Moral leadership on stem cells?

Pope Benny’s recent comments on Aids in Africa reminded me of an experience I had as a child in the early 1950s. I used to help my Father (he was a milk delivery man) in the early mornings. One morning we found a wallet dropped outside the local Catholic Church before the early morning mass.  I remember my Mother’s moral indignation when they discovered a condom, alongside a rosary, in the wallet. “Hypocritical Catholics” was her comment.

8 cells

8 cells

But I think it’s wrong to accuse members of a religion of hypocrisy because they refuse to go along with the “moral” demands of the Church dogma. With the “moral” exhortations of the Church leadership.

We know that many Catholics condemned the Pope for his comment on condoms and Aids, and most Catholics also ignore the Church’s ban on the use of contraceptives. People have all sorts of emotional, family and historical reasons for their membership of a religion. The moral exhortations of the Church leadership may well be irrelevant to most members.

Stem Cell Now

This was brought home to me recently while reading  Stem Cell Now by Christopher Thomas Scott. A very interesting chapter, The Great Moral Divide, describes the different moral stances taken on stem cell research in the USA. The survey data shows a very clear difference between the moral “leadership” offered by church leaders, and the moral stances of church members. As Scott says the poll “show a disagreement between those who profess faith and those who institutionalise it.”

A 2004 Harris Poll showed 73% of Catholics supported embryonic stem cell research with only 11 % opposed. Protestants favoured the research by 8 to 1. Even amongst “evangelical” or “born-again” Christians only 20% were opposed to this research.

The problem with the “moral” dogma of religious institutions is that they are usually “supernaturally” based. “Supernatural” arguments are used to justify the moral prejudices of the church leadership. (That’s the advantage of “supernatural” arguments – they can be used to justify anything).

“Supernatural” arguments may have some influence on the ordinary “faithful” these days they are more and more likely to resort to an evidence-based morality. Especially where their health, or the health of their friends and family, is involved.

Evidence-based morality

As well as presenting the religion-based moral positions Stem Cell Now also describes philosophical and evidence-based moral arguments on the question. It discusses evidence for the emergence of sentience in the foetus and shows this can provide a basis for moral decisions about embryonic stem cell research. For example, neuroscientists now know that the first electrical activity on the human brain occurs around week six and major brain divisions don’t occur before week four.

So science can provide evince like this which enables a rational basis for moral approaches to embryonic stem cell research.

When it comes to human morality religious “moral leaders” are superfluous – even dangerous. Church leaders are in no better position to law down “moral laws” than individual members of their “flock.” Humanity is a moral social  species. Our moral intuitions and logic arise naturally and their are plenty of examples of the wrong that can be done by relgious moral eladership.

I think the Harris Poll data quoted in this book demonstrate our ability to get by without such “leadership.”

Permalink

Similar articles

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

About these ads

59 responses to “Moral leadership on stem cells?

  1. Ken,
    First, you obviously only heard the one-liner regarding Pope “Benny”s trip to Angola. You’re welcome, if interested, to read the entire quote at my blog, or anywhere else. But before you go reporting something, know what you’re reporting, please. Many Catholics (who are still practicing their faith) did not condemn his remarks. Those Catholics who condem the pope for teaching what the Church teaches are little more than Catholic in name ONLY. They do not speak for the Church. They can shout from the top of the mountains, but it still doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme.

    Now to your topic. Embryonic Stem Cell Research. Why is the Church against it? Because to get embryonic stem cells, you have to create a life, then kill it. It is never right to commit an evil in order to produce a good.

    My question is, to date, what evidence is there that embryonic stem cell research has produced any cure?

    There is an alternative-we know how to make stem cells from adult skin cells without killing anyone.

    Regardless your atheistic viewpoint, at least, when you criticize the Catholic Church, get it right, would you? Know what we think and why before you criticize.

  2. Rayilyn Brown

    The embryonic stem cells in question are microscopic undifferentiated cells, not a fetus or a baby or a person. There are no adult stem cell “alternatives” for Parkinson’s disease or 70-80+ ASC “cures. How do I know? I have had Parkinson’s for 13 years now. I watch and follow the research. I know that opponents of ESCR lie about ASC “successes” and what a blastocyst is.

  3. Because to get embryonic stem cells, you have to create a life, then kill it. It is never right to commit an evil in order to produce a good.

    Dealing with second sentence first, this is essentially a fallacy, given that the world is more that just black and white, so to speak. For example, most decisions are a balance of risks: taking medicine, eating food, crossing the road, etc. are all balancing risks. In the same way, most actions that “do good” in some way usually at the very same time “do bad” from other perspectives.

