alive and well in the streets, schoolyards, daycare
centers, and playgrounds of America. In all its varied and diverse forms, a Satanic virus is eating away at the very foundations of our civilization. If we don't wake up to this virus right now, we will all be consumed by it, and this country as we have known it will cease to exist."

Bill, did you see the youtube clip on those elementary school kids singing praise to Obama?

Bill Fleming said...

Blaming Satan for something one does is an excuse for not taking responsibility for one's own thoughts and actions, Sibby. It's basically delusional and egocentric, protecting one's image of ones self... another form of idolatry.

Stevfe Sibson said...

You are right Bill. As you said earlier, Satan's "manipulation" causes many to be "delusional". It is no excuse to blame Satan. We need to take responsiblity for ourselves as individuals. For example, we should not expect others to pay for our health care.

And the delusion includes responses directed at those who point out their evil ways. They look to their "good intentions" as evidence that they are not following Satan. Suuh is the case with those who want to kill what God created for the sake of research for the cause of the state. ANd as you said, these lives cannot speak for themselves.

Bill, are you willing to repent?

Bill Fleming said...

Of course I'm willing to repent, Sibby, I'm a Catholic, remember? We repent about every three minutes.