As you have probably noticed, I haven’t been blogging lately. This is largely because I have been working on some other writing projects, which involves many hours spent in frustrated contemplation of a blank computer screen, which leaves me decidedly unmotivated to then embark on lengthy blog entries. Having just read this insufferably pompous, not to mention poorly argued, essay from William Saletan at Slate, I suddenly feel moved to emerge from my blog sabbatical.

Saletan is in full lecture mode, informing those of us who are happy about Obama’s recent decision regarding stem-cell research that we are now in real danger of losing our souls. He thinks he’s come up with a real humdinger of an analogy to drive home his point:

The best way to understand this peril is to look at an issue that has become the mirror image of the stem-cell fight. That issue is torture. On Jan. 22, Obama signed an executive order prohibiting interrogation methods used by the Bush administration to extract information from accused terrorists. “We can abide by a rule that says we don’t torture, but that we can still effectively obtain the intelligence that we need,” the president declared. “We are willing to observe core standards of conduct not just when it’s easy, but also when it’s hard.”

The next day, former Bush aide Karl Rove accused Obama of endangering the country by impeding interrogations of the enemy. “They don’t recognize we’re in a war,” said Rove. “In a war, you do not take tools that are working and stop using them and say we’ll get back to you in four months, six months, eight months, a year, and tell you what we’re going to do to replace this valuable tool which has helped keep America safe.”

To most of us, Rove’s attack is familiar and infuriating. We believe, as Obama does, that it’s possible to save lives without crossing a moral line that might corrupt us. We reject the Bush administration’s insistence on using all available methods rather than waiting for scrupulous alternatives. We see how Rove twists Obama’s position to hide the moral question and make Obama look obtuse and irresponsible.

The same Bush-Rove tactics are being used today in the stem-cell fight. But they’re not coming from the right. They’re coming from the left. Proponents of embryo research are insisting that because we’re in a life-and-death struggle–in this case, a scientific struggle–anyone who impedes that struggle by renouncing effective tools is irrational and irresponsible. The war on disease is like the war on terror: Either you’re with science, or you’re against it.

That is just about the dumbest thing I’ve ever read. We are not talking about “renouncing effective tools” in the abstract. We are talking about renouncing one specific tool: research on stem-cells taken from two-week old embryos. It is renouncing that specific tool that makes you irrational and irresponsible. The reason it makes you irrational and irresponsible is that the two-week old embryo is not a human being. It’s that simple. It is literally just a clump of cells. It is the height of moral confusion to think otherwise.

The embryo has no thoughts, no capacity for suffering, no consciousness. It has none of the attributes that distinguishes a human being from other sorts of life. Medical research on animals, which certainly have the capacity to suffer and arguably, at least in mammals, have limited consciousness, is far more morally problematic. Yet even here most people, myself included, are willing to swallow hard and tolerate it for the undeniable good such research does.

It is monstrous to elevate the early embryo to such a status that you are willing to ignore the real suffering of people afflicted with dread diseases. You can spare me the nonsense about adult stem cells, or how you are not ignoring suffering you are just maintaining high moral standards. Baloney. You are rejecting the most promising line of research anyone has come up with to date because you have preposterously convinced yourself that an embryo, once formed, must never be destroyed. You are personally telling sick people that it is better that they suffer, deteriorate and die than that an undifferentiated group of cells be prevented from reaching its full potential. How dare you then turn around and lecture other people about morality.

I’d say that’s a rather important place where Saletan’s analogy breaks down. Torturing an actual human being is not the same thing as destroying a two-week old embryo. It’s not even in the same ball park.

Of course, Saletan is not yet finished being ridiculous. He also serves up things like this:

Embryos are the beginnings of people. They’re not parts of people. They’re the whole thing, in very early form. Harvesting them, whether for research or medicine, is different from harvesting other kinds of cells. It’s the difference between using an object and using a subject.

In what conceivable sense is the embryo a subject? The usual distinction between subject and object is that objects are things perceived and acted upon by subjects. The embryo can not perceive or act upon anything. They are not the “whole thing.” They have the potentiality to become the whole thing given the right environment and plenty of time, but that is a very different thing. The seed is not the plant.

Saletan has one additional card to play: Ye olde slippery slope argument:

A few years ago, I went to a forum sponsored by proponents of stem-cell research. One of the speakers, a rabbi, told the audience that under Jewish law, embryos were insignificant until 40 days. I pointed out that if we grew embryos to 40 days, we could get transplantable tissue from them. I asked the rabbi: Would that be OK? He answered: Yes.

If you don’t want to end up this way–dead to ethics and drifting wherever science takes you–you have to keep the dilemmas alive. You have to remember that conflicting values are at stake.

The rabbi takes a stand that Saletan does not like, and therefore the rabbi is dead to ethics. It seems clear, even in Saletan’s telling, that the rabbi is not just drifting wherever science takes him. He laid out his ethical standards very clearly, in fact. More clearly than Saletan, who never actually gets around to telling us his own view on whether stem-cell research is acceptable. He seems more interested in burnishing his own self-righteousness than he is in taking a clear stand.

The fact is that the embryo goes through a continuum. At conception it is plainly not a human being in any reasonable sense. At birth it is a human being in every sense. In between you have a grey area, as it gradually becomes more and more human-like. Any sharp line you try to draw will inevitably be a bit arbitrary, and doubtless there are difficult moral questions to be answered as we approach plausible line-drawing points. The fact remains that the sort of stem-cell research that is being seriously proposed is unambiguously on the “morally acceptable” side of the line.

Offering his support for Saletan, Andrew Sullivan writes:

I don’t believe the Bush administration’s policy was “ideological” as opposed to “factual.” It was based on ethical concerns about people paying for what they believe is immoral. You may disagree with this position, but you should respect it.

No, you shouldn’t respect it. You should condemn it, angrily. You should not cede even one single solitary centimeter to people who dress up their insane religious delusions in the garb of morality and ethics. There is nothing moral or even thoughtful in the anti-stem cell position. Just confusion at best, and outright barbarism at worst.

Comments

  1. #1 Blake Stacey
    March 10, 2009

    Torturing an actual human being is not the same thing as destroying a two-week old embryo. It’s not even in the same ball park.

    Why is it I keep hearing this passage read in the tone of a certain scene from Pulp Fiction?

  2. #2 Jason Rosenhouse
    March 10, 2009

    Blake –

    Yes, that’s what I was going for! :)

  3. #3 The Science Pundit
    March 10, 2009

    I don’t read Saletan all the time, but I never found him quite this bad.

    His analogy fails on so many levels. For example, ESC research is an emerging technology. It is very promising and we don’t yet know the full potential it has. It’s downsides are purely imaginary. Torture has a long track record in history. The techniques used under the Bush administration are just variations on techniques that have been used since the Inquisition (and earlier). There is little more than anecdotal evidence (from those whose interest it is to continue torturing) that it’s any more effective than other interrogation techniques. Even supporters of torture admit that there is a moral downside to it.

    Teh Stupid, It Burns!

  4. #4 bob koepp
    March 10, 2009

    Jason – While hESCR may pose no moral dilemmas for you and me, it certainly does pose a moral dilemma for those who believe that all human life is deserving of protection. And since, in a liberal society, people are supposed to enjoy freedom of conscience, there’s at least a political dilemma that even you and I must confront.

  5. #5 Jason Rosenhouse
    March 10, 2009

    bob koepp –

    I’m all in favor of protecting all human life. I just regard it as obvious that a two-week old embryo is not a human being.

  6. #6 dean
    March 10, 2009

    ” it certainly does pose a moral dilemma for those who believe that all human life is deserving of protection”

    Human life – yes, but this isn’t about human life. The notion that the sources of stem cells are “human life” is false, so why is there any reason to give that any credence?

    In Michigan we recently voted to allow stem cell research. The public debate was long and loud, and many (not all) of those opposed to the bill funded ads that stated no end of things that would occur if the issue passed – issues that could be shown false by simply reading the bill. Why? – because those paying knew their base didn’t care about the truth. I can easily see the same tactics showing up on this issue.

  7. #7 bob koepp
    March 10, 2009

    Jason and Dean – While I think we agree about the moral permissibility of hESCR, you can’t show the incoherence of moral scruples against destroying human life by simple verbal maneuvering around the term ‘human.’ When you speak of ‘human life,’ I think you are probably pointing in the direction of the ethical/legal notion of a ‘person.’ Granted, a very early stage human organism is not a person. But that’s not what’s at issue, since some people sincerely believe that a “mere” human organism, of whatever stage of development, deserves protection. Neither you nor I can provide compelling arguments against that belief. So we do have to confront that political dilemma.

  8. #8 SLC
    March 10, 2009

    Re bob koepp

    But that’s not what’s at issue, since some people sincerely believe that a “mere” human organism, of whatever stage of development, deserves protection.

    According to some polls, 20% of the American public sincerely believes that the sun goes around the earth. Just because some moron sincerely believes some nonsense in no way, shape, form, or regard requires anyone to respect such beliefs.

  9. #9 Anton Mates
    March 10, 2009

    While I think we agree about the moral permissibility of hESCR, you can’t show the incoherence of moral scruples against destroying human life by simple verbal maneuvering around the term ‘human.’

    Well, you can if the people professing such scruples are unable to counter-maneuver. Since most such people are uninterested in extending protection to (for instance) transplanted organs, unfertilized sex cells and the HeLa cell strain, it behooves them to explain why a fertilized egg or early human embryo qualifies as “human life” and these other examples do not. I’m sure such an explanation is possible, given appropriate moral axioms, but Saletan’s “embryos are the beginnings of people” argument clearly doesn’t do the job.