    It is also a fallacy to assert that only Catholics know what is “right” for the world, and it is what is “right” by them. It’s the reason people get annoyed with the Pope: why should he speak for others?

    Regards the first sentence, you are also perhaps assuming that the embryo is “killed”, as opposed is going to die regardless. (I’d write more on this, but I think the logic of where this heads to is easy enough for readers to flesh out where I’m going themselves.)

    I’m going to leave aside the “killing” bit, as I assume this is something you are tying to anti-abortion ideology (partly because this runs back into my previous point) and will write a little about the stem cells themselves. I’m not an expert on this, but I am a biologist. (And I suspect Rayilyn may know more that me!)

    Embryonic stem cells on their own cannot grow into a person. There is a (big!) difference between a cell that is able to grow into a range of types of cells and growing into a complete living organism.

    Another point that I think people miss is that one value of these cells is that they can be maintained as undifferentiated cells for a long time (with careful methods). This, with their ability to “convert” to a range of cell types when placed in the right context, makes them a practical source of new cells.

    “Grafting” cells from one part of the body to another has been done for a long time, so I assume the Catholic Church has no objection to this. Using stem cells for treatment isn’t much different to this, it’s just you start with cells that are adaptable, rather than ones that are already differentiated. (Blood transfusions, bone marrow transplants, etc., would be other example of introducing new cells to a body.)

    My question is, to date, what evidence is there that embryonic stem cell research has produced any cure?

    You seem to be trying to pre-empt any research by making demands ahead of the research! In practice, there is plenty of evidence that this approach has promise. (Investors wouldn’t be putting all the money in and researchers all their effort if this weren’t true.) There are also some examples of treatments, mostly in other species. I haven’t time to give you examples (I have a research proposal to write), but you should be able to find these yourself with a little effort on your own part. Could I suggest that you try have a look for yourself. It’s good practice to try look at both sides of an “argument”, rather try ask others to “defend” something you don’t agree with.

    There is an alternative-we know how to make stem cells from adult skin cells without killing anyone.

    With all respect, I would suggest you learn more of the science first. There are several types of stems cells. They are not “universal” in the sense that every kind of stem cell is able to grow into every kind of cell in the body. As a rough rule of thumb, they are limited to forming cells of a particular range of tissue types. You can check (I’m out of time), but I would think that adult skin cells would only generate epidermal tissue.

  4. Opps, forgot to say that my reply above is for David.

  5. The fact is that there are many successes using adult stem cells, whereas there are none to date with embryonic. So it’s totally experimental. And again, not as a Catholic, but as a human being, it is never ok to commit evil in order for good to come out of it. Creating an embryo (which is a human being, whether you believe it or not-it cannot be anything else) in order to harvest cells, and then discard it, is wrong.

    Rayilyn, I know a lot about Parkinsons for someone who doesn’t have it. My grandmother had it and a close friend does have it.

    The same ethic that justifies taking
    some lives to help the patient with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease today can be used to
    sacrifice that very patient tomorrow, if his or her survival is viewed as disadvantaging other
    human beings considered more deserving or productive. The suffering of patients and families affected by devastating illness deserves our compassion and our committed response, but not at the cost of our respect for life itself.

    Nobody said that Catholics are above anyone else when it comes to ethics, but we’ve been dealing with ethics since Christ walked the earth.

    Reasonable people do not get annoyed at the Pope. Most of the people who do get annoyed at him are those who just care about themselves and want to do what they want to do, whether it’s right or not.

  6. David - “Creating an embryo …. in order to harvest cells,”: That isn’t happening or being proposed. I don’t know of anyone proposing it. It’s one of the things that will be considered in terms of controlling in future legislation.

    I think you have an absolutist moral position which may be the same as your church leadership but clearly is not the same of most adherents of that church. Such absolutism leads to ridiculous positions (like the Popes comment on Aids in Africa). Probably most embryos do not develop, they are lost before implantation. Similarly where is the morality in you labelling people who use IVF or similar assisted fertility as “evil” (the photograph in my post of of a relative of mine so I take that rather personally).

    As Heraclides said – this whole area is (understandably) very complex – scientifically and morally. The book I mentioned certainly makes that clear. The complexity of adutlt stem cell discovery, research and utilisation is covered.

    Most people may well be aware that treatments using stem cells are currently limited. But most also believe that there is huge potential and this requires research if we are to use such technology in the alleviation of human suffering.

    I think most people are taking a more sophisticated approach to this area than the one you display.

