Respectful Insolence

…and, no, I don’t mean Orac, his last few posts notwithstanding.

No, don’t worry, this post is most definitely not about Bill Maher. Rather, it’s how, while doing searches for that craziness, I found even more disturbing craziness. Even though I was disappointed in him on this one issue and even though I often don’t agree with him on religion, never let it be said that I don’t still have considerable admiration for Richard Dawkins. That’s why, when I came across some truly over-the-top attacks on Dawkins, I thought it would be worthwhile to mention them, as a little wafer to cleanse the palate before moving on to other topics this week. And, yes, be assured that I am moving on to other topics, particularly one that several readers have been begging me to take on. The only reason I haven’t done so is because I simply haven’t had the time to do it justice. Tomorrow or Wednesday, though, I promise to try to get to it.

But on to some true ridiculousness, specifically a post called Dick Dawkins Before He Dicks You.

The stupid, it’s the one thing that doesn’t evolve, isn’t it? In fact, it just keeps burning and burning and burning and burning. Let’s put it this way. Any post in which there is a picture of Richard Dawkins festooned with Swastikas all around him, as though they’re emanating from his heart, is indeed a black hole of stupid, so dense that anything resembling light or intelligence is hard pressed to escape. You have to be very careful not to have your intelligence sucked into the maw of this stupid. Tinfoil hats might help.

Now, I had never seen this blog, which goes by the name The Outraged Spleen of Zion. I’d give whoever the blogger is props for a rather cool name, which would make a decent name for a punk rock band, except that the concentrated idiocy on display on that blog is enough to stress even Orac’s protective circuits. Basically, prominently displayed on the blog is description of the blogger:

BabbaZee
Virtual Goshen, Feral Nation, United States
BabbaZee is a somewhat eviscerated, self-educated, feral Jewtian writer, poet, and artist who believes passionately in the preservation of Western Civilization, in unity between Christians and Jews, and in the responsibility of GOD’s people to their covenant.

And this statement:

Next time someone tries to shove some Homo Stultus dogma down your throat it would please me very much if you would use the following links to express your disinterest in their Darwingelical Dawkins Da’Wa….

What is “homo stultus” dogma? Oh, just the usual nonsense:

HOMO STULTUS – A term coined by Petre Tutea

Ubiquitous human type of atheist who perennially denies the existence of GOD – he is “spiritually autistic” per Tutea, who includes the ignorant, the willfully stupid and the morally corrupt in genus Homo Stultus.

“…in his spiritual stupidity, he applies the logic of facts to the domain of mystery, thereby remaining a captive to this world in which he acts mechanically, like a spinning top”

If you want spirited stupid, this blog seems to be saying, this is the place. And deliver it does, misrepresenting Dawkins’ words in the most blatantly obvious way possible at every turn. There’s just too much there to list it all, and, quite frankly, after this weekend I’m not in the mood for an Oracian-length deconstruction because, well, I’m tired after having worked on my grant all weekend and I also blogged all weekend when I shouldn’t have. Let’s just take a look at a couple.

First, the blogger BabbaZee takes a pot shot at Dawkins’ statements about eugenics. I actually wrote about this before, pointing out that, while I thought that some of what Dawkins said was ill-advised, for the most part it’s nowhere near as bad as loons like BabbaZee try to make it out. For one thing, Dawkins’ article about eugenics was published as an afterword in a book specifically about “dangerous ideas.” It should thus not be surprising that Dawkins might be intentionally provocative about this apparently most dangerous of dangerous ideas. How Dawkin’s piece was published as a “letter to the editor” when it was nothing of the sort is unclear, and how it became associated with the headline or title “Eugenics may not be bad” remains mysterious. As I said at the time, the whole thing reeked of an orchestrated attempt to smear Dawkins. In any case, Dawkins was asking a rather provocative question: Is eugenics inherently bad, and, if so, why? He never struck me as advocating eugenics; rather, he seemed to be asking whether it’s possible to discuss the matter, now that Hitler has been dead for over 60 years.

The other thing that BabbaZee harps on is Dawkins’ statement that “Jews monopolize American policy.” Surprise, surprise! I wrote about that one too! In reality, I wasn’t too thrilled with Dawkin’s views but concluded not that Dawkins is a raging anti-Semite, which is what BabbaZee apparently thinks, but rather that used a bad analogy that revealed a lack of understanding of American politics and left himself wide open to these sorts of brain dead attacks.

Perhaps the silliest brain dead attack is the implication that Dawkins is somehow an admirer of Hitler. Basically, he quotes an article in which Dawkins discussed the changing zeitgeist of morality:

“I’m actually rather interested in the shifting zeitgeist. If you travel anywhere in the Western world, you find a consensus of opinion which is recognizably different from what it was only a matter of a decade or two ago. You and I are both a part of that same zeitgeist, and [as to where] we get our moral outlook, one can almost use phrases like ‘it’s in the air.’”

At this point, perhaps a word of explanation is necessary. Zeitgeist is a German word meaning “spirit of the age.” Dawkins here refers to the prevailing moral climate or mood of a given place or time. We may observe that what constitutes moral or ethical behavior differs from one culture to another; indeed, it may even differ within a given culture. This is not in dispute. The question, rather, is this: should moral standards be based on the societal zeitgeist or should they look beyond it to something else?

I asked an obvious question: “As we speak of this shifting zeitgeist, how are we to determine who’s right? If we do not acknowledge some sort of external [standard], what is to prevent us from saying that the Muslim [extremists] aren’t right?”

“Yes, absolutely fascinating.” His response was immediate. “What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question. But whatever [defines morality], it’s not the Bible. If it was, we’d be stoning people for breaking the Sabbath.”

All of which is a lot more complicated than than the comment BabbaZee came up with:

That’s right, that’s what he said, he said that, that’s what he said….

Well, yes, that is what Dawkins said. So what? I don’t think Dawkins meant what BabbaZee thinks he meant. And the question of how humans define morality really is a complicated question. What does define what we consider good and evil, right and wrong? Why do we no longer think that stoning people for breaking the Sabbath is morally admirable (or even acceptable)? Seriously. As Dawkins continued:

Dawkins sat back again. “I think that’s the best answer to your question, although I agree that it’s a complicated answer–it doesn’t come from anywhere simple–and it is necessary to say that whatever else it comes from, it most certainly doesn’t come from religion.” He considered me for a moment. “Anybody who thinks that they get it from religion really is deluded. Certainly nobody could maintain they seriously get it from the Bible. I take it you agree with that, because if you got it from the Bible you’d have to cherry pick which bits of the Bible you accept and which bits you don’t.”