    Personally, as a moral subjectivist, I don’t particularly feel that moral scruples have to be coherent. But it’s certainly a helpful feature if others are to respect your position.

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    March 10, 2009

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  11. #11 dean
    March 10, 2009

    “but that’s not what’s at issue, since some people sincerely believe that a “mere” human organism, of whatever stage of development, deserves protection.”

    I do understand the point you’re driving at, even though I don’t agree with the conclusion. My wife and I are both at odds with the rest of her family on this: we went through 3 years of fertility treatments, roughly 15 years ago. We’re both sure that any leftover embryos of ours were destroyed long ago, but we agree that it would have been far better to have them used for research than destroyed. Many of her sisters are appalled that we “could be so callous as to treat babies that way”. I’m sure that my in-laws are sincere in their opinions, and I’m just as sure that I think these particular opinions carry no weight in the realm of science.

    And that’s what this is about – science being carried out in a careful, thoughtful manner. Histrionics and false assumptions don’t have a place at the table.

  12. #12 Pierce R. Butler
    March 11, 2009

    In what conceivable sense is the embryo a subject?

    Well, if the embryo were British, in a legal and geographical sense, and you were the Queen of the United Kingdom…

  13. #13 Jud
    March 11, 2009

    Does anyone else consider it incredibly strange that so many more people evince concern about the use of embryos in potentially helpful research than about their routine destruction? That’s of course where embryonic stem cells come from – embryos that would otherwise be routinely destroyed.

  14. #14 anevilmeme
    March 11, 2009

    How is this even an issue in the 21st century?

  15. #15 natelee
    March 11, 2009

    What do you mean a two-week old embryo is not a whole human being? What else could it be?! Do your two legs MAKE you human? Does an autistic’s inability to express feelings as you an I make them INhuman b/c the expression is different? I think your logic is based on emotion rather than the scientific fact that an embryo has the complete DNA and makings of a human, just like you and I, but in an early form of development – in a vulnerable state. A seed IS the plant – it can’t become anything else. Your interaction (emotion) changes what YOU think of it, not what it actually is.

  16. #16 SLC
    March 11, 2009

    Re natelee

    I was going to launch a vicious attack on Mr. nate and Ms. lee but, after going to their web site and learning that their daughter is afflicted with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (which, by the way I have never heard of before; you learn something new every day), I will show restraint and merely point out to them that, even though it is a genetic condition, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that embryonic stem cell research could lead to treatments for that condition. Something to consider anyway.

  17. #17 Stella
    March 11, 2009

    Notice how they go after ESC research but leave the fertility industry alone? This may be pro-life taken to its logical extreme, but it’s still very selective about the battles it chooses. Even with the IVF industry suddenly under public scrutiny, I haven’t heard a single pro-lifer say IVF should be banned entirely, or even strictly regulated so no embryos are ever destroyed. That type of regulation would cause IVF to be prohibitively expensive and cause its success rate to plummet.

    It’s obvious that IVF is overlooked as a target because its patrons are women who only want to conceive and have a family, and what compassionate person can deny them that? It’s apparently much easier to deny the millions of people who will or have already developed Alzheimer’s a chance at an improved life, or victims of spinal cord injuries a chance to walk again. Didn’t I just read that the first studies on stem cell treatments for spinal cord injuries are about to begin? Isn’t anybody else excited?

    Hey, I’m as compassionate as anyone. I’m a woman and I love babies. But I cannot buy that the idea of a hypothetical baby is more moving than the well-being of an already existing adult. Even an adult I don’t know personally.

  18. #18 JimC
    March 11, 2009

    What do you mean a two-week old embryo is not a whole human being? What else could it be?! Do your two legs MAKE you human?

    It is not a human being at 2 weeks. It’s potentially a person. It has no thoughts, emotions, pain, love, etc. No sense of self. That comes later.

    Missing legs does not even begin to be analagous to the above.

  19. #19 Valhar2000
    March 11, 2009

    Natalee wrote:

    [...]scientific fact that an embryo has the complete DNA and makings of a human[...]

    You know what else is a scientific fact? On average, you shed about 35000 skin cells every day. Each of those skin cells you shed contains a full copy of your DNA, so it is a person, by your definition. And yet, instead of preserving the precious lives of thousands upon thousands of your twin siblings, you shower!

    That means that, in 1 year, you kill a total of nearly 13 million people! YOU ARE WORSE THAN HITLER! MURDERER!!!1!1!11!ELEVENTY!!!!!1

  20. #20 AL
    March 11, 2009

    Does anyone else consider it incredibly strange that so many more people evince concern about the use of embryos in potentially helpful research than about their routine destruction? That’s of course where embryonic stem cells come from – embryos that would otherwise be routinely destroyed.

    Well, they DO complain about that as well. I’m also willing to bet that “they” are the same set of people, or at least there is a huge overlap between the two sets if they are distinct.

  21. #21 DaleP
    March 11, 2009

    Please also see Scott Lemieux
    http://lefarkins.blogspot.com/2009/03/bad-analogies-of-day.html
    on this article. In an earlier, linked, post he explains that opponents of federal funding of ESC research argue too much: if is is as terrible as they argue, it should be banned, not only have funding cut. Of course, very few would agree with that position, so they don’t draw out the necessary conclusion of their arguments. Since they don’t, they concede their arguments fail.

  22. #22 Anton Mates
    March 11, 2009

    Even with the IVF industry suddenly under public scrutiny, I haven’t heard a single pro-lifer say IVF should be banned entirely, or even strictly regulated so no embryos are ever destroyed.

    Actually, Saletan has brought up this issue himself. He at least is consistent enough to recognize that the core problem (for the pro-life movement) here should be the existence of surplus embryos in the first place.

  23. #23 Anton Mates
    March 11, 2009

    I think your logic is based on emotion rather than the scientific fact that an embryo has the complete DNA and makings of a human, just like you and I, but in an early form of development – in a vulnerable state.

    So do a sperm and egg before conception. Do you want to extend legal protection to unfertilized sex cells?

  24. #24 Russell Blackford
    March 12, 2009

    Well, there goes any respect that I had for Saletan. His argument is idiotic, and similar arguments have been demolished so many times that it’s becoming ridiculous.

    You’ve pretty much nailed why he’s an idiot in your original post on this thread, Jason. Good for you. It’s a pity that there are some idiots around who support Saletan, but it takes all kinds to make a world I suppose.

  25. #25 Sabrina
    March 12, 2009

    Wow Saletan, I must go read the forum over there too, I bet it’s a hoot. My opinion of him has changed. What in the world…Saletan have you contacted your brain lately? I think it left your building.

    I have Charcot-Marie-Tooth a degenerative disease of the myelin sheathing affecting extremities. Stem cell research is my only hope of some sort of cure. I’m glad to see some loosening of the law.

  26. #26 Valhar2000
    March 12, 2009

    I do not to minimize the hardship of people who suffer disorders (Sabrina, I very hope that a cure for your condition, and those of many other people, will be found within your lifetime), but I would like to point out the importance of Stem Cell Research as Basic Research, i.e., finding out how stuff works.

    Though the ignorant and brutish (and largest) segment of the public has no notion of this, the fact is that basic research is vital to the scientific and technological enterprise, and it very often pays off, enormously, even if it takes decades to do so and no-one can rpedict how it will do so.

    In fact, though I again remind everyone that I don’t want to trivialize the suffering of sick people, I think that the value of this research as basic research could very well outweigh the “obvious” benefits derived form it in terms of therapies for certain disorders, probably in ways that none of us can imagine.

    It is profoundly immoral, in my view, to curtail this sort of advancement out of respect for ethical concerns that exist only in the mind of the ignorant and the deluded.

    So, yes, Saletan, you are the ethically challenged one here.

  27. #27 Collin Brendemuehl
    March 12, 2009

    Where do I start? How about a completely un-scientific premise for starters:
    The fact is that the embryo goes through a continuum. At conception it is plainly not a human being in any reasonable sense. At birth it is a human being in every sense. In between you have a grey area, as it gradually becomes more and more human-like. Any sharp line you try to draw will inevitably be a bit arbitrary, and doubtless there are difficult moral questions to be answered as we approach plausible line-drawing points. The fact remains that the sort of stem-cell research that is being seriously proposed is unambiguously on the “morally acceptable” side of the line.

    So what is your scientific basis? To quote Data from an episode of ST:TNG, you are arguing from analogy, not from empirical evidence. Human-like? Come on, now. Does being human only begin when the umbilical cord is cut, or does the unborn have the characteric of being human ontologically rather than politically?

    It is not we who draw a line, for the embryo is essentially fully human even though undeveloped and not implanted. The utilitarian use of human life has created the ethical issues, not the ethicists who oppose the utility view of humanity.

    It’s (well, not really) amazing how an evolutionist can be so unscientific.

    Utility ought to be a concern, at least to those who believe that ethics actually exist.

    Enjoy,

    Collin

  28. #28 Anton Mates
    March 12, 2009

    It is not we who draw a line, for the embryo is essentially fully human

    …you say, drawing a “fully human” line and placing the embryo inside it.

    What does “essentially fully human” mean?

  29. #29 Collin Brendemuehl
    March 12, 2009

    No line is drawn. It is the utilitarian who draws a line at the cutting of the umbilical cord.
    The genetics and the continuity of development are human.
    There is a false line drawn between being human and being a person.

  30. #30 Anton Mates
    March 12, 2009

    It is the utilitarian who draws a line at the cutting of the umbilical cord.