  7. Those Catholics who condem the pope for teaching what the Church teaches are little more than Catholic in name ONLY. They do not speak for the Church. They can shout from the top of the mountains, but it still doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme.

    No True Scotsman.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman

  8. David:

    The fact is that there are many successes using adult stem cells, whereas there are none to date with embryonic. So it’s totally experimental.

    You would seem to be trying to pre-empt again. With all respect, saying something is “experimental” and therefore should not ever (as you are) be used is silly to me. Every treatment is at some point experimental. That they have an experimental stage says nothing about if they are a good treatment (or not).

    If you would care to look in the literature yourself, I am certain you will find that there is ample evidence that embryonic stem cells are very likely to have useful applications, and that there are successful treatments in other species, as I mentioned earlier.

    And again, not as a Catholic, but as a human being, it is never ok to commit evil in order for good to come out of it.

    You appear to have ignored what I wrote in reply and are just repeating your original assertion. Could I suggest you engage with what others write? Just repeating things doesn’t move anything forward. On a similar note, if you are not prepared to listen to others, you will not be able to determine if your position is right.

    Creating an embryo (which is a human being, whether you believe it or not-it cannot be anything else) in order to harvest cells, and then discard it, is wrong.

    I agree with Ken. I made passing reference to this in my earlier post (assuming that the embryo is “killed”, as opposed is going to die regardless).

    Embryonic stem cells can be grown via IVF until an early blastocyst, then the stem cells extracted to be cultured as a cell line.

    The eggs used are donated: it is the choice of the mother. This really is their choice to make as far as I can see, and I don’t believe that the Catholic Church or any other group has a right to impose it’s wishes on others in this matter (or any other for that matter).

    But some more details. Once a cell line is established, it can be maintained for a very long time. The upshot is that a large number of stem cells are produced from a small number of IVF’d eggs.

    I’m out of time to flesh this out, but keep you on your toes, you can also view the very early stages of a developing, embryo as defaulting to dying (or “killing” themselves) if the conditions needed to grow further are not established (i.e. ensuring that everything is OK to proceed before getting too far down the track). If you are genuinely interested in moral positions, I’d be inclined to follow up on that yourself.

    The suffering of patients and families affected by devastating illness deserves our compassion and our committed response, but not at the cost of our respect for life itself.

    I hope you can see the contradiction in your statement. By denying these people a source of treatment, others could argue that you do not hold a “respect for life” for these people. As I tried to point out to you, the world is not just ‘black’ and ‘white’.

    Nobody said that Catholics are above anyone else when it comes to ethics, but we’ve been dealing with ethics since Christ walked the earth.

    This isn’t quite what I said, either. I referred to (some) Catholics imposing what they would like to have true on others. I would like to think that my reference to why people get annoyed with the Pope made that clear. Like it or not, it is true that some Catholics do this and in that particular context, they do seem to consider themselves above others. (This isn’t unique to Catholics or religion; it still pays to recognise it when it happens.)

    I would add that people have been “dealing with ethics” well before JC was around, and independently of any consideration of the guy, since he was around, too. Christians don’t have some kind of exclusive ownership of ethics ;-)

  9. This comment strikes me as typical of the hasty and dismissive approach taken by many: “The embryonic stem cells in question are microscopic undifferentiated cells, not a fetus or a baby or a person.”

    If you’re going to talk around the issue that opponents of human embryonic stem cells are raising and act as though it is an obvious and settled matter, then please do not do so under the guise of actually addressing the issue.

  10. This comment strikes me as typical of the hasty and dismissive approach taken by many

    Oh. Ok.
    (shrug)

    If you’re going to talk around the issue that opponents of human embryonic stem cells are raising and act…

    Nobody’s talked around it.
    Read the comments again.

  11. “Nobody’s talked around it.”

    In fact they have, and no re-reading is necessary. The issue was rushed around in a few words (the ones that I quoted) so that the writer of those words could move on, apparently in the mistaken belief that what had just been overlooked was a non-issue.

    You might think that this is not a problem. You’d be wrong, but it’s a free internet.

  12. In fact they have, and no re-reading is necessary.

    There’s no “in fact” about it.
    Read the comments carefully.

    You might think that this is not a problem.

    Well spotted.

    You’d be wrong, but it’s a free internet.

    Nope. I’m not wrong. However, I agree with you that it’s a free internet.

    Do you have anything else to add or are you finished now?

  13. When the little sperm meets the little egg, it becomes a human being. IVF is wrong, too, don’t get me started there. The fact is, when an egg is fertilized at that point it is a human being.