It was a provocation intended to flush me out. I obliged.

“I would disagree,” I began slowly. “I believe you can get your morality from the Bible.”

“Well, which bits of the Bible?” His eyes flashed. “Presumably not Leviticus and Numbers and Deuteronomy?”

And, really, would anyone want to base morality on Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy? All those stonings and everything? Even fundamentalist Christians don’t base their morality on those chapters of the Old Testament. Even Jews don’t base their morality on those chapters of the Old Testament anymore, at least not the parts about stoning disobedient children and such. Their “fundamentalist’ label notwithstanding, they cherry pick what parts of the Bible they do and do not follow.

The reasons this particular attack on Dawkins caught my attention were two-fold: the stupidity of it all and the vitriol of it all, the latter of which was more than even I was used to. The odd thing is that Dawkins’ latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth, is not about atheism, but rather evolution. But apparently that’s enough to bring out the usual crazies.

Comments

  1. #1 sophia8
    October 5, 2009

    “spiritually autistic”??? What the bloody hell…..?? So it’s OK to describe a lack of awareness of anything beyond the material as ‘autistic’?
    I’ll get back to reading the rest of the piece when I reassemble my circuits.

  2. #2 Dianne
    October 5, 2009

    The stupid, it’s the one thing that doesn’t evolve, isn’t it?

    Why should it? The stupid is extremely well adapted to its environment and has had excellent reproductive success throughout human history.

  3. #3 sophia8
    October 5, 2009

    I can clear up Dawkin’s alleged “letter to the editor”; his afterword was republished in the Scottish Sunday Herald in 2006 with no indication of where it had been taken from. They headlined the item accurately enough as From the Afterword”. Not, you may notice, “Eugenics may not be bad”.

  4. #4 Stuart Van Onselen
    October 5, 2009

    I, for one, am disgusted with how readily people resort to Godwinning themselves over each and every person that they disagree with. It cheapens the horror that was Nazism.

    Before too long, the term “Hitler” will mean nothing more than “person I really, really dislike”. Great way to spit on the graves of the tens of millions that died during WWII, you historically illiterate, self-centered, blinkered bastards!

    Of course, maybe I’m just oversensitive. I even object to people calling their quest for weight-loss “The Battle of the Bulge”. Tens of thousands of people died in the original Ardennes Offensive. I don’t think “killing” a few pounds of fat compares, even if it does feel like an epic struggle sometimes.

    Anyway, it’s clear that Zombie Hitler is “alive” and well in the blogosphere.

  5. #5 Greg F.
    October 5, 2009

    Spiritually autistic?

    Is BabbaZee going to recommend divine chelation therapy, garlic juice and weekly holy water enemas as the proper treatment?

  6. #6 Daniel J. Andrews
    October 5, 2009

    Quick nitpick. Fundies don’t so much cherry-pick which parts they will follow as they acknowledge that the old law (Mosaic Law) has now been fulfilled and no longer is necessary. The ultimate sacrifice was made, and Christians now live under the new law (no more blood sacrifices, no dietary requirements, basically Leviticus-type laws…that is all “legalism” in which you try to obtain righteousness/salvation through following the letter of the law).

    Under the new law your righteousness/salvation is obtained not through works but by grace. The whole of the old law is now summed up by two laws, as laid out by Jesus: Love your neighbour as yourself, and love God with all heart, soul, mind. Make these priorities and everything else falls into place without the need for following old laws.

    It is much more complicated than that, mind you, and at one time I could have laid out the systematic theology behind it all (but knowledge leaks out my ears rapidly nowadays), but in general to say fundies cherry-pick is a an over-simplification. I’m not saying they DON’T cherry-pick, but when they do it is usually ‘cos they don’t understand their own theology (many fundies actually have an extremely weak grasp of systematic theology including some of those tv preachers whose ignorance is rather shocking).

  7. #7 Ray Ingles
    October 5, 2009

    sophia8 – Yup, I’ve seen that before.

  8. #8 Pablo
    October 5, 2009

    Fundies don’t so much cherry-pick which parts they will follow as they acknowledge that the old law (Mosaic Law) has now been fulfilled and no longer is necessary.

    This is joke, right?

    These are the same fundamentalists who want the Ten Commandments posted in public places? Who advocate discrimination againt homosexuals because Leviticus says it is an abomination?

    It is the ultimate in cherry picking to ignore those parts you don’t like (i.e. call them “fulfilled”) while keeping the stuff you want.

  9. #9 Joseph
    October 5, 2009

    That Eugenics is ethically wrong is easy to argue, no doubt.

    Whether it’s pragmatically a bad idea is another matter. I think it is a bad idea, because it amounts to selection by committee, rather than natural selection, which in turn results from real adaptation to the environment. The decisions of a committee or a government are totally subjective and based on prejudices that may or may not have anything to do with adaptation. It’s a risky proposition, in other words, and based on the precautionary principle, it would not be prudent to even try it.

  10. #10 James Sweet
    October 5, 2009

    @Daniel J. Andrews: I understand the point you are trying to make, but this whole “fulfillment of the Law of Moses” rhetoric only comes across as valid if the person pitching it is a radical communist, possibly even anarchist. Which, last time I checked, most fundies ain’t. (That whole camel/eye-of-needle stuff isn’t very compatible with capitalism, or even social capitalism, is it?)

    For practical purposes, the line about Mosaic law being made obsolete by the coming of Jesus is simply a tool in ham-handedly justifying one’s cherry-picking. It is not a distinct alternative to cherry-picking — unless, like I say, the person advocating a “new law” is a radical commie extremist.

    @Pablo: In fairness, one could reject the entire Old Testament and still be anti-gay. While the NT is never quite as explicit as Leviticus in its condemnation of homosexuality, it’s still there.

    I only bring this up because IMO this idea that the NT is a very nice book compared to the OT is somewhat of a myth, and I try not to miss an opportunity to point this out :)

    Sure, there are some decent morals in the Gospels, e.g. “love thy neighbor”, “do unto others”, “cast the first stone,” etc. (though it’s worth pointing out these were not great moral innovations; many other cultures had this figured out for centuries, if not millenia).