    Who’s drawing a line? Jason did exactly the opposite–he said there was a “grey area” between conception and birth.

    The genetics and the continuity of development are human.

    The same is true for sperm and unfertilized eggs; we have been alternating between haploid and diploid phases since long before our species existed. Shouldn’t all sex cells be protected, then?

    There is a false line drawn between being human and being a person.

    Presumably there are some human tissues you don’t wish to protect, such as tumors and transplanted organs, so you also make a distinction between biological humanness and personhood.

    Unless you do consider every human cell equally worthy of protection?

  31. #31 SLC
    March 13, 2009

    Apropos of this thread, attached is a link from todays’ Washington Post by asshole columnist Charles Krauthammer. Apparently, Dr. Krauthammer has now gone completely over to the dark side.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?node=admin/registration/login&destination=login&nextstep=confirm

  32. #32 SLC
    March 13, 2009

    Lets review the issue of embryonic stem cell research and what it is that President Obama approved.

    1. In-vitro fertilization consists of extracting several eggs from a woman, artificially fertilizing one of them and implanting it back into the woman’s uterus. The reason that several eggs are extracted is because the odds that any one of them will not be spontaneously aborted after implantation is considerably less then 100%. In almost all cases, a successful fetus is produced before all the eggs are used. Thus, a number of eggs are left over and kept frozen. Multiply this by the number of women undergoing this procedure and the result is that there are thousands of unfertilized eggs, most of which will never be used. Since they cannot be kept frozen indefinitely as spontaneous mutations occur which would lead to unusable eggs, most of these excess eggs are eventually discarded.

    What the presidents’ proposal states is that the excess eggs, that would have been discarded anyway, be artificially fertilized but that stem cells be extracted after about a week, which destroys the putative embryo. The rational is that extracting stem cells after a week is no different then discarding the egg before fertilization.

    Just for the information of interested readers, this issue was discussed in an interview by CNN medical reporter Sanji Gupta with former President Clinton. The former president stated that he had no objection to the presidents order, provided that it was assured that, in fact, the eggs that would be subjected to fertilization would never be used and would be discarded anyway.

  33. #33 SLC
    March 13, 2009

    As a follow on to my previous comment, we should be clear as to what President Obama did not approve.

    The president did not approve extracting eggs and artificially fertilizing them for the sole purpose of producing stem cells. He also did not approve the use of cloning technology to produce the stem cells (in fact, he retained the current ban on human cloning).

  34. #34 Satcomguy
    March 13, 2009

    I’ve been commenting on a blog at ABC NEWS/Nightline and have been dealing with a guy who just doesn’t get it. He brings out all the usual “Nazi experiment” nonsense and the like, but has also repeatedly thrown up a phrase from Public Law 207-107 regarding “live birth.” He keeps bringing up the phrase “at any stage of development” as a means of defining the embryo’s humanity (“humanness?”) and therefore classifying the use of embryos as murder. I have tried over and over to point out that the following paragraph of the law qualifies the definition, but he is copmpletely entrenched in his views and interpretation.
    I’ve been lurking here and at PZ’s place for a couple of years now and learned an awful lot, but this is the first time that I have ever really tried to take someone on in an issue like this. Is there any real chance of “winning” an argument like this or am I just raising my blood pressure unnecessarily?
    And thanks, Jason, for the really entertaining and enlightening blogging you’ve done!

  35. #35 SLC
    March 13, 2009

    Re Satcomguy

    The answer is that one cannot “win” an argument with whackjobs like the guy Mr. Satcomguy encountered because they don’t play by the rules, much like the creationists who post comments on this blog (e.g. chas, JonS, Charles Rayney). Their minds are made up, the facts are completely irrelevant.

  36. #36 Satcomguy
    March 13, 2009

    Thanks, SLC, that’s pretty much what I figured. As I said, I’ve been reading these blogs for a while and I’ve seen this sort of thing before but I’ve never engaged such an individual on a topic like this. I’m not exactly sure what my exit strategy should be….

  37. #37 Collin Brendemuehl
    March 13, 2009

    Anton,
    Cells are not human beings. They do not contain the characteristics of being human. Like Jason, you are arguing from analogy. Not a strong point for your side.

    SLC,
    Be careful on the cloning position. There has been a line drawn between experimental cloning and reproductive cloning. This also disregards any human essence and raises the same ethical questions. Again, a rats nest of issues and the religious ethicist is being left out of the discussion. Now the government (with agreeing scientists) is the final arbiter of morality (the utilitarian ethicist). This is very Hegelian and it is very dangerous.

  38. #38 mark
    March 13, 2009

    Every sperm is sacred…
    But:
    A seed IS the plant – it can’t become anything else. Well, a seed is not going to grow into something else, like a dog or a platypus, but it might not even grow into a plant. It might not even germinate.

  39. #39 SLC
    March 13, 2009

    Re Colin Brendemuehl

    Mr. Brendemuehl is confusing cloning and in-vitro fertilization. They are not the same thing. Cloning is illegal, in-vitro fertilization is legal. If Mr. Brendemuehl proposes to make in-virto fertilization illegal, I am afraid that that train has long since left the station and his chances of success are slim and none and slim is already on the bus headed out of town.

    In-vitro fertilization takes an egg and subjects it to sperm in a petri dish, with the resultant fertilized egg then being then implanted in the mothers uterus. The production of stem cells approved by President Obama takes an egg which is headed for discardment, and performs the in-virto fertilization procedure but instead of implanting the resulting embryo, extracts stem cells from it, after a week or two of development.

    The current cloning procedure, as I understand it, removes the material from the egg, which only includes 1/2 of the mothers DNA and replaces it with DNA from the mothers skin cells which now includes all the mothers DNA (i.e. we would now effectively have a fertilized egg). The result would then be the identical twin of the mother (or other donor), if the embryo was implanted into the mothers uterus and allowed to develop. This procedure has not, to my knowledge, been attempted on human beings or any other primate for that matter, but has been limited to such animals as dogs, cats, sheep (remember Dolly), etc.

    One more issue that should be addressed is the cost to a woman of removing several eggs at a time. A woman is born with all her eggs and the discharge of one every month exhausts them in her early forties, the result being menopause. Thus, if, say, six eggs are removed at one time for an in-vitro fertilization procedure, menopause will occur 5 months earlier then it otherwise would have. Thus, as is often the case, there is no free lunch here.

  40. #40 Anton Mates
    March 13, 2009

    Collin,

    Cells are not human beings. They do not contain the characteristics of being human.

    You contradict yourself. You have claimed that an unimplanted embryo, consisting of around a dozen cells, “contains the characteristics of being human,” because “the genetics and the continuity of development are human.” But this is also true for a single cell such as a zygote, to which you now deny humanity.

    Thus, you’ve demonstrated that, to use bob’s phrase, your moral scruples on this issue are incoherent.

    Like Jason, you are arguing from analogy. Not a strong point for your side.

    It appears to have escaped you that your own argument is one from analogy; there is little difference between saying that an embryo is “human-like” and saying that it “contains the characteristics of being human.” In either case, it’s clear that an embryo isn’t identical to a human at any stage after birth, so the question is whether it is sufficiently similar in relevant ways to merit similar moral considerations.

    Arguments from analogy are invaluable in ethical discussions, and so far as I can see, they’re unavoidable on this particular issue.

  41. #41 Collin Brendemuehl
    March 13, 2009

    Anton,
    No. I argued against single cells like skin cells.
    What I have maintained is that there is no cause to break the continuity (which Jason also acknowledged). Yet Jason is willing to arbitrarily break the continuity for the cause of science and declare the embryo only “human-like” and not fully “human” and a being with inherent dignity.
    The embryo is human. Do not draw a line based on some degree of development. That is arbitrary and as such is inconsistent because it creates a line that need not exist.

    Matters of similar observed characteristics (being human-like, as Jason posed) are different than matters of similar identity (which is the ontological question that I raised). Tou have obfuscated the argument and that might be deceptive to many readers. Such an approach certainly takes away any, hmpf, moral ground that you might claim.

    Enjoy your weekend.

  42. #42 Anton Mates
    March 14, 2009

    No. I argued against single cells like skin cells.

    Ah, so only some single cells are not human beings, while others are–despite all cells in question having the same DNA and being connected by a continuous developmental process. Why? What line are you drawing to justify this?

    What I have maintained is that there is no cause to break the continuity (which Jason also acknowledged). Yet Jason is willing to arbitrarily break the continuity for the cause of science and declare the embryo only “human-like” and not fully “human” and a being with inherent dignity.
    The embryo is human. Do not draw a line based on some degree of development. That is arbitrary and as such is inconsistent because it creates a line that need not exist.

    Then I refer you to my previous question. Do you believe that unfertilized sex cells, which are part of the same developmental continuity, should be protected as human? In fact, since all life on Earth has developed from a common ancestor via a continuous biological process, should not all life be classed as human? Why draw a line?

    Matters of similar observed characteristics (being human-like, as Jason posed) are different than matters of similar identity (which is the ontological question that I raised).

    “Similar identity?” Your argument from analogy is not strengthened by basing the analogy on ontological labels rather than observed characteristics, I assure you.

    Enjoy your weekend.

    Thank you, and likewise.

  43. #43 trrll
    March 14, 2009

    While it is obviously ridiculous to imagine that sperm cells and ova are not human life, but instantly become one upon fusion, it is important to realize that this is irrelevant to the stem cell debate.