    That you choose to overlook this fact speaks volumes. That you dismiss the truth in favor of relativism also speaks volumes.

  14. David and Glenn – you both are taking up an absolutist moral position, and defining “human” in the same absolutist way. Neither of you give arguments for your positions whereas I briefly refered to evidence based-morality in the post (and the book’s coverage of this together with “supernatural”-based morality.

    I can only assume (because you have not engaged in reasoned argument) that your “morality” on this issue is “supernatural”-based.

    Am I wrong?
    If so, I would be interested in reading your specific evidence-based arguments. Declarations of absolutist positions won’t count.

    “IVF is wrong”! Indeed?? That strikes me as a very extreme, intolerant, position. One which is completely unsubstantiated and obviously harmful to many, many people – parents and children, who have been very grateful for this technique.

  15. Beretta/Glen,

    My reading of your reply is that you are doing what you accuse Rayilyn of: being dismissive ;-) It would be more constructive for you to say what it is that you are objecting to, etc.

    Rayilyn’s statement is correct. Stem cells are grown as cultured cells. They aren’t going to “grow into” anything other than more stems cells, or, if stimulated, differentiated cells.

    And personally, I think she is entitled to write that it’s a settled matter for her, if that’s what she thinks. I think along similar lines for what it’s worth. If someone is willing to donate [whatever] to assist other’s lives, good on them. Trying to tie stem cells to “killing lives” is very tenuous, if not deceitful and is certainly naïve of that reality is not neatly “black” and “white”. It’s the sort of thing I would expect from someone who cares about apologetic thinking and it’s (pseudo)philosophy in an unhealthy way and I wouldn’t mind speculating that this explains the statistics Ken reports. (In some ways this might be used as an indirect measure of how few religious people actually think in a strict, apologetic way.)

    More practically, it seems to me that the decision lies with those donating (and those accepting treatment) and I don’t think it’s the place of others to try speak for them.

    I note you haven’t offered anything that addresses the issue yourself.

    I would prefer someone closer to the field covered this, but in the absent of anyone better posting them, here are a few bullet points:

    – embryos are not killed to make embryonic stem cells
    – IVF creates extra embryos that are discarded. Essentially what is happening is that they are being put to use to “do good” instead of throwing them away
    – nothing is “taken” from anyone: the eggs/”extra embryos” are donated
    – they will not grow into a foetus

  16. Morals are absolute. For a Catholic, it is absolutely wrong to miss Mass on Sunday. That’s not to say it’s not forgiveable. It’s just wrong. When a human egg and a human sperm meet and fertilization happens, it is absolutely a human. It can be nothing else. How would you define human?
    IVF is wrong because it goes against the will of God. The Octo mom in SoCal is a perfect example of why non-natural ways of conceiving are wrong.
    My arguments are totally morals based. To create a human embryo and not let it grow to maturity is wrong. It is never right to commit a wrong in order for there to be a greater good.

  17. “IVF is wrong because it goes against the will of God”
    This doesn’t convince me – and it doesn’t convince most people – who actually think IVF is a humane and beneficial technique.

    Anyone who justifies something as the “will of god” is purely using mythological stories, irrelevant authority, and unproven ‘supernatural’ justification for their own beliefs and prejudices.

    You just aren’t giving any evidence-based reasoning for your absolutist moral position.

    The statistics are showing that these extremist “supernatural” justifications are just no longer acceptable to religious people – let alone the large numbers of us who are not religious (and who deserve just as much respect as anyone else).

  18. Heraclides: If you think it’s dismissive to simply complain about dismissiveness without also adding a weighty argument in favour of a different position, then yes I was dismissive. However, it’s not, and I was not. :)

    “And personally, I think she is entitled to write that it’s a settled matter for her, if that’s what she thinks.” The trouble is, Heraclides, this person was not merely writing for herself, she was making comments about an issue of public concern indicating (so it seemed) which position should be aopted and acted on.

  19. aopted = adopted

  20. Ken, either you find fault with the way in which I have diagnosed comments as dismissive, or you do not. You never really manafged to say one way or the other.

  21. darnit… I wish we could edit our own posts. I need to check for typos more often.

  22. Cedric, once again, no re-reading is necessary.

    I see your tactic is to simply deny. That’s fine. You’ve done what you set out to do. Job finished. I think it’s safe to say you’re done.

  23. Oh, and Ken, if you read my post a little more carefully you’d see that I never offered any definition of human being or persona at all. I do not know how you got that impression. I do note your absolutism, however.