    However, Jesus is still an angry intolerant motherfucker much of the time (will provide Biblical examples if requested) and most damning of all, the New Testament is what introduces the concept of eternal damnation. The Old Testament merely visits the sins of the fathers onto the third and fourth generations — but generally speaking, Yahweh leaves you alone once you are dead. Jesus, OTOH, is not as merciful as his pappy. He’ll burn you forever, and ever, and ever, and ever…

    (I am not sure, but I think that part might have been a genuine innovation… I’m not aware of any world religions prior to Christianity that set a specific deadline — death — and then says you are irrevocably condemned to suffer forever if you didn’t make the grade by that point.)

  11. #11 The Science Pundit
    October 5, 2009

    … now that Hitler has been dead for over years.

    Orac,
    Was that an inadvertent omission, or a veiled reference to the news that they never found Hitler’s skull? ;-)

  12. #12 Kismet
    October 5, 2009

    I for one like to use Godwin’s law on purpose in my posts (i.e. Nazi analogies if they somehow fit). It’s not meant to devalue their crimes at all. Quite to the contrary, I see it as very liberating to be able to use all facets of language and I find it simply shows that we got over our past and we’re not forced to suffer and cry over the mere recollection of it or because of sometimes inapt analogies or deliberate comparison to the Nazis. Instead we are able to use the language that way *without* forgetting the victims.

    Do you hate me, stuart?

  13. #13 Pablo
    October 5, 2009

    @Pablo: In fairness, one could reject the entire Old Testament and still be anti-gay. While the NT is never quite as explicit as Leviticus in its condemnation of homosexuality, it’s still there.

    You can certainly find justification for gay discrimination in Paul, but

    1) You aren’t hearing a lot of fundies using that for their anti-gay basis
    2) You can find justification for a lot of other things, too, like rampent msygony and castrating yourself (Paul had no use for this life because he assumed the end of the world was near, so why bother). Yet, I don’t see a lot of fundies castrating themselves. More cherry picking, I guess.

    And none of this addresses the 10 C issue.

    Actually, I don’t even know what “fulfilled” means. Jesus gives no impression that “fulfilled” means “doesn’t apply.” In fact, he was specific that his coming does NOT mean the law is abolished. “Not one iota” I think were his exact words…

  14. #14 Alison Cummins
    October 5, 2009

    The innovation in the New Testament was divorcing religion from ethnicity, and both from citizenship. (This was the great work of Paul, I think, more than J-C.) I think this was very valuable work and a lesson that Certain People could be paying more attention to today.

    Another central aspect of the New Testament is its strong anti-family stance. Sure, it’s better to marry than to burn, but the single/ communal life is better if you can stand it. No kids to weigh you down; your obligations are to God and not to your mother/ brother/ spouse. J-C was very explicit that it was preferable for women to educate themselves than to serve men.

    Where fundies find their patriarchal family stuff in the NT I have no clue.

  15. #15 James Sweet
    October 5, 2009

    You can certainly find justification for gay discrimination in Paul, but

    1) You aren’t hearing a lot of fundies using that for their anti-gay basis

    On a side note, the movie For the Bible Tells Me So makes an attempt to address every piece of apparent anti-gay admonishments in the Bible and spin them so they aren’t anti-gay. Some of them are a real stretch, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

    Part of me feels that whole thing is rather pointless — why not just, um, not base your morality on a book filled with hatred and death? — but another part of me recognizes that getting hopelessly-dedicated Christians to accept that homosexuality is not evil can make a real positive difference in people’s lives right now. So I guess that’s important…

  16. #16 cam
    October 5, 2009

    pablo,

    you are aware that there is more than one “law” in jewish custom right?

    the rest of ya:

    Listen, im equally against references to nazi’s and all that silly jazz, but from my perspective, dawkins has said some very unscientific statements in his crusade against religion. as i mentioned in the other thread, there is strong scientific evidence against “memes”, yet he continually uses it when speaking with the public (even after having admitted in his other writings, if i remember correctly, that “meme” is fail). i dont understand why you guys STILL trust this guy when he strays outside of his own field. Granted, he is wonderful to read as a biologist (when put into perspective with other writing in the field), but he’s just as irrational as those he decries.

    frankly, ill stick with my old atheists, at least they were challenging intellectually.

  17. #17 Pablo
    October 5, 2009

    you are aware that there is more than one “law” in jewish custom right?

    Ah, so it is an issue of picking and chosing which “law” gets fulfilled and which one doesn’t, right?

    I’m not sure of your point.

  18. #18 Pierce R. Butler
    October 5, 2009

    Alison Cummins @ # 14: The innovation in the New Testament was divorcing religion from ethnicity, and both from citizenship.

    Maybe that was an innovation for the Hebrews, but an awful lot of people (e.g., Romans, Hindus) were there first. As usual.

  19. #19 Berner
    October 5, 2009

    cam #16 “frankly, ill stick with my old atheists, at least they were challenging intellectually.”

    You mean the ones that give religion undeserved respect or who wouldn’t ever criticize a religion openly so as to not offend? With religion being as in your face as it is ie Muslim extremists flying planes into buildings, Anti-evolution/science Christians pushing their agenda in schools, how is that an appropriate course of action anymore?

  20. #20 Stuart Van Onselen
    October 5, 2009

    @kismet: I have a sneaky suspicion that your concluding question was a rhetorical flourish, rather than a genuine inquiry. (Why would you give a damn about the opinions of a random internet geek?) Nevertheless, the answer is “No”, if I hated everyone that makes me angry I’d burn out half my brain every time I ventured into rush-hour traffic. And I don’t even know you make me angry, as I haven’t seen any examples of your “Godwinning”.

    Although I probably didn’t make it clear, I didn’t mean that every reference to Hitler or the Nazis is wrong, nor that we should “suffer and cry” about it still.

    But I still think that using such references too lightly (e.g. “Obama is a Nazi because I don’t like him ‘cos I’m a closet racist”) does cheapen the analogy, as it starts to make Hitler seem like just another bad guy, not the spiritual brother of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.

    For example, though I loathed George Bush II with an unhealthy passion, I never called him a Nazi, as the indirect killing-through-incompetence of 1/2-million Iraqis, while horrible, pales into insignificance against the direct murder of hundreds of thousands of Western soldiers, 6 million Jews, and 20 million Slavs.

    You have to try really, really hard to get into even the same ball-park as the Third Reich, but if you do, I guess you could rightly be called a Nazi.

  21. #21 cam
    October 5, 2009

    berner,

    the old atheists were religion-coddlers? nietzsche, seriously?

    sorry we cant all be as irrational as pz when it comes to discussing the topic. an appropriate course of action is to stop pretending that we’re more rational and “they” are the hordes of the irrational. dawkins and harris giving us, at best, questionable arm-chair philosophy, and at worst, scientifically-contrary statements is not helping anyone, atheists or religious folk alike.