    It is irrelevant, because the social decision of whether it is OK to kill human embryos, whatever the state of their humanity, has already been made, by allowing the use of in vitro fertilization, which necessarily involves the destruction of excess embryos.

    So the stem cell debate is entirely about whether anybody other than the prospective parents should be permitted to benefit from the destruction of the embryos. Those who are trying to stop stem cell research are effectively arguing that it is OK to kill embryos so that a couple can have their own child, as opposed to adopting somebody else’s, but it is not OK if in addition scientists learn something more about cell biology that might ultimately help to save lives of already-born people.

    The notion that an already accepted procedure becomes less morally acceptable if more people benefit seems fundamentally irrational, no matter what one’s beliefs regarding the moral status of human embryos.

  44. #44 Collin Brendemuehl
    March 14, 2009

    Anton,

    It seems that you don’t even have a clear definition of what it means to be “human” and so cannot separate being human from being fish or snail.

    The pro-life ethical position is that, once fertilized, the egg is fully human and so begins its growth. (Fertilization is the line drawn in nature, not by me or anyone else. It is a specific act that can be observed and measured.) The cell cannot (naturally) do so before fertilization, and before that point both egg and sperm are but parts. The point of fertilization is when human life begins. That is conception. To intentionally confuse this with a skin cell is disingenuous, at best.

    Jason drew the first line when he declared that being fully human happens at birth. Yet that person did not change one iota between the moments before and after the cord was cut. Taking this position is arbitrary and destructive for it leaves his “scientific” definition of life at the foot of the Supreme Court via Roe and Doe. The existence of life is not a judicial matter, yet this type of pseudo-science serves at the behest of the governing authorities who determine its nature and scope. There is no freedom in that type of science.

    I wonder, is this the type of illogic that you use at NCSE? Was “ontological” a term too difficult for you? That was not at all an argument from analogy.

    It’s no wonder our public schools have failed miserably, with leadership like this. But on the flip side, your obfuscation skills are certainly well-developed.

  45. #45 SLC
    March 14, 2009

    Re Colin Brendemuehl

    We finally seem to have pinned down Mr. Brendemuehls’ position. If life begins at fertilization, as he claims, then disposal of unfertilized eggs is not immoral. Fine. Then, he must have no moral objection to methods of contraception which prevent fertilization and thus rejects the Roman Catholic position that prevention of fertilization is also immoral. On the other hand, he must insist on the removal of approval of the use of RU486 which can cause a spontaneous abortion of a fertilized egg to take place. Unfortunately for such a position, that’s another train that has left the station. The Bush administration, in 8 years of authority, did not have the intestinal fortitude to remove the approval of the use of that drug, which seems to indicate that it ain’t going to happen.

    However, let’s pose another conundrum for Mr. Brendemuehl to mull over. As it happens, most eggs which are fertilized by natural means spontaneously abort during menstruation. Would Mr. Brendemuehl also object on moral grounds from retrieving the resulting blastocysts and extracting stem cells from them? After all, by his definition, they are also human beings, even though they will not further develop.

  46. #46 Collin Brendemuehl
    March 14, 2009

    SLiCk,

    You confuse politics with morality. A common liberal mistake.

    Your technologically unfeasable proposal raises the same issue: Is your only goal to find an excuse to experiment on human life? Would you take a dying adult or juvenile and cut him/her open just to check things out? Not likely. Would you take a near-term child from the womb, umbilical cord still attached and begin experimentation? Your reasoning says yes. I suspect that your (im)morality does also. If not at 36 weeks, how about at 24, or at 16, or at 4 or 2 weeks? To borrow from “spoon boy”: There is no line. You either experiment on humans or you do not.

  47. #47 SLC
    March 14, 2009

    Re Collin Brendemuehl

    There is nothing at all technologically infeasible, at least in principal, with retrieving blastocysts from menstrual fluid.

    And Mr. Brendemuehl has not answered the questions posed to him, other then he apparently considers use of RU486 to be immoral.

    1. Is the Roman Catholic Church incorrect in declaring prevention of fertilization immoral? That’s a yes or a no.

    2. Is it moral to retrieve a blastocyst from menstrual fluid and extract stem cells. That’s a yes or a no.

    My suspicion is that Mr. Brendemuehl doesn’t want to answer the questions because he knows that they are have you stopped beating your wife questions. Regardless of his response, I will show him up to be inconsistent.

  48. #48 Collin Brendemuehl
    March 14, 2009

    SLiCk,

    I don’t submit to inquisitions. Sorry to disappoint.

    Besides, neither of your questions are material to the discussions. Your alternate goal seems to be to diminish the participant instead of dealing with the subject. Staying on-topic works much better towards advancing any discussion.

    I would particpate further, but it seems that neither you nor Anton nor Jason have brought a substantive point to the table.

  49. #49 Anton Mates
    March 14, 2009

    trrll,

    It is irrelevant, because the social decision of whether it is OK to kill human embryos, whatever the state of their humanity, has already been made, by allowing the use of in vitro fertilization, which necessarily involves the destruction of excess embryos.

    So long as we’re talking about Saletan, though, that’s an unfair criticism. He has argued that creation of excess embryos is immoral, and has said that sooner or later the pro-life movement will have to face up to that issue.

  50. #50 Anton Mates
    March 14, 2009

    Collin,

    It seems that you don’t even have a clear definition of what it means to be “human” and so cannot separate being human from being fish or snail.’

    Oh, I have a definition–one based mostly on behavior, and one that admits degrees of humanness, as Jason’s does. But there’s no point even trying to separate being human from being anything else until you admit that a line must be drawn.

    (Fertilization is the line drawn in nature, not by me or anyone else. It is a specific act that can be observed and measured.)

    Come now. You know quite well that gastrulation, and implantation, and meiosis I and II, and birth, are also specific acts that can be observed and measured. And all of these acts are equally critical to the eventual development of a new human being. Nature–even if you wish to grant it some sort of moral authority–doesn’t pop up a sign at fertilization saying “Behold, this is the moment at which morally-significant humanness is achieved!”

    You’re drawing a line here, where nature does not. There’s nothing wrong with that–values are held by sentient beings such as humans, not by nature, and humans make the call on moral issues. Why not simply admit that and we can move on?

    The cell cannot (naturally) do so before fertilization, and before that point both egg and sperm are but parts.

    Again, I’m fairly confident that you know this applies equally well to many other developmental phases. The fertilized ovum is itself but a part–a tiny part–of the eventual human. If you doubt that, drop it in a dish and see if you get a baby in nine months.

    Conversely, of course an unfertilized egg can naturally grow into a human. It’s just that one of the first steps in that process of growth is fertilization! Likewise, a zygote cannot naturally grow into a human before implantation, but you refuse to draw the line there. Consistency.

    Jason drew the first line when he declared that being fully human happens at birth.

    Jason said nothing of the sort. He said that one is fully human at birth, not that one becomes so at that precise moment. For all I know, he assigns full morally-significant humanity starting in the third trimester or something.

    In fact, no one here has been drawing lines except you. The rest of us seem to be comfortable with the idea of a continuum from humanity to non-humanity.

    Yet that person did not change one iota between the moments before and after the cord was cut.

    While I don’t think it’s necessary to ground any significant judgment of humanness on this issue, that’s simply, factually, false. An unborn baby, even just before birth, is distinctly different from a born one. Hormone and oxygen levels alone produce radically different patterns of neural activity before, during and after birth.

    I wonder, is this the type of illogic that you use at NCSE? Was “ontological” a term too difficult for you?

    Harsh words! But I understand, it’s an emotional issue. (The NCSE, by the way, has no official position on abortion or stem cell research. This is just my individual opinion on this thread.)

    That was not at all an argument from analogy.

    Certainly it was. The fact that you prefer to relabel “human-like” as “human” doesn’t change that.

    It’s no wonder our public schools have failed miserably, with leadership like this. But on the flip side, your obfuscation skills are certainly well-developed.

    Does this mean you don’t want me to enjoy my weekend after all?

  51. #51 Erik 12345
    March 14, 2009

    I think Jason is spot on here. A quite stupid piece by Saletan.

  52. #52 Tyler DiPietro
    March 15, 2009

    “This also disregards any human essence and raises the same ethical questions.”

    This is your problem, there is no such thing as a “human essence”. Humanity, so to speak, is not some abstract entity like the isosceles triangle, it’s a contingent behavioral property. Essentialism, though intuitive, is complete bullshit.

    /thread.

  53. #53 Collin Brendemuehl
    March 16, 2009

    Anton,

    This is a clear scientific error:
    The fertilized ovum is itself but a part–a tiny part–of the eventual human.
    No. It IS the human. It is the entire being.

    >>Jason drew the first line when he declared that being fully human happens at birth.
    Jason said nothing of the sort. He said that one is fully human at birth, not that one becomes so at that precise moment.

    Yes, he did.
    At birth it is a human being in every sense. In between you have a grey area …
    Before birth it is something less than human. To Jason it is a grey area. That is an arbitrary line.

    And we all love it when plain contradictions support the pro-life position:
    Conversely, of course an unfertilized egg can naturally grow into a human. It’s just that one of the first steps in that process of growth is fertilization!
    Now, either it can or it cannot. Decide, one way or the other. But don’t pretend that this is science. It makes your position look really, really stupid.

    An unborn baby, even just before birth, is distinctly different from a born one. Hormone and oxygen levels alone produce radically different patterns of neural activity before, during and after birth.
    No. The difference is whether or not those facilities have or have not acted. The difference is not in content but in external condition and the physiological respsonse.
    Otherwise, you have a different person every time there is a hormonal rush. Not so.