  24. Glen – my points in this post are that most religious people are just not agreeing with the absolutists moral positions and dogma of their leaders. I am trying to convey the useful information in this book on both the scientific and political/ethical aspects.

    I also point out that people are adopting a more evidence-based moral position these days. ‘Supernatural’-based morality can be used to justify anything and is very often anti-human.

    My comment was just that neither you or Dave had given reasons for your positions – you had just condemned mine (again without real reasons). Dave has now made clear that his justification is ‘supernatural.’ You are welcome to confirm that yours are too.

    However, if you can provide evidence-based arguments they will be welcome. I think, in the end, we all base our morals that way – no matter how we attempt to justify them.

  25. Ken, who’s being dismissive now??? To discard an argument because it’s “supernatural” is…dismissive.
    This all boils down to what makes a human human? Is an acorn any less a oak than a hundred year old oak? My concern is for using something for a purpose other than what it is supposed to be used for. Making an embryo (which is a human life) for a purpose other than to grow a human is wrong. And to say that it’s ok because these are left-over embryos that people aren’t going to use anyway; that’s bad too. We’re already sliding down that slippery ethical slope of who owns the eggs and is it acceptible to use so-and-so’s sperm to grow a baby. This is supposed to happen the regular natural way. That’s ok, I understand what you’re saying, I just shake my head at it. God forgives all our sins as long as we don’t ultimately deny him…

  26. The fact is, David, that society as a whole is not convinced by “supernatural” justifications. And, of course, as I don’t accept your specific “supernatural” dogma how can those arguments be convincing to me.

    I repeat – we all arrive at our moral positions in similar intuitive and evidence based/rational ways. Some people use “supernatural” arguments as justifications – but that’s all they are.

    Unfortunately “supernatural” justification often leads to quite inhuman actions.

    You are quite welcome to your “supernatural” beliefs – as long as they don’t lead you to violate my human rights. Any advocacy of specific social behaviour requires evidence-based justification. Otherwise it’s just going to be considered as irrelevant. It will dismissed by most religious people as well as others.

    The poll data described in this books suggest that even religious people are more and more finding these “supernatural” justifications irrelevant.

  27. If we are honest, theist hypocrisy know no bounds.

    When is the growing percentage of non-superstitious in New Zealand society, going to start say “enough is enough” and ‘return fire’, using ironically the same rights Christians (and their allies)conveniently hide behind?

    Time after time we’ve seen groups of Christians fighting every-step of the way, to prevent medical breakthroughs, such as we see currently with stem-cell.

    As soon as medical/scientific advancements are in conflict with religion, like stem-cell is currently – castigation and obtrusion occurs.

    Protest is of course every-ones right, but later in the passage of time these evangelical protests are always proven to be self-centred platitudes, primordially laughable.

    Inevitably what happens is, at some later stage, is these very same protesters or their loved-ones, needs to seek the same treatment they rallied against.

    These two-faced, hypocrites have no compulsion seeking such treatment either.

    On the other-hand God-fearing luddites are perfectly happy for others to be denied access to medical treatments, even if it means a miserable life or premature death for some other poor unfortunate – but only, if they themselves are not afflicted.

    So as you are about to read my proposal, don’t feel any sort of compassion towards theists, for these very same individuals want to rob you and your closest, one of the basis rudiments of modern life, to protect their beliefs.

    Always keep in the back of your mind, theists want their beliefs, to over-ride yours – even if it means you watched your own child die in a pitiless painful, fashion – when a cure is available, but denied to you because of their ancient superstitions.

    Large tracts of ‘loving’ Jesus followers in this country, want to deny childless couples the opportunity to have a family, using medical treatments.

    Cutting to the chase, what I’m suggesting is where resources are stretched in the health system, care is given to those who will appreciate it & respond.

    This is the same as an oncologist who opts to treat a non-smoking lung-cancer patient, ahead of one who continues to puff away.

    Therefore our health-system already rations medical care, so my proposition is not as radical as it first appears.

    Doctors, make ethical ‘life & death’ choices on daily basis, and we don’t raise an eye-brow.

    So where resources are stretched why aren’t Health Boards, using the discretionary powers available to them, to allocate care to those who want it first?

    As an example, Catholics would automatically go to the bottom of IVF treatment.

    Their own Church has fought tooth and nail, to get IVF banned, yet when it suits them, Catholic couples will seek out the very-same treatment that they tried hard to prevent – so it’s hard to feel sorry for them, and besides they can get local Priest to assist (no, not in a Biblical sense but a pastoral one, if that’s what you thought I was inferring to, although I guess the premise isn’t entirely out of the realms)

    Why shouldn’t a grateful couple who want a baby and have no objection to IVF treatment, get priority over a couple who aren’t at all enthusiastic about the treatment, due to ethical grounds?