  22. #22 Rorschach
    October 5, 2009

    Joseph,

    Why is the eugenics question so easy? Certainly it’s easy to see why preventing certain people or groups from reproducing might be ethically incorrect (doing so would violate what most people would consider to be a fundamental right), but is there any reason why selective breeding toward some defined objective is wrong? You could make the argument that insofar as you are using people to achieve a goal, you are treating them as ‘mere means’ (a no-no from a deontological perspective), but if somebody could elaborate on this further I’d be interested to see it.

  23. #23 Calli Arcale
    October 5, 2009

    Pierce R. Butler @ 18:

    Alison Cummins @ # 14: The innovation in the New Testament was divorcing religion from ethnicity, and both from citizenship.

    Maybe that was an innovation for the Hebrews, but an awful lot of people (e.g., Romans, Hindus) were there first. As usual.

    Yes, but the New Testament books were clearly written for a Jewish audience, and to them it *was* a novel concept. Mind you, some of the books are actually written for a Greek audience, and that culture was much more ecumenical. Indeed, one can convincingly argue that the decoupling of religion and race that occurred in Jewish lands was a product of the Roman occupation — they may have inadvertently introduced the concept. Of course, another convincing argument is that they picked it up from the Egyptians. There was a lot of cultural interchange with the Egyptians, and a lot of academic interchange with the Greeks.

    In any case, I think the point was how the books of the New Testament influenced those who already believed in what we today call the Old Testament. The Gospels in particular are clearly speaking to a first-century Jewish audience.

  24. #24 Ray C.
    October 5, 2009

    I tried going to that blog and my browser timed out. Twice. Maybe “BabbaZee’s Brain” is empty?

  25. #25 Orac
    October 5, 2009

    There’s no “maybe” about it, but I doubt that’s why your browser timed out.

  26. #26 Mary
    October 5, 2009

    Can’t wait for Orac’s daily load to lighten so he can get back to science. Between the unfunny Bill Maher, atheism confused with science, and the veiled references to Holocaust denial, I’m plumb bored out of my skull here.

    Please manage your time better, Orac. I’m anxious to read the new piece you promised in a few days and I don’t even care if it is the 157th post about Jenny McC & her loony following. Is her body count up to four digits yet?

  27. #27 Orac
    October 5, 2009

    And I can’t wait to move on to other topics if it means that people who have the temerity to tell me what to blog shut up and move on as well. Suffice it to say that there’s only one person here who decides the content of this blog, and here’s a hint: It ain’t you.

    Let’s put it this way, Mary. If you’re so “bored” here, go away. Really. No one will miss you, and I’m not going to change. Didn’t you say you were going to “delete” my blog anyway? Feel free to do so. You have my blessing, and, I daresay, that of the vast majority of my regular readers, at least the ones who pay attention to the comment threads.

    You can’t, can you? Such is the power of Orac.

  28. #28 Chris
    October 5, 2009

    Oh noes! Poor little Mary is bored. Oh, deary deary me.

    I have a suggestion for poor little bored Mary: There are these things that are like blogs, only they are on several bits of paper. Very often several hundred bits of paper that are printed on both sides. We call these non-electronic blogs “books”. Perhaps you have heard of them?

    You can actually get one free to read for a few weeks at this type of building called a “library”. Most modern cities have them, you should look for one near you.

    There are also places on the internet where you can order a book for a fee and it will be delivered to your home. I am particularly excited because my copy of Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science was delivered to my house today. Woo hoo!

  29. #29 Alison Cummins
    October 5, 2009

    Alison Cummins @ # 14: The innovation in the New Testament was divorcing religion from ethnicity, and both from citizenship.

    Maybe that was an innovation for the Hebrews, but an awful lot of people (e.g., Romans, Hindus) were there first. As usual.

    Yes, the great Roman achievement was divorcing ethnicity from citizenship. However, there was a state religion and an imperial cult. I’ll have to think about the Greeks (who were distinctly tribal) and find out more about the Hindus.

    But the point is, Christianity was formalized and promoted by Greek-speaking Jews and Roman citizens reimagining religion and the family for the modern world. Jesus did not invent it from whole cloth. (For one thing, he probably never existed.)

    The real point is, this cosmopolitan vision is conspicuously lacking from the modern fundies.

  30. #30 Jennifer B. Phillips
    October 5, 2009

    Sheesh, what is it with the arrogant trolls today? Stridently demanding that the rest of the world align with one’s expectations seems borderline sociopathic to me. And repeatedly whingeing about how much it sucks for them that these random expectations aren’t being met is just dickish. Mary and cam seem like a match made in heaven. Perhaps they should establish a universe blog together??

  31. #31 Joseph
    October 5, 2009

    Why is the eugenics question so easy?

    Why is it easy to argue it’s ethically wrong (on top of it being a bad idea in a pragmatic sense) ? Let’s take the most “acceptable” form of Eugenics there is. That would be genetic screening, followed by a decision by the parents of a fetus to abort it. This is routinely done today, and very few people are opposed to it. For example, in the case of genetic screening for Down Syndrome, it appears that the only people who are opposed to it are people with Down Syndrome, plus perhaps those who are “next”: autistic people.

    But is it ethical? Let’s look at just one angle. Is abortion ethical? Certainly, abortion is legal, with some people disagreeing on whether it should be legal or not. But by its being legal, does it mean it’s ethical?

    After all, even animals are considered to have some rights. Why wouldn’t fetuses have any rights at all? Sure, you may argue fetuses should have less rights than those who are born. But no rights at all?

    Or consider this: Why would it be wrong to kill a child with Down Syndrome one day after they are born? (Not why it would be illegal.)

  32. #32 Todd
    October 5, 2009

    Please manage your time better, Orac.

    Let me guess: middle management.

  33. #33 Pierce R. Butler
    October 5, 2009

    Calli Arcale @ # 23: … the New Testament books were clearly written for a Jewish audience, and to them it *was* a novel concept.

    Arguably Jewish naivete was due to the goal of expelling all gods but Yahweh from every bit of real estate they held having been too well achieved. I rather doubt that, say, the priestesses of Ishtar in Babylon demanded to see passports before performing their holy rites.

    … some of the books are actually written for a Greek audience, and that culture was much more ecumenical.