    Certainly it was. The fact that you prefer to relabel “human-like” as “human” doesn’t change that.
    Then you refuse to confront the ontological issues? No surprise.

    I do trust you had a good weekend.

  54. #54 Anton Mates
    March 16, 2009

    Collin,

    The fertilized ovum is itself but a part–a tiny part–of the eventual human.
    No. It IS the human. It is the entire being.

    That’s funny. I could have sworn that the eventual human weighs at least a few pounds at birth, and is composed of trillions of cells, whereas the zygote is a single cell weighing something like a millionth of a gram. Are you sure some other stuff doesn’t get added betwixt zygote and baby?

    Would you like to give a scientific argument for why a zygote is an entire human being, but an unfertilized egg is not? Remember, you’ll need an empirical criterion for it to be scientific.

    At birth it is a human being in every sense. In between you have a grey area …
    Before birth it is something less than human. To Jason it is a grey area.

    It doesn’t follow that, according to Jason, the grey area begins immediately before birth, which is what you’re claiming he said.

    Conversely, of course an unfertilized egg can naturally grow into a human. It’s just that one of the first steps in that process of growth is fertilization!
    Now, either it can or it cannot. Decide, one way or the other.

    What? Of course it can, no question. Unfertilized egg gets fertilized, turns into a blastocyst, implants, gastrulates, etc., eventually you get a baby. If unfertilized eggs couldn’t grow into humans, we wouldn’t have humans!

    You were aware that fertilized eggs start out as unfertilized ones, right? They don’t just materialize out of the void?

    The difference is not in content but in external condition and the physiological respsonse.

    The oxygen levels inside your brain are “external?” And what does “content” mean? How is a human’s own physiology not part of their “content?”

    Otherwise, you have a different person every time there is a hormonal rush. Not so.

    I didn’t claim it was a different person. You said “that person did not change one iota.” Do you really think that you don’t change one iota when you have a hormonal rush?

    Then you refuse to confront the ontological issues?

    Nothing to confront so long as you fail to define your labels in any meaningful way.

    I do trust you had a good weekend.

    Likewise. Mine was pretty good.

  55. #55 Collin Brendemuehl
    March 17, 2009

    Anton,

    That’s funny. I could have sworn that the eventual human weighs at least a few pounds at birth, and is composed of trillions of cells…

    No. Not unless you consider that right now, since nearly all of your cells have been replaced, that you are not the same person as when you were born. You have grown. But if you want to draw some arbitrary line during the growth process that defines your legitimacy …

    The empirical criterion? How about the simple fact that the growth and the full DNA complement, neither are in place until fertilization?

    Yet you demand that an unfertilized egg is the same as a fertilized egg. It is not, simply becuase it is not fertilized. Otherwise you cannot observe anything that is specifically “human” even if you account for growth. That unitarian problem is the source of your obfuscation because it keeps you from giving a distinct definition to being human.

    The person did not change one iota because, even before the hormonal rush, the mechanism for that rush was present. It was a step in the contextual growth of the human being, not a change in the nature of the human being.

    The rest just looks like you are being argumentative for the sake of being a pest. I’ve given you sound and scientific information. Right now you need to struggle with your errors and read a little more. I think this thread should end.

  56. #56 Anton Mates
    March 17, 2009

    That’s funny. I could have sworn that the eventual human weighs at least a few pounds at birth, and is composed of trillions of cells…

    No.

    Oh. My mistake, I guess….

    Not unless you consider that right now, since nearly all of your cells have been replaced, that you are not the same person as when you were born.

    I’m pretty comfortable with that conclusion, yes. In fact, I always figured that the Buddhist/Heraclitean observation, that you will be a different person tomorrow than you are today, was kind of obvious. I suppose Tyler’s right–the world must look very different when you’re an essentialist.

    The empirical criterion? How about the simple fact that the growth and the full DNA complement, neither are in place until fertilization?

    What does it mean for “growth” to be “in place?” An unfertilized egg has all the same potential for growth that a fertilized one does, and, just like a fertilized egg, it won’t actually execute that growth unless it’s in a favorable environment.

    And if you consider the full DNA complement to be critical, then simply consider the unfertilized egg and sperm pair as a unit. (You will surely not object that they don’t count because they’re still two distinct cells; after all, the zygote becomes two separate cells on its first division.)

    Oh, and on the “growth and DNA” criterion, are identical twins separate human beings? The egg attained its full DNA complement and progressed partway (sometimes all the way) to embryohood before it divided into two future embryos, after all.

    Yet you demand that an unfertilized egg is the same as a fertilized egg. It is not, simply becuase it is not fertilized.

    Very true! Yes, an unfertilized egg and a fertilized one are not the same, and no, I never claimed that that they were. Similarly, a fertilized egg is not the same as a blastocyst, simply because the former is a single cell and the latter is many. And a fetus is not the same as a post-birth human, simply because the fetus (among other things) does not breathe or feed on its own and the post-birth human does.

    You have claimed that the tangible differences between fertilized egg and blastocyst and embryo and fetus and post-birth human are irrelevant to human identity. Yet you also claim that the difference between unfertilized egg and fertilized egg is crucial to human identity. Why? What’s your justification? How is this not entirely arbitrary?

    Otherwise you cannot observe anything that is specifically “human” even if you account for growth.

    No problem. See, us grey-area-loving non-essentialists don’t need any one trait to be necessary and sufficient for humanity. We’re fine with humanness being defined as a complex set of properties which may be partially attained in some cases, fully in others, and not at all in still others.

    The person did not change one iota because, even before the hormonal rush, the mechanism for that rush was present.

    You’ll have to explain what you mean by “mechanism” here. If you mean something like the endocrine system, then obviously this is false; that was not present before a certain point in prenatal development. If you mean something more general, like the causal mechanism which led to the hormonal rush through the laws of physics, then equally obviously (to the degree quantum indeterminacy permits such mechanisms to exist at all) it was present well before the person was even conceived.

    It was a step in the contextual growth of the human being, not a change in the nature of the human being.

    This will begin to be meaningful as soon as you have defined human nature.

    The rest just looks like you are being argumentative for the sake of being a pest.

    Not at all. I’m being argumentative for the sake of illustrating the inconsistencies in your definition of humanness, largely to illustrate that one can show the incoherence of the moral scruples of many pro-life advocates.

    I think this thread should end.

    Sure, we don’t have to continue discussing this if you don’t want to. See if you can tighten up your definition against counterexamples in the meantime, though! Have a nice day.

  57. #57 Collin Brendemuehl
    March 17, 2009

    Anton,

    The only thing you have done is to show, not my inconsistencies, but that we disagree. Those are entirely different matters. It is you (and Jason) who have introduced entirely unscientific rules.

    btw, Peter Singer would love your valuation of being human.

    Enjoy,

    Collin

  58. #58 Anton Mates
    March 17, 2009

    Argumentum ad singerum, eh? Any port in a storm, I suppose.

  59. #59 Tyler DiPietro
    March 17, 2009

    I see that Collin has failed to deal with my point about the lack of a “human essence”. Not surprising, since the removal of that assumption undermines his whole argument.

  60. #60 Collin Brendemuehl
    March 18, 2009

    Anton,
    Interesting term. I might hang onto that one.
    Singer’s ethical foundation is the same as yours — that there is nothing distinct about being “human,” hence his hand in founding PETA. And we dare not forget his view that a human is not fully human until a significant time after birth, and that life can be arbitrarily taken. For Singer it is entirely utilitarian. I suspect that you and Jason might follow that direction, generally if not specificially, were the conversation to take that turn. If not then what you have is a practical and virtual acknowledgement of something unique about being human.

    Tyler,
    Your point lacked substance. It was a rather juvenile statement, especially given that we have been discussing that very matter all along. But as long as you are going to be so childish/trollish as to suggest that no noted response means that there exists no response …

    “This also disregards any human essence and raises the same ethical questions.”

    This is your problem, there is no such thing as a “human essence”. Humanity, so to speak, is not some abstract entity like the isosceles triangle, it’s a contingent behavioral property. Essentialism, though intuitive, is complete bullshit.

    Really? BS? That was both scientific and logical. Such evolved logic is quite enlightening as to the person behind it. But I digress.

    One problem is that you cannot live that way — you cannot live below the assumption that you are distinctly human. You still live in a facility of optimum construction and employ the tools that belong to common human existence. You do not live a life which lacks the awareness of self-awareness and you do not live a live where you kill and are willing to be killed for mere morsels. Even the most low-tech human societies are far more mature in their structure than the proposal of animality would have us believe. There is an observable/measurable/reportable human distinction from the lesser creatures. Your virtues belie your real outlook. To deny this appears, at minimum, duplicitous.

    Enjoy.

  61. #61 Tyler DiPietro
    March 18, 2009

    It’s rather amazing that Collin took my critique of essentialism as saying that there were no measurable differences between fully developed human beings and other animals. In doing so, he has projected his own black and white, all or nothing thinking onto me. His response has absolutely nothing to do with my original point, leading me to believe he has simply failed to grasp it.

  62. #62 Collin Brendemuehl
    March 18, 2009

    Tyler,
    Not at all. Your use of the term was framed by my earlier statements. The direction that I took was to follow the conversation with some semblance of consistency, esp. with regard to the whole of the thread.

  63. #63 Tyler DiPietro
    March 18, 2009

    “Not at all. Your use of the term was framed by my earlier statements.”

    Yes, your earlier statements to the effect that zygotes and fully conscious, sentient human beings were equally human worthy of equal ethical considerations as opposed to, say, zygotes and fully developed animals. Not surprised that you attempted to shift the goalposts, though. Keep it up, junior.