    Further, the outcomes from couples who embrace a treatment such as IVF, are surely going to be more positive overall, than those who are sceptical, and acting under duress & facing outside pressure to reject the ungodly procedure.

    Based on experience health-providers have a fair idea which of the couples in this example, is more likely to miss appointments, so precedency is both of benefit to the doctors and nurses, also ultimately, the maligned tax-payer.

    Our medical practitioners already respond to religious/cultural beliefs.

    Hospitals bow to pressure from the superstitious, giving them their own separate areas, actively assisting a policy of sectarianism and supporting a policy of privilege, writing it into law.

    Jehovah Witness’s for example, are given the right to die, rather than submit to a blood transfusion.

    The religious precedent is already in existence – I’m merely taking the same entrenched statutory privileges bestowed on religion, to their logical conclusion.

    Asking for exclusive rights is not a one-way street, and should come with barbs.

    Hypocritical theists can’t have it both ways, when it comes to medical treatments, that upset their primitive God and his best-selling book.

    On one hand theists can’t ask for a separate place to pray, ‘their men’ on the ward, at the tax-payers expense, then in the next breath announce “we are the same and demand the same treatment”.

    If all these two-faced theists all had true belief in their convictions, like say the witless but gutsy Jehovah Witness’s, there would be plenty of spare hospital beds for us Atheists, and over-flowing cemeteries with crosses on the graves.

    So it’s hight time with gave priority treatment to someone who wants it, over say someone who wants it stopped full-stop, or objects to it on ethical or religious grounds?

    If it is exclusivity through extra rights, they want – let’s give it to them.

    Let’s embrace those who abandon reason & science for superstition, as it frees more beds for those who appreciate it.

    Let the Hospitals and health-providers play their bluff when it comes to modern treatments that upset their sensibilities, let’s give them what they want & fought for.

    It’s also time for theists to practice what they preach, and abdicate themselves from mainstream medicine and get back to basics.

    Prayer and leeches.

  28. Ken, you’re trying to put a square peg into a round hole. Somebody made a comment that sidestepped the issued and displayed a very common and dismissive form of question begging. I pointed this out.

    An atheist could point this out. A buddhist could point this out. A Christian could. A proponent of embryonic stem cells could point this out. An opponentn could point this out.

    Do you realise this?

  29. David,

    A key point that you seem to be overlooking is that IVF, etc., is only wrong to you. Fine: I’m not expecting you to have relatives that donate, nor accept treatments based on things you don’t like. That’s your choice. That you have that choice is a privilege that comes with being in a secular society. But it’s not anyone’s place to tell others their choices.

    You might want to think about why the majority of Catholics don’t agree with you. (I offered one possible reason.)

    Playing devil’s advocate:

    To create a human embryo and not let it grow to maturity is wrong.

    Not looking at the context of situations leads to the sort of absolutely appalling decision we saw of the Catholic Church with the little girl who was raped in Brazil.

    It is never right to commit a wrong in order for there to be a greater good.

    I think you need to study actual things your actual church has done. Or you have done. I think you’ll very quickly find it’s quite a fallacy. As a piece of rigid logic it might look appealing, but in the real world it’s a nonsense.

    Parents kill to feed their children. Killing is a wrong. So it must be never right to feed children.
    To “allow” people to feed children, your only option is to take the ‘never’ out of your claim.

    That’s is where rigid logic gets you if you try use it on the real world. Terrible decisions and silly logic ;-)

  30. Let’s you are dismissive (you say so) and try follow it with an excuse and still don’t present anything to the discussion. Obviously there is no conversation to have with you!

    Your second paragraph is trying to frame her actions in a manner that suits yourself. I would suggest you let her speak for herself. As I read it, she was merely making a statement without imposing anything on anyone else.

  31. Glenn – I actually don’t know what you are talking about. Whatever it is, it’s a side issue, surely.

    I was hoping to get some discussion of the points I made in my article regarding moral leadership on the embryonic stem cell research issue as indicated by the figures in the Harris Poll mentioned.

  32. Ken

    “I actually don’t know what you are talking about. Whatever it is, it’s a side issue, surely.”

    See, that’s exactly what bothers me. You don’t even realise that the problem I refer to exists, and what’s worse, you think that whatever it is, it’s a side issue. Really? So dismissing the fundamental moral objection that some people have to embryonic stem cell research, setting it aside and pretending it’s a settled matter – that’s a side issue?