    All of the NT was first put to paper in Greek, last I heard.

    Written Aramaic (the purported language of the purported Jesus) probably went into a deep slump coincidentally with the arrival of this Macedonian named Al in what he may have called some version of Palestine. Al & friends made no small impact on the Jews, who centuries before the Romans moved in were mostly relying on a Greek version (the Septuagint) of their own holy scriptures, and who still call their ritual spaces by a Greek word.

    Al also superceded most of what Greek tribalism survived his father. If there had been a third generation, we might all be speaking Greek around the world today.

    If you haven’t read the books of Bart Ehrman, proceed immediately to yr nearest library.

    … a lot of academic interchange with the Greeks.

    SFAIK, that generally went one way. What did the G’s ever adopt from the J’s?

    The Gospels in particular are clearly speaking to a first-century Jewish audience.

    Almost all the rest seems to be from Paul & his circuit, the Mediterranean urban underclass movement which soon outnumbered (what was left of) the Palestinian Jewish-Christians). Look for Burton Mack’s Who Wrote the New Testament?.

    (Fun fact recently read: it was for that brief interval and small group that the term “Judeo-Christian” was coined circa 1899. The hyperchristian conceit that it means the superset of the two creeds is a more recent invention.)

    Alison Cummins @ # 29: … the great Roman achievement was divorcing ethnicity from citizenship.

    I kinda liked some of the temples, myself, not to mention the roads & aqueducts. And the scandals, OMG, theirs are among the finest in history…

    … he probably never existed.

    Last I heard, G.A. Wells, perhaps the leading no-historical-Jesus scholar, had tentatively switched to a possibly-existed-but-given-fictional-legends position. Just sayin’.

    … this cosmopolitan vision is conspicuously lacking from the modern fundies.

    They do have a well-placed faction with exactly such a vision, though “imperialist” would be the more accurate adjective. 3rd & final book recommendation: Jeff Sharlet’s The Family.

    Talk to Action is the best single website for monitoring turbochristian (not their word) antics. We haven’t, I hate to tell ya, heard the last of this cult.

  34. #34 Mary
    October 5, 2009

    What a crazy insecure bunch of scientists and followers…

    FWIW, my comment about Orac’s time management was a huge joke, a piss poor attempt on my part to steer him back to posts on science. Fine, I’m a lousy comedienne. But you guys are just too friggin’ weird, and a tad too touchy for my taste.

    Up till now I adored Orac, even keeping a personal email response in my mailbox from him ages ago. But clearly a divorce is inevitable. Be well, folks.

  35. #35 boagie
    October 5, 2009

    The hatred is remarkable, these crazies are do not forget religious crazies. It simply unlines how dangerous these warring mythologies are. Dawkins is use to death threats from believers. It just goes to show they are not any different than their Muslim counterparts where insanity is the rule. The degree which Dawkins is taken out of context in order to attack him should be apparent to everyone.

  36. #36 redfish123
    October 5, 2009

    Why is the eugenics question so easy? Certainly it’s easy to see why preventing certain people or groups from reproducing might be ethically incorrect (doing so would violate what most people would consider to be a fundamental right), but is there any reason why selective breeding toward some defined objective is wrong? You could make the argument that insofar as you are using people to achieve a goal, you are treating them as ‘mere means’ (a no-no from a deontological perspective), but if somebody could elaborate on this further I’d be interested to see it.

    (Devil’s advocate’s cap on since I’m not against genetic engineering per se.)

    What people want from eugenics is beautiful — a population of healthy, productive, people — but getting there would probably be hell and there’s no guarantee that going down that road that we’d find what we’re looking for.

    Breeding for selected traits can lead to unintended consequences — farm animals are a good example of this. Broiler chickens put on weight easily — which is good since we don’t have to wait long after their hatch to have them on our shelves; the negative side to all of this is that the chickens bones are often deformed because they can’t keep up with their growth, and if they’re kept for breeding purposes, they have to be put on strict diets or else they’ll become grotesquely obese. The modern rooster often rapes and kills hens — one theory is that this trait developed when they tried to breed for higher sex drives on male chickens to combat the breeding problems presented by their larger breasts (another trait people selected for on these birds). Cows that produce large quantities of milk tend to be difficult to breed and have health problems. There’s no guarantees that this wouldn’t happen if we tried to select for certain traits with people. We could end up creating people who are beautiful but who are emotionally dead; or intelligent, but amoral.

    Maybe science will find a way to avoid these pitfalls, but realistically there are limits to what can be done. (Side note: Anyone get a chuckle from the Onion article about doctors just being a few years from making someone look better rather than worse after plastic surgery?)

    But say we manage to avoid these things, there are other problems that could possibly develop.

    If we could select what traits our children would have — it’s possible that we could cause inbreeding depressions if we decide to all pick the same thing. I mean who wouldn’t want a tall child? Loss of genes might be the result. More frightening, we might end up with a generation of children who look almost identical to each other — a nation of Brad and Angelina clones (brr and barf).

    And of course there’s the problem you noted of people being created to fulfill certain goals. How much freedom would we give our specimens? If we managed to discover certain genetic traits associated with great mathematicians, engineered a person with these genes, and in the end they decide they’d rather go into music — how much leeway would we give them to determine the shape of their lives? If we hold the equality of people sacred, we have to let them choose — that’s millions of dollars potentially down the drain.

    And if they turn out exactly as we designed them to be, would we create our own castes like in Brave New World (yes, they didn’t use eugenics, but they did mold people for roles).

  37. #37 Dave Ruddell
    October 5, 2009

    Mary, Mary, why ya buggin’?

  38. #38 Rorschach
    October 6, 2009

    Joseph @31: first off, if you’re looking to debate the ethics of abortion, you’ll need to pick someone else to do it with, because I’m not touching that one here. ;) But I think that’s a distraction from the real issue in any event, because that’s by no means the only type of ‘eugenic’ breeding program that one could envision. For example, I recall a Heinlein story (name escapes me) in which a series of families self-selects for longevity over generations by marrying their longest-lived members. Is such a scheme ethically wrong? Why?

    Redfish @36, There are no doubt many practical problems with eugenics, as you recognize, but that does not by itself consistute an ethical problem. Unless your position is that it would be unethical for the current generation to take steps that could potentially eliminate future genetic diversity. I’m not sure I buy that, but it’s an interesting idea.