  64. #64 Collin Brendemuehl
    March 18, 2009

    Tyler,
    Now you’re acting like a troll. I did not change the goalposts. It was you who introduced the broader principle of essentialism. I merely kept the subject on track and framed within the thread.
    Setting up a straw man (creating the new point regarding humans vs. animals as deserving or worthy of an ethic) does your position no good. In fact you did it rather poorly. It’s unbecoming.

  65. #65 Tyler DiPietro
    March 18, 2009

    “I did not change the goalposts. It was you who introduced the broader principle of essentialism.”

    I did not, in fact, introduce it. The principle of essentialism was implicit in your argument, where you explicitly said that “denying a human essence” was inherently problematic.

    “creating the new point regarding humans vs. animals as deserving or worthy of an ethic”

    This is not a new point, Jason introduced it with his post. Your last two posts have been exclusively about the distinction between human beings and animals, for FSM’s sake.

    “It’s unbecoming.”

    Trying to rewrite what is plainly visible in the thread is unbecoming, by which I really mean stupid.

  66. #66 Beth
    March 19, 2009

    Just to clarify what actually happens with IVF – it’s my understanding that rarely are just eggs frozen as that technology is not very advanced yet. The doctors fertilize the dish of newly harvested eggs and then choose the best looking embryo(s) to implant. Then the couple decides what to do with the left over embyos, choosing either to freeze them or discard them. It is not the unfertilized egg that is frozen but the embryo.

    http://www.ivf.com/freezing.html

    Perhaps things have changed though since I learned about it.
    I agree that to be consistent, those against stem cell should be going after the source and lobbying against IVF because there are thousands of embryos being created and discarded.

  67. #67 Anton Mates
    March 19, 2009

    Collin,

    Singer’s ethical foundation is the same as yours — that there is nothing distinct about being “human,” hence his hand in founding PETA.

    Singer inspired lots of animal welfare/rights groups, PETA included. But as far as I’m aware, he had no hand in founding PETA. It would be weird if he did, since PETA is explicitly an animal rights organization, and Singer’s a utilitarian who doesn’t believe in inherent rights.

    And we dare not forget his view that a human is not fully human until a significant time after birth, and that life can be arbitrarily taken.

    Dare we not? I’m still not sure why we’re talking about him at all. I thought you were attempting to present a definition of humanity which was consistent with your opinions on the “humanness” of various entities. Are we done with that?

    For Singer it is entirely utilitarian. I suspect that you and Jason might follow that direction, generally if not specificially, were the conversation to take that turn.

    It’s odd to say that of Jason, who said plainly in the original post that “at birth [a human] is a human being in every sense.”

    For my part, sure, I wouldn’t consider a newborn baby morally equivalent to an adult human. Or to a small child–if the proverbial burning fertility clinic contained both a newborn infant and a four-year-old, and I could only save one, I’d grab the four-year-old, no question. (Leaving the refrigerated embryos to their fate, I’m afraid.)

    Not sure how you got from that to “life can be arbitrarily taken,” something with which neither Singer nor I would agree. In fact, Singer has been arguing for a considerably less arbitrary approach to taking life, human and nonhuman alike.

    Me, I don’t think we should treat babies with less consideration; I do think we should treat many animal species with more.

    If not then what you have is a practical and virtual acknowledgement of something unique about being human.

    What? Why? What would prevent one from placing adult humans, newborns and certain nonhumans in the same moral category?

    One problem is that you cannot live that way — you cannot live below the assumption that you are distinctly human. You still live in a facility of optimum construction and employ the tools that belong to common human existence. You do not live a life which lacks the awareness of self-awareness and you do not live a live where you kill and are willing to be killed for mere morsels. Even the most low-tech human societies are far more mature in their structure than the proposal of animality would have us believe. There is an observable/measurable/reportable human distinction from the lesser creatures.

    The strange thing here is that you seem to be pointing out observable, measurable behaviors. Since both Tyler and I have already endorsed largely behavioral definitions of humanness, that’s hardly a problem for us. It’s a bit of a problem for your position, though, since blastocysts don’t do much tool-using or self-reflecting.

    And on a side note, there are a number of nonhuman societies whose members use tools, don’t kill each other over morsels and–so far as I can tell, anyway–are self-aware. (They pass the mirror test, at least.)

  68. #68 Collin Brendemuehl
    March 19, 2009

    Anton,

    It seems no surprise that you miss the failure of your virtues. That failure is, in fact, part of my position. You live as a special human yet treat all as though being human is somehow not distinct.

    And though Jason acknowledged what is more commonly termed “personhood” (rather than “humanness”) after birth, his sense of humanity is cluttered with a disturbing grey area.

    What? Why? What would prevent one from placing adult humans, newborns and certain nonhumans in the same moral category?
    That is a core question. I bring a Christian ethic with a Christian theological foundation (Reformed). But you did not come with a purely secular message. The door has been left open to utility and pragmatism by allowing ESCR without restriction. There is nothing inherently “pure” about being free of what some might call “religious constraint.” It is these constraints that protect us from utility and its evils. A trip to the first half of the 20th century provides historical evidence of this. Margaret Sanger and Her Friends, as well as Stalin and the other evil dictators of the era expressed well, in social and political terms, the destructiveness of unrestrained utility.
    But your position has not been wholly secular. You brought in a particularly religious position to support your claim. Now, you might say that this was merely ancilllary. I would instead suggest that your position is entirely religious and ask that you consider reading two books on the subject. The first is short, but the other is lengthy. One is by John Gray, “Black Mass”. Despite his errors in assumption he paints a useful picture of the religious nature of modern secularism. Following that, “The Myth of Religious Neutrality” by Roy Clouser will clarify Gray’s position as well as expose its core weaknesses.

    Wow. Frightening:
    For my part, sure, I wouldn’t consider a newborn baby morally equivalent to an adult human.
    It looks like the grey area has expanded to something beyond the cutting of the umbilical cord.

    Tyler,
    I’ll respond to you when you understand the difference between a particular essential and a broader essentialism and also discontinue this hijacking approach.

  69. #69 Anton Mates
    March 19, 2009

    Collin,

    It seems no surprise that you miss the failure of your virtues.

    I’m sorry, I’m not sure what this sentence means. Could you unpack it a bit? And, again, how does a list of behavioral “virtues” support a non-behavioral definition of humanity?

    That failure is, in fact, part of my position. You live as a special human yet treat all as though being human is somehow not distinct.

    Certainly. That I can conclusively identify myself (and you, and Jason) as human does not imply that there exist no borderline cases. Similarly, I think that I fall distinctly within the “biological male” category and not the “biological female,” but there exist some people in a grey area between the two.

    And though Jason acknowledged what is more commonly termed “personhood” (rather than “humanness”) after birth, his sense of humanity is cluttered with a disturbing grey area.

    Well, yeah, but he specifically said that that grey area did not extend to newborns, so why argue that it does?

    What? Why? What would prevent one from placing adult humans, newborns and certain nonhumans in the same moral category?
    That is a core question.

    Okay, but as far as I can see, you didn’t go on to answer it. If someone chooses to, for instance, consider all post-birth great apes to be morally equivalent, is there some internal inconsistency in that position? I’m not seeing it.
    Subsequent appeal to consequences snipped…

    But your position has not been wholly secular. You brought in a particularly religious position to support your claim.

    What position would that be and what makes it religious?

    I would instead suggest that your position is entirely religious and ask that you consider reading two books on the subject.

    I’ll certainly consider it; mind you, I’m more likely to do so if you sketch out the support for this claim.

    Wow. Frightening:
    For my part, sure, I wouldn’t consider a newborn baby morally equivalent to an adult human.

    It might comfort you to consider that almost every human society takes this position, implicitly if not explicitly. This can be seen in everything from circumcision and gender-reassignment surgery to our legal response to maternal infanticide.

  70. #70 Tyler DiPietro
    March 19, 2009

    “I’ll respond to you when you understand the difference between a particular essential and a broader essentialism and also discontinue this hijacking approach.”

    I don’t care whether you respond to me or not, I’ve already shown the weakness of your position to my satisfaction and Anton is doing a fine drop dressing you down in my stead. But if you think you can bring up “essentials” without implicitly endorsing or invoking the principle of essentialism and thus opening that particular position to critique, you’re more intellectually inept than I thought you were.

  71. #71 Collin Brendemuehl
    March 20, 2009

    Tyler,
    I don’t care whether you respond to me or not,
    Sure you do, or you would not have said that I had no point unless I responded. Demagoguery is not nice. Besides, I’m just playing with you. Not nice, I know. But I though it would quiet down your demagoguery just a bit. Apparently I was mistaken.

    The two of you are doing the same thing. That is, as I stated previously, you are merely pointing out our disagreements and not proving me wrong. Tyler, you are saying that there is nothing essential because there is nothing transcendant. I say there is. Disagreement is not disproof.

    Anton, for you to say that there is nothing essentially human in a being by appealing to pantheism and consensus instead of showing my Christian ethic to be in error is also simply showing disagreement. Likewise, disagreement is not disproof.

    On the other hand, I have shown that your virtues express the opposite of your stated position. Think of that as a practical apologetic for a natural law approach to the subject, clearly contrary to your presumed secularism.

    That your statement is frightening comes down to a question: Where is your line? What is newborn? How old? When does a human being become valuable enough, and how is that value arrived at, to be considered morally viable? This leaves an open door which is quite dangerous.

    Have a great weekend, guys.