    With all respect, it’s exactly that kind of extraordinary naivety and dismissiveness that frustrates those who do not share your beliefs about embryonic stem cell research. Again with all respect (genuinely), the fact that you admit to not even seeing what I’m talking about does not bode well for any deeper discussion about the issue, but still, on the off chance that me changing the subject (from what I was talking about before) and explaining my own position on the issue might be interesting or even helpful, here goes (in brief). I’ll start with some general comments about the approach I have seen you taking, and then offer one of my own.

    I’ve used the word once already, but I’m not using for mere rhetorical effect (like the rather glib, false, but rhetorically powerful claim that religious arguments can justify anything, unlike non-religious argument). The word is naïve. It’s just incredibly naïve to throw around the term “evidence based” in a context where you’re trying to say that there’s a moral position that should be adopted on embryonic stem cell research. You appear to think that the evidence – the brute facts that we can all see – will just yield moral conclusions, so all we need to do is go with science and we’ll get the right moral outcome. This is breathtakingly preposterous. Science tells us what happens when we do certain things to embryonic cells. It tells us what we can (probably) use them for. It tells us what the embryo looks like, what it consists of, how big it is, what it weighs, etc. But it does not and cannot tell us what we should or should not be allowed to do to an embryo. You’re just barking up the wrong tree in your lofty sounding talk about “evidence based reasoning.”

    What you need to add to the evidence is a normative premise. Allow me to explain. The following is what I have seen here (although not laid out as clearly as this):

    premise 1: An early embryo has no sentience
    conclusion: Therefore it is morally acceptable to destroy an embryo

    This is barely an argument at all. What is clearly lacking is what is called in logic a “normative premise.” Here’s the argument in its full form with the normative premise added:

    premise 1: An early embryo has no sentience
    premise 2: If anything at all lacks sentience, then it is morally acceptable to destroy it.
    conclusion: Therefore it is morally acceptable to destroy an embryo

    Premise 2 is really what’s doing all the moral work, so it needs to be included. But then that forces the one using the argument (you in this case) to actually present good reasons for accepting premise 2, and you’ve simply not done that. Those who do not share your beliefs are hardly going to just grant that premise as a given for your sake, are they? You have to appeal to premises that those who disagree with you are likely to accept, otherwise you end up doing what is called “begging the question.” (http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/begging-the-question.html) Your leap from evidence to value judgments has skipped the all important step, robbing the argument of moral or logical force.

    The rather elementary objection to the destruction of embryos for research is as follows:

    premise 1: It is prima facie wrong to kill a human being (this is the normative premise)
    premise 2: The destruction of an embryo is the destruction of a human being
    conclusion: Therefore the destruction of an embryo is prima facie wrong

    Notice several things. Firstly, I have not said that it is always wrong to kill a human being. I do not believe that it is always wrong to do so. It is, however, prima facie wrong. Unless there are compelling reasons in any given situation (one example is when I am defending myself or others from a deadly attack), then it is wrong to kill human being. Secondly, I have not even attempted to wade into nebulous debates about personhood. Some ethicists like Peter Singer or Michael Tooley believe that there’s nothing wrong with killing human beings, only persons, that is, human beings that currently have certain levels of sentience or self awareness or some other feature. I think – and I am fairly sure you think too – that this is far too broad when it comes to permission to kill. Infants are not self aware, and people that are temporarily in an induced coma while they recover are not sentient. But, you might want to argue that while it is prima facie wrong to kill a human being, the state of being an embryo is an exceptional case where this does not apply. You would have to argue for this. Thirdly, my conclusion is not that it is always wrong to destroy an embryo, for the same reason that I don’t think it’s always wrong to kill an adult. Cases like ectopic pregnancies, although not actually detectable at the embryonic stage, are cases where I think it is acceptable.

    Arguing that an early embryo (at the stage where embryonic stem cell research might occur) is not only not a person but also is not even a human being is a very daunting task, but you’re welcome to take it up if you like. I think the arguments that an early embryo is a human being are quite simple and fairly compelling. Firstly, unlike, say, human skin cells or a human tumor, the embryo itself not only has human DNA but also has human parents. It also, like older human beings, has a future as an adult human being (unlike, say, a separate sperm and an ova, which must actually fuse to become a new organism before this is true). Of course, something might happen tot he embryo to prevent this (e.g. miscarriage, abortion etc), but then terrible things may befall any other human being as well.

    Another way to argue that an embryo is a human being is by using what some ethicists have called a “trace back strategy.” I have a history of being an adult, an adolescent, a child, a toddler, an infant, a fetus, and an embryo. Since I retain numerical identity, it follows that I was once an embryo, and an embryo is a human being.