  39. #39 Lab Rat
    October 6, 2009

    Ergh…why are so many people still obsessed with labelling things ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Surely without some kind of outside basis of morality (i.e a god or something) there *is* no right or wrong…yes you can’t say the work of terrorists is ‘wrong’ but you can’t say its ‘right’ either and I don’t understand why Dawkins or anyone else would want to do so.

    What you can say, definately and without doubt, is that they are dangerous. And therefore thats why we try to stop them. Given that Dawkins has rejected anykind of theist (and therefore presumably any kind of perscripted morality) I never understand why he’s so insistant on finding some way to label things as right/wrong.

    Maybe it’s just so he can keep saying religion is ‘wrong’.

  40. #40 SC (Salty Current)
    October 6, 2009

    and even though I often don’t agree with him on religion,

    No link there. Could you provide one?

    Up till now I adored Orac, even keeping a personal email response in my mailbox from him ages ago. But clearly a divorce is inevitable. Be well, folks.

    Wow. Creep.

  41. #41 Richard Eis
    October 6, 2009

    Rorshach – There is a very simple reason it’s “wrong”. Because when we do it, we are goddamn awful at it. Ending up turning it into some grotesque experiment.
    When we do it we have to take responsibility for the consequences and we really aren’t ready for that kind of responsibility.
    Each case such as genetic problems and abortion should be individually decided. Certainly at the moment.

  42. #42 James Sweet
    October 6, 2009

    Or consider this: Why would it be wrong to kill a child with Down Syndrome one day after they are born? (Not why it would be illegal.)

    I think one actually cannot fully discuss this without talking about why it is illegal vs. why it is wrong. The huge conundrum in trying to define the “rights of a fetus” is that there is no lightning bolt moment that we can point to and say, “Ah hah, now this fetus should be treated with a right to live.”

    I for one have a very hard time accepting that a clump of a few dozen cells has any kind of “rights”, or could even be meaningfully referred to as a person. It’s a potential person I suppose, but then again so are my sperm. Unless you want to make the “Every sperm is sacred” argument (you don’t) then it seems rather absurd to decide that this clump of cells — one that still has a very high chance of spontaneous abortion anyway — is sacred. To me, where abortion (for non-medical reasons) becomes “wrong” is somewhere between the first few weeks and the first several months. However, it is very difficult to set an arbitrary time, or even an arbitrary definition of “medical reasons”, that everyone can agree on. Therefore, it seems most logical to me to set the boundary at birth — even though that would in theory make legal some abortions that I would consider “wrong”. (Though in practice, virtually every woman getting a late term abortion is getting it done for very sound medical reasons, and rather than judging them, we should extend our utmost sympathy, as they have just been forced to make an emotionally crushing life choice. People who call these women murderers are either ignorant of what I said in the previous sentence, or else they are the scum of the earth)

    But wait wait, you say, what about the moment of conception! Is this not a lightning bolt-moment where we could set our boundary?

    No. No, it is not. Forget ethics, this fails the practicality test.

    There is no “moment” when the sperm fertilizes the egg. Often, several sperms will penetrate the outer layer, and it can take 24-48 hours for the egg to eject the excess chromosomes. So when did the “moment” of conception occur? Was it when the first sperm penetrated? What if all of that sperm’s chromosomes are ejected? Is it when the sperm that contributed the actual chromosomes penetrated, or when the final sperm penetrated? Well, how do you know which is which?

    Okay, so maybe it’s the moment when the egg finishes rejection all the chromosomes. Leave aside for the moment that it’s impossible to tell this… that still is not a lightning bolt moment, because now the fertilized egg has to implant on the uterus wall. The vast majority of potential pregnancies fail to implant. So unless we are going to define it so that every single sexually active woman has suffered several miscarriages (hint: that’s not only retarded, but also disrespectful to women who actually have gone through the horror of a miscarriage) then we can’t rightly consider that to be the moment of conception either.

    So okay, is it when the embryo implants on the wall of the uterus? I guess maybe, but even still, many many many pregnancies spontaneously abort soon afterwards, often because the genetic makeup of the embryo is nonviable (e.g. a nonviable trisomy, a severely mangled or missing chromosome, etc.) Without being able to genetically sample the embryo — which you really can’t do until a few weeks in at the very earliest, and even then there is some risk to the fetus — you can’t tell if this really should be considered a potential person or not. If some chromosomes are missing, this is not a potential person any way you look at it.

    I suppose one could still set an arbitrary boundary of “as soon as the woman is aware she is pregnant” — but this is not calibrating it to a non-arbitrary event like “moment of conception” (which doesn’t exist) or “birth”, so you must clearly defend your choice of this arbitrary boundary. And I say once again, if you think a clump of a few cells is a person, just because the woman knows it is there (and if she didn’t, then it wouldn’t be a person?!) well, I suppose you are entitled to your opinion, but I think that is crazy talk. Without this “moment of conception” rhetoric to hide behind, I don’t think that position is at all defensible.

    So this is why the discussion of morality cannot be separated from the discussion of legality. There is no moral bright line, nor can there be, because the entire process is a continuum from start to finish (even birth you could argue is a continuum… how far down the vaginal canal does the baby have to make it before she is “born”? What if he is delivered by cesarean? Is he born the moment the doctor makes the incision? Or when the baby is visible from outside? When the baby is fully out of the womb? When her head is out? When any body part is out?) The morality is by definition, therefore, fuzzy — there is no event which constitutes a bright line, therefore there can be no moral principle which rests on a bright line because there is no bright line on which to rest it. Legality, on the other hand, must be its very nature choose an arbitrary bright line.

    Hence, when you ask “Why is it wrong after this boundary?”, one cannot even pose the question without considering the legality as well as the morality, because the boundary you refer to does not exist without the legal aspects.

  43. #43 Andreas Johansson
    October 6, 2009

    What you can say, definately and without doubt, is that they are dangerous. And therefore thats why we try to stop them.

    Why should we, if we do not accept that danger is bad/wrong?

  44. #44 Joseph
    October 6, 2009

    For example, I recall a Heinlein story (name escapes me) in which a series of families self-selects for longevity over generations by marrying their longest-lived members. Is such a scheme ethically wrong? Why?

    @Rorschach: It’s unclear how that would work. You probably mean they marry the offspring or grandchildren of longest-lived members?

    Even then, it would mean that some members of the group don’t get to reproduce (and not by their own choice or lack of competence in resolving romantic relationships), or their offspring are expelled from the group. Yes, I think even this mildest form of Eugenics still has some issues on the ethics front.