  72. #72 Anton Mates
    March 21, 2009

    Collin,

    Anton, for you to say that there is nothing essentially human in a being by appealing to pantheism and consensus instead of showing my Christian ethic to be in error is also simply showing disagreement.

    Pantheism?? Wow, that came out of left field.

    I haven’t said anything about God’s properties, existence, or lack thereof in this thread. What did I say that you read as appealing to pantheism, of all things? (I’m a weak atheist, if it matters…..)

    As for consensus: I think you may be referring to my observation that most societies do not grant newborns all the rights of full humanity. If so, since that includes Christian societies (look at prosecution of infanticide in most Christian countries, for instance), I do think that’s relevant to your ethic. Not that you’re obligated to think as others think, but you need not fear them for thinking differently. It doesn’t lead to being mean to babies, I promise you!

    Likewise, disagreement is not disproof.

    What I’ve noted, though, is that your stated criteria for humanity disagree with your own opinions on the humanity of various entities. You claim to use developmental and genetic criteria, yet ignore those criteria when it comes to sperm/eggs on one side, and identical twins on the other. As I said, the lack of consistency is what interests me.

    It would be entirely possible to construct a pro-life position which is 100% consistent. It’s just that, at the moment, yours isn’t.

    On the other hand, I have shown that your virtues express the opposite of your stated position.

    You’ve said that a couple of times now, but you still haven’t dealt with my argument that, in fact, the “virtues” you listed are consistent with my position but not with yours.

    To recap: I took the position that humanity is to be defined behaviorally; you took the position that humanity is to be defined genetically/developmentally. You then listed various behavioral virtues that, you said, were characteristic of humans. Kind of hard to see how that could support your position rather than mine, don’t you think?

    When does a human being become valuable enough, and how is that value arrived at, to be considered morally viable?

    And here’s the problem: most of us (on this thread) are comfortable with the idea that you don’t have to be human to be “morally viable.” My “okay to kill these things casually and arbitrarily” zone is somewhere way, way below adult humans. I’m very happy to have newborns be legally protected from death and suffering to the extent they are, because I’d like lots of critters to have such protection, such as the great apes.

    You, on the other hand, seem to think that if an organism isn’t human, it necessarily has the same claim to life and happiness as a brick. Under those circumstances, I quite understand why you’d be desperate to make sure that everything you care about is definitely and permanently categorized as 100% human. But I hope you can understand why that wouldn’t be so terrifyingly urgent to those of us with a slightly more catholic (lower-case c) approach to granting moral significance.

    May Spinoza smile on your deeds this weekend!

  73. #73 Collin Brendemuehl
    March 21, 2009

    Anton,

    Pantheism?? Wow, that came out of left field.

    Not at all. You made an appeal to a Buddhist philosophy.

    you need not fear them for thinking differently.

    I do not fear them. I fear the idea and its consequence.

    It doesn’t lead to being mean to babies, I promise you!

    Oh, yes it does.

    My “okay to kill these things casually and arbitrarily” zone is somewhere way, way below adult humans. I’m very happy to have newborns be legally protected from death and suffering to the extent they are…

    Your personal position is good. But that is not the reality in a world where your same ethic is in control. That’s part of what Jill Stanek’s work is all about — stopping infanticide. One cannot diminism humanity without consequence.

    … yet ignore those criteria when it comes to sperm/eggs

    No. The infusion and combination of genetic material from egg and sperm and the net loss of the sperm cell resulted in the creation of a growing being. I’ve not ignored it at all. I just do not see it as scientifically consistent to pretend that all human cells are individually human. The idea of human simplicity is a laughable.

    Kind of hard to see how that could support your position rather than mine, don’t you think?

    You missed the point that you live like you are, somehow and in some way, special and yet declare that you are not. When you have a child that you love, then the full humanity of that child will be real, and again your virtues will deny your stated position.

    You, on the other hand, seem to think that if an organism isn’t human, it necessarily has the same claim to life and happiness as a brick.

    Don’t misrepresent me. It’s starting to sound like you went to Ohio State or something. I did not say that there was no ethic for other beings. I will say that it is not the same ethic. As a result, your position stands if you build a straw man, and only if you do so.

  74. #74 Tyler DiPietro
    March 21, 2009

    “The two of you are doing the same thing. That is, as I stated previously, you are merely pointing out our disagreements and not proving me wrong. Tyler, you are saying that there is nothing essential because there is nothing transcendant. I say there is. Disagreement is not disproof.”

    So the genetic and developmental phenomena you’ve arbitrarily used to distinguish humanity from other entities are now “transcendent”? YOU BEST BE JOKING NIGGA.

  75. #75 Collin Brendemuehl
    March 21, 2009

    Tyler,

    Now this is a quality straw man. Well done, Tyler.

    There is nothing arbitrary about the joining of egg and sperm. The genetic uniqueness is measurable and reportable. As such there is nothing arbitrary about being specially human.

    Best of all, that makes your monism and your naturalism both transcendant presuppositions. This makes you as much a presuppositionalist and (some sort of) religious as me.

    Collin

  76. #76 Anton Mates
    March 21, 2009

    Anton,

    Pantheism?? Wow, that came out of left field.

    Not at all. You made an appeal to a Buddhist philosophy.

    I specifically threw in Heraclitus as well, so it would be clear that I wasn’t talking about an exclusively Buddhist position. If someone cited Newton on a matter of optics, would you say they were “appealing to Arianist Christianity?”

    And Buddhism is generally atheistic, not pantheistic. There are pantheistic forms of Buddhism, but there are pantheistic forms of Christianity.

    And no, I’m not Buddhist.

    It doesn’t lead to being mean to babies, I promise you!

    Oh, yes it does.

    Um, okay. Evidence? For instance, among Western countries, do those which are more permissive on abortion and stem cell research also have higher rates of infant abuse & homicide? Far as I know, if anything, the opposite is true.

    But that is not the reality in a world where your same ethic is in control. That’s part of what Jill Stanek’s work is all about — stopping infanticide.

    Oh. Jill Stanek. Okay, asking for evidence is probably not going to get us very far here.

    No. The infusion and combination of genetic material from egg and sperm and the net loss of the sperm cell resulted in the creation of a growing being.

    Again, you ignore your own criteria. Nothing was “created” at this point; the egg and sperm already existed, already had the genetic material the zygote was going to have, and contained all the cellular machinery necessary to fuse and grow into a human.

    Similarly, the zygote itself may develop into two or more growing beings, if it results in identical siblings…or into none at all, if spontaneous abortion (which is very common) occurs.

    And twins aren’t genetically unique, of course, so there goes that argument for personhood.

    There’s just no line you can draw here. Both zygote and sperm-egg pair are genetically and developmentally human; neither zygote nor sperm-egg pair is certain to develop into a new human being, but both are capable of it under the right circumstances.

    I just do not see it as scientifically consistent to pretend that all human cells are individually human.

    This makes me wonder if you know what “consistent” means. It would be certainly be consistent to define all human cells as individually human–you and I might disagree with that rule, but it could be applied without internal contradiction. Likewise, it would be consistent to define no human cells as individually human, which is the position I take.

    What is not consistent is to define some cells (like zygotes) as individually human, but not others (like gametes and skin cells.)

    You missed the point that you live like you are, somehow and in some way, special and yet declare that you are not.

    You’ve stated that point; you haven’t supported it. I recognize that I have various behavioral properties–sentience, intelligence, etc.–which certainly distinguish me from, say, a rock or a bacterium or a poplar tree. You helpfully pointed some of these out back here. I do consider these traits to be “special” and morally significant, hence I consider other creatures who share them–like other humans and many animals–to be morally significant in turn.

    Conversely, zygotes and blastocysts and embryos, who clearly do not possess any of these special properties, have no moral significance. See how that works?

    When you have a child that you love, then the full humanity of that child will be real, and again your virtues will deny your stated position.

    There are already a number of children in my family that I love. I love them because they have minds, not because they’re developmentally-continuous collections of cells with human DNA.

    Don’t misrepresent me. It’s starting to sound like you went to Ohio State or something.

    MY ALMA MATER WAS A SAINT!!1!

    Seriously, I’m surprised you would attack OSU. As large and well-respected public universities go, it has an unusually strong pro-life culture.

    I did not say that there was no ethic for other beings.

    Apologies if I’ve misunderstood you; you’ve repeatedly said things that I could interpret in no other way.

    For instance, you characterized Singer’s view that newborns are not fully human as implying that “life can be arbitrarily taken,” and you asked how old/valuable a human must be in order to be “morally viable.” But if there’s an ethic which applies to certain nonhumans, then they’re already morally viable, their lives cannot be arbitrarily taken, and your above statements are nonsensical.

  77. #77 Anton Mates
    March 21, 2009

    Anton,

    Er, forgot to clip that out from the above. I’m not talking to myself here–I hope!

  78. #78 Tyler DiPietro
    March 21, 2009

    “The genetic uniqueness is measurable and reportable.”

    And your use of it as criterion for ethical status is arbitrary.

  79. #79 Anton Mates
    March 21, 2009

    And your use of it as criterion for ethical status is arbitrary.

    And inconsistent, unless cancer cells have a greater claim to humanity than cloned humans or identical twins.

  80. #80 Collin Brendemuehl
    March 22, 2009

    Tyler,

    It is first a biological and scientific standard.
    And with theology along side, it is useful for building an ethic.

    Anton,

    Poking at OSU is just for fun, for us cheeseheads.
    http://ncseweb.org/about/speakers
    (About half-way down. Isn’t that you?)

