Comments: embryology bill debate: archbishop writes

Since TA is again lagging behind the Priest-who-is-Mad, I direct you here, http://revjph.blogspot.com/2008/05/grand-tufti-uses-potentiality-argument.html for my prior comment.

[In essence, how can "dual-intention" pregnancies be worse than UNINTENDED pregnancies? :-/]

Posted by JCF at Sunday, 11 May 2008 at 11:18pm BST

JCF
But at least I am linking to the original full text not to a wire service digest thereof.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Sunday, 11 May 2008 at 11:27pm BST

I think he is trying to show solidarity with Roman Catholics and opposition to secular science, whilst knowing that the Roman Catholic stance is rubbish and the scientific world is responsible. He persuades me not a jot.

Posted by Pluralist at Sunday, 11 May 2008 at 11:42pm BST

I wondered why I didn't expect anything from this.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Monday, 12 May 2008 at 9:01am BST

"I think he is trying to show solidarity with Roman Catholics and opposition to secular science, whilst knowing that the Roman Catholic stance is rubbish and the scientific world is responsible."

Can you clarify? I don't think it's solidarity with anyone to say that, as a basic principle, we don't have the right to use other people for our own purposes. That's not rubbish. The question is whether or not an embryo is another person. Clearly, as he says, experimenting on embryos is not the same as experimenting on unwilling adults, say. But it is still true to acknowledge that an embryo is more than a gallbladder, again, not rubbish. And there are many in the scientific world for whom the knowledge is sacrosanct, and the uses to which that knowledge may be put are not the responsibility of the scientists in the least, not what I'd call responsible. So, I disagree. It is not antiscience, nor antiprogress, nor anti-intellectual to point out that what were are proposing is the exploitation of something about whose humanity we are not agreed, and may well never agree, and that has implications for our own humanity.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 12 May 2008 at 2:55pm BST

That such a highly educated leader so often noted for his nuance and complexity - to the infuriating point of obfuscation or confusion, in some folks' eyes? - should be such a poor reader of empirical data and science must surely give those of us who institutionalise him as an Instrument of Communion - very great pause.

Alas. Could Canterbury take a short refresher course in empirical manners and methods, soon?

Otherwise, the poorly informed are offering discernment and leadership to the poorly informed?

Two aspects of this strategy disturb me. I am disturbed by the repeat play of a typical realignment campaign strategy we so often see or hear these days: Stake out the target themes for discernment so poorly or so partisanly that you are set up to be the winning view by the end of your remarks. Admittedly, the realignment campaign sometimes does quite a clever job of implementing this approach, but that does not make it any less tilted or askew, whether it is done cleverly or poorly. I am also disturbed by the underlying hints or clues to an assumption that modern religious believers can mark out some place to stand ethically or theologically that is impervious to empirical scrutiny, probably owing to religious revelation being a higher form of knowledge?

Both trends or practices are full of hermeneutic/narrative mischief, indeed. And I used to think that too many Anglican believers knew better for it to much affect us. Alas. I am caught short in that belief.

Posted by drdanfee at Monday, 12 May 2008 at 3:54pm BST

Well said Ford

Posted by James at Monday, 12 May 2008 at 4:28pm BST

People claim that they are respecting the embryos being experimented on. They are not. (1) They are no use to them after 14 days in any case - if they were, they would doubtless keep them longer. (2) Their fate is to be flushed down the incinerator. As Ali G would say: 'Respect, man'. (3) They pretend to be concerned for the 14 day limit and simultaneously have no qualms about embryos far older than that being aborted. Talk about intellectual incoherence.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Monday, 12 May 2008 at 6:19pm BST

Divisive and controversial actions?

Not inviting Bishop Robinson......not issuing a rebuke to Venables and Co?

Posted by Robert ian Williams at Monday, 12 May 2008 at 6:49pm BST

OCICBW... would never consider itself in competition with proper news aggregators such as TA because its remit is non-objective, satirical comment on the news. However, if TA started beating OCICBW... to Jesus in potatoes, or sex with bicycles, stories on a regular basis then it would be war.