  45. #45 Joseph
    October 6, 2009

    I for one have a very hard time accepting that a clump of a few dozen cells has any kind of “rights”, or could even be meaningfully referred to as a person.

    I don’t think it’s a black and white issue, like the pro-life and pro-choice camps make it out to be. The way I see it, if a child is considered to have certain rights one day after they are born, there’s no reason to think they have significantly less rights one day before they are born. Certainly, at conception, we are indeed just talking about a few dozen cells, possibly with close to zero rights. It’s a spectrum.

    As a side-note, I dislike the “when does life begin?” argument, because it makes no sense. Life began 4 billion years ago, and it has had a continuous existence since then.

    It’s true that the law has to pick a boundary as a practical matter, but this is not necessarily going to be the boundary between right and wrong. That’s a more subjective decision perhaps, done on a case by case basis.

    For example, if you have to choose between the life of the mother and the life of the fetus, the ethical choice is the life of the mother. The philosophical argument here is that the mother probably has other children, relationships with people who care for her, perhaps has plans for the future, has experiences and acquired knowledge, etc. The life of the mother indeed has more value than the unborn child’s life.

    But what if the choice is between the life of the fetus, and the mother’s belief that the pregnancy is inconvenient? I don’t think this is as clear-cut.

  46. #46 James Sweet
    October 6, 2009

    It’s true that the law has to pick a boundary as a practical matter, but this is not necessarily going to be the boundary between right and wrong. That’s a more subjective decision perhaps, done on a case by case basis.

    That’s exactly what I said :p :)

    I don’t think it’s a black and white issue, like the pro-life and pro-choice camps make it out to be.

    I don’t think it’s black-and-white from a moral/ethical perspective — and in fact I don’t think it could be black-and-white because, as I described, there is no non-arbitrary bright line on which to rest a moral pivot point. The “moment of conception” is a myth, and even the “moment of birth” is a bit murky, as I described in detail above. So it can never be black-and-white from a moral perspective, because there is no point of transition from black to white.

    But I do think it’s fairly black-and-white from a legal perspective, or should I say, what the optimum legislation is. The only place where it gets at all murky is in regards to late-term abortions — but there I think if anyone bothers to educate themselves on the reality of the vast majority of late-term abortions, I think it will become clear that if they are made illegal “except in the case of medical reasons”, then the difficulty of defining “medical reasons” in an unambiguous way will mean far more women will be made to suffer unnecessarily than will be prevented from getting a “just-because-I-feel-like-it” late-term abortion. (The latter is incredibly rare, if it happens at all… remember, you also need to find a doc willing to do it!) Legislation to prevent late-term abortions, while the heart is in the right place, will from a practical perspective always do more harm than good.

    So in regards to my political position, yeah, I’m pretty black-and-white about it. And I think that is defensible.

  47. #47 Andrew Dodds
    October 6, 2009

    The interesting thing about Eugenics is that with modern technology it should at some point be possible to eliminate bad genes (to be a moral absolutist, I regard BRAC1 as bad, for instance), without anything as drastic as sterilisation. There is a more difficult problem with some mutations – Sickle Cell being an obvious example, but that’s for the moralists to decide.

    Trying to generate extreme traits – height, longevity, intelligence, whatever – would be fraught with problems anyway. Better off waiting for cybernetic augmentation for all of these, it’ll probably arrive quicker and you won’t have to wait for the next generation.

    Speaking of which, I personally think quadroploid is the way to go. 4 copies of every gene would male you close to cancer-proof.

  48. #48 Andrew Dodds
    October 6, 2009

    Memo to self: Learn to write

  49. #49 mike stanton
    October 6, 2009

    I am enjoying the exchange between Joseph and James. My own view, while not without its own difficulties, is that in most cases the bundle of cells becomes a person when the person carrying the bundle decides it is a person.

    I do struggle with the concept of ascribing rights to any organism that is not also capable of shouldering responsibilities. That is why, though I feel compassion for animal suffering, I do not subscribe to the notion of animal rights.

    Moral philosophy is not rocket science. It is much more complicated than that.

  50. #50 Joseph
    October 6, 2009

    I do struggle with the concept of ascribing rights to any organism that is not also capable of shouldering responsibilities. That is why, though I feel compassion for animal suffering, I do not subscribe to the notion of animal rights.

    @Mike: The problem with that argument is that little babies also cannot shoulder responsibilities. Nearly all other criteria that is used to separate humans from non-humans will have the same problem.

  51. #51 John Morales
    October 6, 2009

    Rorschach,

    For example, I recall a Heinlein story (name escapes me) in which a series of families self-selects for longevity over generations by marrying their longest-lived members.

    Methuselah’s Children.

  52. #52 Chris
    October 6, 2009

    John Morales:

    Methuselah’s Children.

    I read some of the other Lazarus Long books by Heinlein decades ago, so if I make an error I apologize. I remember there was a scene when the families were leaving in a space ship that they had to take care of their members with special needs due to the inbreeding.

  53. #53 mike stanton
    October 7, 2009

    Joseph
    you are right. I am writing a blog post of my own on what it means to be human in response to a recent book on Ethics and Autism by Barnbaum. My own position is fraught with difficulties. It is the people who think there are no difficulties who worry me.

  54. #54 Ender
    October 7, 2009

    I read some of the other Lazarus Long books by Heinlein decades ago, so if I make an error I apologize. I remember there was a scene when the families were leaving in a space ship that they had to take care of their members with special needs due to the inbreeding.

    I thought that Heinlein in his later books generally took a neutral or positive attitude to incest, as long as they didn’t have any offspring? Certainly that’s a theme in some of his books.

  55. #55 ema
    October 7, 2009

    @James Sweet

    The huge conundrum in trying to define the “rights of a fetus” is that there is no lightning bolt moment that we can point to and say, “Ah hah, now this fetus should be treated with a right to live.”

    Clamping of the cord (and all that entails as far as respiration, circulation, etc.). Because, before that, shouldn’t all the rights and privileges go to the, you know, placenta–the POC that not only does all the work in utero but is actually capable of doing it?

    @Joseph

    The way I see it, if a child is considered to have certain rights one day after they are born, there’s no reason to think they have significantly less rights one day before they are born.

    Before birth, there’s no child. There’s a pregnancy with a fetal component. You need delivery to go from “pregnancy” to “child”.

    But what if the choice is between the life of the fetus, and the mother’s belief that the pregnancy is inconvenient? I don’t think this is as clear-cut.