    Yes, employing Newton may well imply something Christian. It depends up on the context and how well the argument is developed.

    I probably should have used the term “monism” instead of “pantheism”. But when there is some transcendant principle applied then “pantheism” becomes appropriate, or at least enters consideration.

    So Jill Stanek’s evidence (infanticide) for the abuse that accompanies the abortion/non-human movement is not evidence? Do you usually denigrate the messenger or listen to the evidence? As before, not very scientific.

    Again, you ignore your own criteria. Nothing was “created” at this point; the egg and sperm already existed, already had the genetic material the zygote was going to have, and contained all the cellular machinery necessary to fuse and grow into a human.

    Not quite. Neither the egg nor the sperm contained each other’s genetic combination. The combination is unique. And neither can the individual cells naturally grow to a person/human being.

    But if there’s an ethic which applies to certain nonhumans, then they’re already morally viable, their lives cannot be arbitrarily taken, and your above statements are nonsensical.

    It would be nonsensical only if you think it is the identical ethic which must be applied. I do not. That’s why I enjoy gravy with my potatos and roast beef.

    You keep demanding that individual cells must have the same respect as the growing human being. I do hope that the rest of the readers see how foolish that is, both scientifically and logically.

  81. #81 Tyler DiPietro
    March 22, 2009

    “It is first a biological and scientific standard.”

    Which says absolutely nothing about it’s viability as an ethical qualifier, or at least you have failed to demonstrate that it does.

    “And with theology along side, it is useful for building an ethic.”

    AHA! and “AHA!” again! Your ethics requires supernatural entities to be viable. That’s something you haven’t exactly been transparent about, my friend.

  82. #82 Anton Mates
    March 22, 2009

    Collin,

    Poking at OSU is just for fun, for us cheeseheads.

    Pfft, poke away. If you’re not Michigan, it’s not like we’ll notice…

    (About half-way down. Isn’t that you?)

    C’est moi.

    Yes, employing Newton may well imply something Christian. It depends up on the context and how well the argument is developed.

    I’d be interested to see how a reference to Newton to support a claim about optics would imply something Christian, let alone antitrinitarian….

    I probably should have used the term “monism” instead of “pantheism”.

    You could, but it still wouldn’t fit with Buddhism, which tends not to make ontological claims of any sort. Anyway, I’m a physicalist, if it’s relevant to the discussion–though it must not be relevant, since apparently everything I’ve written has been equally consistent with Buddhism and pantheism! Kind of flattering, actually; I didn’t know I was that good at leaving out my metaphysical commitments.

    But when there is some transcendant principle applied then “pantheism” becomes appropriate, or at least enters consideration.

    And what transcendent principle did I apply, and how would it fit with pantheism?

    So Jill Stanek’s evidence (infanticide) for the abuse that accompanies the abortion/non-human movement is not evidence? Do you usually denigrate the messenger or listen to the evidence?

    Hey, if you give me evidence, I’ll listen to it. But so far you’ve just name-checked Stanek; you haven’t described her evidence at all. And Stanek has previously claimed that Chinese people eat fetuses, misrepresented Obama’s voting record, complained that black people ought to stop “having sex like animals,” and said that condoms do nothing to prevent HIV transmission. So you’ll forgive me if her name doesn’t conjure up an impression of factual integrity.

    But go ahead. What’s her evidence, where did she get it, and how does it support the idea that being pro-choice leads to infanticide?

    Not quite. Neither the egg nor the sperm contained each other’s genetic combination.

    But, taken as a pair, they contain the combination. Of course, you can take it as a moral axiom that the combination isn’t significant until it’s found in every individual cell, if you like.

    The combination is unique.

    Unless it develops into twins. I notice you still haven’t explained how this is consistent with their presumable status of full humanity….

    And of course the mature unfertilized egg is almost certainly genetically unique to begin with. A woman sheds only a few hundred eggs over her lifetime, and with 2^23 possible haploid genomes which can result from meiosis, the chance of any two of those eggs having the same genes is around 0.5%.

    And neither can the individual cells naturally grow to a person/human being.

    You’re eliding the definition of “naturally” here. An unfertilized egg can grow into a person if it encounters a sperm, then gastrulates, then implants, then gestates for several months, and so on, without any mishaps along the way. A fertilized egg can grow into a person if it gastrulates, then implants, then gestates for several months, and so on. If the latter process is “natural” but the former is not, it follows that fertilization must itself be unnatural! Is that really your position?

    Furthermore, a test tube embryo will, manifestly, not “naturally” grow into much of anything–except a small collection of dead cells, if left unrefrigerated. Yet you wish to consider it human.

    It would be nonsensical only if you think it is the identical ethic which must be applied. I do not.

    What sort of ethic denies moral viability and permits the arbitary taking of life, and how would it differ from no ethic whatsoever? In any case, no one on this thread has defended such an ethic.

    You keep demanding that individual cells must have the same respect as the growing human being.

    More precisely, I hold that individual cells should receive the same respect as a collection of human cells which does not yet have a brain or mind. Both should recieve less respect than a growing human being that has actually reached the point of having thoughts and feelings

    I do hope that the rest of the readers see how foolish that is, both scientifically and logically.

    As Darrow would say, your honor is entitled to hope….

  83. #83 Collin Brendemuehl
    March 23, 2009

    I’d be interested to see how a reference to Newton to support a claim about optics would imply something Christian, let alone antitrinitarian

    That’s exactly why I said that it would depend upon context. Sheesh.

    So it seems that the *example* of infanticide as a wrong of the abortion movement’s diminishing of human value is not cleear? That’s just plain history that is readily available. http://www.jillstanek.com

    There exists no moral vacuum. There are no brute facts (VanTil). There is never a lack of ethic. ESCR cannot be done free of an ethic. It is either utilitarian, Christian, or something else. But it is never in a vacuum.

    Once fertilized the egg is not as it was. The genetic core is different. It is the plain combination of two cells. (Unless you think that the sperm was either destroyed or that it still exists elsewhere. Fact is, they combined.)

    What sort of ethic denies moral viability and permits the arbitary taking of life, and how would it differ from no ethic whatsoever?

    The twins question seems irrelevant as both began with the same source, and it was accomlished naturally.

  84. #84 Anton Mates
    March 23, 2009

    Collin,

    That’s exactly why I said that it would depend upon context. Sheesh.

    Yet you said that in response to a question where I gave that context, specifically optics.

    So it seems that the *example* of infanticide as a wrong of the abortion movement’s diminishing of human value is not cleear?

    Yes. That infanticide is and has historically been quite common is not in question; your argument is that a pro-choice ethic makes it more common. That link is what you need evidence for.

    That’s just plain history that is readily available. http://www.jillstanek.com

    Again, Jill Stanek is not my first choice for “plain history.” If you want to use evidence she’s collected, feel free, but please cite her sources (or at least direct me to a specific assertion of hers so I can check her sources myself.)

    Once fertilized the egg is not as it was.

    Yes, of course. And once it divides, it’s not as it was, and once it implants, it’s not as it was, and once it completes meiosis, it’s not as it was. Again, you need not be Buddhist to observe that everything changes over time.
    Your position is that the case of “not as it was” after fertilization is morally significant—a change of “essence,” perhaps?–whereas the other cases, before and after that point, are not. You can assert that as an ethical axiom if you like and nobody can gainsay you, but otherwise, what’s the criterion? The genetic change itself doesn’t seem to qualify, since twins go from “one being” to “two beings” without any such change.

    The twins question seems irrelevant as both began with the same source, and it was accomlished naturally.

    But there is no genetic uniqueness in this case. So is uniqueness not relevant to granting humanity, after all? Or, since the twins began with the same source–a single zygote–are the twins a single human being?
    And I have no idea what the “naturally” bit has to do with anything. The parent zygote could have been produced in vitro, if you like, or it could have been artificially induced to split. Would that make the twins less human?

  85. #85 Collin Brendemuehl
    March 24, 2009

    Would that make the twins less human?

    No. Just the utilitarians who wish to experiment on humanity at every and any stage.

    For the relationship between abortion, infanticide, and the demhumanization of the unborn, check the works of Mary Calderone, and early (popular in the late 50s and through the 60s) abortion proponent who was clear that, even if it was shown scientifically that the pre-born were fully human, it would not matter. She still wanted to kill them. That is dehumanization and necessary to the movement. The racism of the abortion movement, esp. is clear eugenics origins. With Sanger being a friend of Hitler, PPofA responded to such criticism with something really simple: You take your friends where you can get them. That was even on PBS and the PPofA people were pretty clear, speaking themselves.

    The remainder of your attempts to maintain your monism are not even worth comment for their lack of science.

  86. #86 Anton Mates
    March 24, 2009

    The remainder of your attempts to maintain your monism are not even worth comment for their lack of science.

    Coming at the end of a post which is, in its entirety, “Pro-choice people are bad and here are some pro-choice people who were bad,” this is delightfully ironic. But if you’re uninterested in further clarifying your position, no problem.

    Enjoy your–um–I was going to see what holiday this is, but apparently it’s the anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill, the Jonesboro massacre, Oscar Romero’s assassination, and the tarring and feathering of Joseph Smith. So happy Lara Flynn Boyle’s birthday!

  87. #87 Collin Brendemuehl
    March 25, 2009

    Anton,
    Despite your continued attempt to write off evidence … I also enjoyed MIB:II.

  88. #88 söve
    June 13, 2009

    Again, Jill Stanek is not my first choice for “plain history.” If you want to use evidence she’s collected, feel free, but please cite her sources