Posted by MadPriest at Monday, 12 May 2008 at 10:18pm BST

I'm going to step out a little on this comment, nervously, and make a self-disclosure here that is somewhat relevant regarding my following concern. I am adopted... and was adopted in the United States in a place which has "closed records"... meaning that I have no right to know who my natural parents are. My concern with this bill doesn't concern what the BBC identifies as "key points". It doesn't concern what the Archbishop of Canterbury is talking about. It concerns the children who will be born using these reproductive technologies who will be precluded from knowing their genetic/biological roots. The applicable section of the bill seems to be the following: "Request for information as to genetic parentage etc. ... deleting five sections... (6) The Authority need not comply with a request made under subsection (2)(b) by any applicant if it considers that special circumstances exist which increase the likelihood that compliance with the request would enable the applicant— (a) to identify the donor, in a case where the Authority is not required by regulations under subsection (2)(a) to give the applicant information which identifies the donor, or 5 (b) to identify any person about whom information is given under subsection (2)(b). " I edited the bill because of excessive length... but please read it all. The concern I raise is for the child and his descendants. It regards the possession of personal, human, identifying history and how it is being controlled by the state and those interested in producing children so that the children (and their descendants) should come to think that they have no right to their histories. This is a human matter, that will affect potentially thousands of children. It is already affecting thousands right now. These policies must be examined. Most of society assumes a personal history, a heritage and connection to the past through relationships. When society closes that door, the door shuts hard. Information disclosure is not a scintillating part of the bill, but it has immediate and far reaching effect. It should be natural human right that everyone may know, without exception, their biological histories. This sort of thing affects not just one generation, but all subsequent.

Posted by mark diebel at Monday, 12 May 2008 at 10:33pm BST

The question should be focused not on the embryos, but the possible outcomes of the research, as that will help actual living people. I do not believe that embryos up to 14 days are of moral equivalence to people living. They are not 'persons'. The very odd 'morality' of people willing to allow others to suffer because they believe a few cells in a petrie dish to be a 'person' is evidence that the last people who we need to listen to on these and most other issues of this type are the religious leaders. I feel sure that the views of the ordinary people in the pews are far more varied, however.

Good to see the legislation pass its first hurdle. I hope it does so with all the spoiler amendments defeated.

Posted by Merseymike at Monday, 12 May 2008 at 11:29pm BST

Good. This has the potential to bring happiness and relief to millions, which, with strict safeguards in place, far outweighs any squeamishness about the methods.

The Mail's headline distorts what the archbishop said (No surprise there). He is far more nuanced in the article and quashes the gross "Frankenstein" distortions of some RC clerics. In fact, he doesn't really smuggle religion into the argument at all.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Tuesday, 13 May 2008 at 1:08am BST

Mark:

I understand (and sympathize with) your concerns, but what exactly are you concerned with--the actual identity (name, family, etc.) of the biological parents, or their medical information which may be of value to the adoptee for obvious reasons?

I ask, because I am familiar with several adopted children among my own children's friends, and I find that, for them, their "family history" is that of their adoptive family, not of their biological one. To them, their "personal history...a heritage and connection to the past through relationships" is through the family which has raised them and nurtured them and given them a place in the world. Their ancestors, for them, are the ancestors of their adoptive parents, not of their biological ones, at least as far as "personal history" is concerned.

Yes, those among them who have reached young adulthood are interested in the medical history of their biological forebears, but--to a man and woman--they appear to have no interest in them beyond that.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 13 May 2008 at 4:02am BST

Rowan Williams presides over the disintegration of his own house, yet dares to lecture the nation on this issue. He denies human rights to homosexuals, yet he attributes them to clusters of cells. He diminishes the human rights of women priests (and thereby of all women) by supporting structures for those who will not be tainted by a woman in holy orders, yet he rants on about the rights of unformed, potential women. This is a man with no moral authority, and he should keep quiet. He is a busted flush.

Posted by popy tupper at Tuesday, 13 May 2008 at 8:18am BST

A human being is not a different individual at different points in his/her life cycle. He/she is one and the same individual. We are not normally accustomed to speaking about one and the same individual as though they were two quite separate individuals (the early stages and the later stages). Indeed, it would never occur to us to do so (and never did) unless (and until) it served our interests and our ends.

Aside from which, we all know perfectly well that we, who were lucky enough to be born, once were as a one-week old fertilised egg is today. Unless there is anyone who bypassed that stage?

On what grounds do those lucky enough to be born think that they are equipped to adjudicate, from their position of privilege, that others should not have the same luck. It's that old Nietzschean will to power again: both unpleasant, ugly, and illogical.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Tuesday, 13 May 2008 at 9:15am BST

"On what grounds do those lucky enough to be born think that they are equipped to adjudicate, from their position of privilege, that others should not have the same luck. It's that old Nietzschean will to power again: both unpleasant, ugly, and illogical."

But these are embryos that will never be born under any circumstances. They are--even to the parents who created them, unfortunately--excess baggage. If the choice is to use them to help the ill or destroy them (and those are the only two choices for the vast majority--the idea that all of them could be "adopted" and implanted for future birth is a fantasy), why not choose the one that...to my mind...offers some dignity?

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 13 May 2008 at 11:31am BST

Because, Christopher, your assertion that they are 'persons' is wrong. Try putting the cells on a petrie dish and have a conversation with them - to pretend they have moral equivalence with a fully developed person is ludicrous and shows the warped 'morality' we are dealing with.