    Fortunately for the wanton hussy, the risk of carrying a pregnancy to term is still greater than the risk of [legal first trimester] abortion. So, even if we do the morally dubious thing (in secret, of course) and permit female patients to take into account what impact a medical decision might have on their lifestyle, we can always deny we consider these patients worthy of standard treatment and rely on the good ol’ morbidity and mortality risk.

  56. #56 Poogles
    October 7, 2009

    “Clamping of the cord (and all that entails as far as respiration, circulation, etc.). Because, before that, shouldn’t all the rights and privileges go to the, you know, placenta–the POC that not only does all the work in utero but is actually capable of doing it?”

    If this is a serious suggestion, how do you go about figuring in the women who do a “lotus birth” (the cord is never clamped and cut, instead it is left attached to the baby and the placenta, the placenta is usually dried and perhaps salted and carried around with the baby until the cord falls off on its own)? The cord is still attached, so does the baby not have “the right to live”? I would certainly hope it does.

  57. #57 ema
    October 7, 2009

    @Poogles,

    I wasn’t clear. Clamping the cord is a stand-in for what happens at delivery (“lotus birth” included)–lung expansion, shift in circulation, etc.

    Oh, and just to make up a bit for the thread derail, here’s some info on Petre “Jews are responsible for anti-Semitism” Tutea.

  58. #58 James Sweet
    October 7, 2009

    ema:

    Interesting thought, though I would argue that it would be both morally and legally wrong to be like, “He has three arms? Quick, kill ‘im before the blood in the cord stops pumping!” But I think you are right in the sense that that is the moment when the fetus becomes a fully independent person.

    In any case, it probably got lost somewhere in my long rambling, but to be clear on my opinion of the political/legal aspect of it: No abortion should be prohibited, because a) the moral questions become extremely ambiguous in some cases, and reasonable people may differ; b) the vast majority of women in the position of having a late term abortion are being presented with one of the most agonizing and emotionally crushing choices of their lives, and we should offer them our sympathy and support rather than our judgment and scrutiny; and c) the hypothetical problem of a woman deciding she wants to abort a perfectly viable fetus one day before it is about to be born is not really a practical concern — it is an interesting hypothetical for a moral/ethical discussion, but the law doesn’t really need to address it in detail because in practice it really doesn’t ever happen.

  59. #59 Poogles
    October 7, 2009

    “I wasn’t clear. Clamping the cord is a stand-in for what happens at delivery (“lotus birth” included)–lung expansion, shift in circulation, etc.”

    Thanks for clarifying! After I posted and read your comment a few more times, I thought perhaps that was what you meant…

  60. #60 Dianne
    October 7, 2009

    The problem with that argument is that little babies also cannot shoulder responsibilities.

    Sure they can. Every baby takes on the responsibilities of circulating and oxygenating blood, acquiring nutrition, bonding with the nearest adult likely to help it, reacting to its environment and myelinating neurons. Yes, adults may help the babies in some circumstances, anything from playing with the baby to help it grow more neurons to CPR, but in the end the baby has to be able to fulfill its responsibilites or it doesn’t make it.

  61. #61 Joseph
    October 7, 2009

    Before birth, there’s no child. There’s a pregnancy with a fetal component. You need delivery to go from “pregnancy” to “child”.

    I see that as a philosophical contortion and an arbitrary assertion.

    It’s kind of like Schrodinger’s Cat. Before you open the box, there’s no cat. You have to open the box for there to be a cat.

    You could easily make the same argument about a baby in an incubator. The baby doesn’t really exist. There’s only an incubator with a human tissue component. Hospital staff have to open the incubator to go from incubator component to “child.”

  62. #62 Joseph
    October 7, 2009

    Every baby takes on the responsibilities of circulating and oxygenating blood, acquiring nutrition, bonding with the nearest adult likely to help it,

    @Dianne: That’s right, but it would be meaningless, because animals have those same “responsibilities.” Even fetuses have similar “responsibilities.” Or don’t fetuses have beating hearts?

  63. #63 Dianne
    October 7, 2009

    Hospital staff have to open the incubator to go from incubator component to “child.”

    Or incubator component to biohazard, depending on the health and developmental stage of the components in question.

  64. #64 Preston Buttons
    October 8, 2009

    Not sure that the ‘Schroedinger’s Cat’ analogy works
    as stated. There’s no doubt that the cat is in there;
    what is uncertain is its state (except for those who
    reject quantum uncertainty). There’s also no doubt
    that the foetus/unborn child is in there; what is not
    certain is its status (except for those who have some
    dogmatic certainty.) As J. Sweet has eloquently
    explained, that status is a legal matter.

  65. #65 Joseph
    October 8, 2009

    There’s also no doubt that the foetus/unborn child is in there; what is not certain is its status (except for those who have some dogmatic certainty.) As J. Sweet has eloquently explained, that status is a legal matter.

    I do not agree with that. If the law says that someone’s status is non-person, that doesn’t mean the right vs. wrong question has been settled, that everyone should just go along with that like nothing happened, and that it shouldn’t be strongly discouraged. For example, what if the law stated that combatants captured outside of the US are non-persons (not a stretch of an assumption at all)? Would that mean that torture of said non-persons wouldn’t really matter, since it is legal?

    There are other straightforward examples. Is prostitution in Las Vegas right because it is legal? Is pornography right? Is tobacco right? Is gambling right?

  66. #66 ema
    October 8, 2009

    @Poogles,

    No problem.

    @Joseph,

    I see that as a philosophical contortion and an arbitrary assertion…You could easily make the same argument about a baby in an incubator.

    You say a philosophical contortion and an arbitrary assertion, I say anatomy/physiology. And no way could you make the same argument about a baby in an incubator. Incubators are see-through, after all. ;-)

  67. #67 Joseph
    October 8, 2009

    Incubators are see-through, after all. ;-)

    @ema: I think you figured it out.

  68. #68 Elennaro
    October 8, 2009

    A human womb is see-through too. Unless you want to ascribe some magical authority to visible light as received by the human eye. Sonograms, MRI’s, X-rays,… are perfectly capable of looking through a womb.

    Also, why I don’t oppose abortion, categorising fetuses as a lump of cells is very misleading. A blastocyst, I would call a clump of cells. A gastrula too. Maybe even an early embryo. But by the time development reaches the fetus stage, we’re patently not dealing with a clump of cells anymore – save in the same way that we adult humans are clumps of cells.

    Also, as an aside, what kind of work does a placenta do? It secretes a few hormones, but it’s mostly a passive structure if I recall correctly…