Posted by Merseymike at Tuesday, 13 May 2008 at 12:05pm BST

'.... This is a human matter, that will affect potentially thousands of children. It is already affecting thousands right now. These policies must be examined. Most of society assumes a personal history, a heritage and connection to the past through relationships.
' When society closes that door, the door shuts hard.Information disclosure is not a scintillating part of the bill, but it has immediate and far reaching effect. It should be natural human right that everyone may know, without exception, their biological histories. This sort of thing affects not just one generation, but all subsequent.'

Posted by: mark diebel on Monday, 12 May 2008 at 10:33pm BST

I think mark diebel's post is very important indeed. I quote what seems to me to be the nub of his post. We really must find a way to take on board and to honour such concerns, at a practical level also.

Many many people will want to know more of the identitiies, backgrouns and histories of their bilogical parents. And the need to know will kick in at varying points in the lives of individuals.

Adoption is far from straightforward emotionally and existentially. This is conveniently neglected by our societies.We must not compound this, by disregarding adopted people's feelings, sensibilities, and such deep needs.


Posted by L Roberts at Tuesday, 13 May 2008 at 1:57pm BST

@MadPriest:

Dare I admit that the idea of a "war" between OCICBW and TA would be so entertaining that I would actively encourage Simon to post some Anglican sex on bicycles?

/me starts to make some popcorn and prepares to watch the show

Posted by Walsingham at Tuesday, 13 May 2008 at 7:04pm BST

A few things to think about:

50% of human conception end in miscarriage, a large fraction before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Any sexually active woman who has her period a little late might be miscarrying.

The unfertilized egg is not a person...is it? If it is, then all women are pregnant all the time. (We are born with all our eggs).

An "Egg" is not considered an embryo unless it is fertilized by a sperm. Is replacing Egg's nucleus with that from a skin cell creating a person? (Somatic nuclear transfer). How, since it can never develop?

Are tissue culture plates in the incubator human? Does it make a difference if they are primary explants?

Are chimerae of human/rodent cells human, or rodent?

The embryo vs. baby argument: if you are in a burning clinic, and can rescue 1 live infant, or 50 straws of embryos, but not both, which would you rescue?

IT

Posted by IT at Wednesday, 14 May 2008 at 2:41am BST

Well, here is a thought process that I've had in the back of my mind for some time.

Consider that there is a fairly definite medical definition of death: the lack of a pulse and a brainwave. When those things are lacking, the person is "clinically dead".

Suppose if we turn that on its head and say that the embryo is not really "alive" until a brainwave and pulse is detectable (usually around the 11th week of pregnancy IIRC).

Thoughts?

Posted by Walsingham at Wednesday, 14 May 2008 at 10:49pm BST

Walsingham:

Makes sense to me.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Thursday, 15 May 2008 at 1:41am BST

"The Quickening" is the traditional answer of the Church.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 15 May 2008 at 7:45am BST

Hi Merseymike-

Report to me the last conversation you had with a post-birth baby under two.

Did the baby fail to respond to your learned observations?

Did you then kill the baby?

No? Why not?

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 16 May 2008 at 12:18pm BST

Hi Pat-

I was talking about abortion not about embryo experimentation.

However, your position that it is better to kill off the pre-birth babies than to re-educate heart-dead and conscience-dead adults is illogical. There are plenty of adults who 'want' this or that. No doubt Hitler 'wanted' Jewish blood. What people 'want' is irrelevant, unless the great Selfishness is your deity. They 'want' these things because they are the haves feeding off the have-nots. RW is right: let us be consistent. If using others' bodies against their consent is something chilling in other circumstances, let us work out whether or not it is chilling in these circumstances too before pressing ahead like a juggernaut.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 16 May 2008 at 12:27pm BST

"Try putting the cells on a petrie dish and have a conversation with them"

Try putting a twenty year old with severe CP in the same dish. Will you kill her because she can't have a conversation with you? Who are you to decide who's human and who isn't? Other people claim you aren't really human, and you accuse them of hatred. If ability to carry on a conversation is your criterion for humanity, I'd say you are the last person to be permitted to decide the humanity of others.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 16 May 2008 at 3:26pm BST

"If using others' bodies against their consent is something chilling in other circumstances, let us work out whether or not it is chilling in these circumstances too before pressing ahead like a juggernaut."

In the case of "brain-dead" adults, we turn to next of kin or those with legal authority to make the decisions. Why then not do the same with embryos? If the man and woman who donated the genetic material to make the embryo have no objection to its being donated for research....?

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Saturday, 17 May 2008 at 11:52am BST

Hi Pat-

You can't see the difference? Brain-dead adults are regarded, rightly or wrongly, as always being likely to remain brain-dead. Embryo-stage humans, by contrast, will generally continue their already-begun development process, and will continue to be what they already are (namely: healthy human beings) if the conscience-dead and heart-dead keep their horrible, unfeeling hands off them.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Monday, 19 May 2008 at 12:43pm BST
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