    The only plausible attempt to dislodge the trace back strategy that I am familiar with is that of Don Marquis, but for reasons I have explained elsewhere I do not think he succeeded.

    So if you accept the value judgment that “It is prima facie wrong to kill a human being,” I think the ball is in your court to give defensible reasons – reasons that I would accept – why I should make an exception for embryos.

  33. I meant to refer to where I replied to Marquis’s argument. Here it is: http://www.beretta-online.com/wordpress/index.php/don-marquis-on-embryonic-stem-cell-research/

  34. Cedric, once again, no re-reading is necessary.

    Then how do you explain your faulty understanding of the comments here?

    I see your tactic is to simply deny.

    Huh? You don’t make any sense.
    You are the one that’s in denial.

    If you want to whine about how you are unsatisfied about somebody’s comments simply because you willfully refuse to read the comments here then…that’s your problem.
    If you have an argument to present then present it.
    Otherwise, you’re not saying much of anything.
    (shrug)

    Here’s a video that might help you understand the stemcell issue.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuHnjDM-tys

    Theological handwringing doesn’t impress many people. If you object to stemcell research, then make a scientific argument.
    Your personal beliefs are your own. Keep them.
    Nobody else cares.

  35. “Then how do you explain your faulty understanding of the comments here?”

    There is nothing to explain.

    “Huh? You don’t make any sense. You are the one that’s in denial.”

    You already know that this is false. Have another read. I pointed out that there had been a dismissive approach, and instead of rebutting me you just denied a couple of times.

    And as for theological handwringing, you are now just uttering nonsense. You can';t even point out what theological handwringing on my part you are talking about.

    Thanks for your abundantly generous offer to help me understand the stem cell issue. It’s amusing.

    Your dismissiveness and denial is yours to keep. Just keep it well hidden, for your own good.

  36. There is nothing to explain.

    I see your tactic is to simply deny. That’s fine.
    (shrug)

    You already know that this is false. Have another read.

    No re-reading is necessary.
    (shrug)

    Thanks for your abundantly generous offer to help me understand the stem cell issue. It’s amusing.

    And as for theological handwringing, you are now just uttering nonsense.

    Theological handwringing is indeed nonsense.
    If you want to make an argument on stemcells, then make one.
    Keep it scientific.

    Thanks for your abundantly generous offer to help me understand the stem cell issue. It’s amusing.

    You’re welcome.
    Here’s another one that might help you understand why stemcell research is important.

  37. Ken writes: I was hoping to get some discussion of the points I made in my article regarding moral leadership on the embryonic stem cell research issue as indicated by the figures in the Harris Poll mentioned.

    Perhaps the difference is simply that the senior religious members have their heads in apologetic tracts and abstract debate, while the members see “the real world” a little more?

    Glenn:

    See, that’s exactly what bothers me.

    My reading of Ken’s post to you is that Ken is just telling you that you’re not making sense; if so, your first paragraph in reply to this is missing the mark.

    I see you are taking the sort of (pseudo)philosophy that I suggested earlier might lie behind people taking the stance you hold.

    I also pointed out earlier several things that would make your logic difficult, if not impossible. I suggest you try re-reading my posts (slowly) and thinking about the points I raised. (See also my posts to David.)

    Among other things I suggested if you are serious about exploring this, it seems to me that one interesting line to explore is out that if the default status of the early embryo is to die, unless it is “rescued” by the mother, etc. If so, early-stage embryos do not have a “mission to make a new life”, yet, but rather a mission to test if the conditions required to make a new organism are present (i.e. being supplied correctly by the mother) and in the absence of these, allow themselves to be passed without harming the mother. It may seem paradoxial if you are not a biologist, but a good number of biological systems are designed to default to “dying” “for the greater good”.

    (Ironically, this process reminds me of that “cannot do evil to do good” logic: if you accept that “injuring” or “killing off” part of the body, or an individual, is “wrong”, then by your logic life itself is doing “wrong” all the time.)

    Secondly, I have not even attempted to wade into nebulous debates about personhood.

    You are granting “personhood” to early embryos by assertion, rather than reason. It would seem what you are doing is asserting what you want, then excusing yourself from having to examine your assertion. (And shifting the burden of establishing your assumption to others.)

    Cases like ectopic pregnancies, although not actually detectable at the embryonic stage, are cases where I think it is acceptable.

    Let’s try your logic: an embryo that gets in the wrong place is OK to dispose of. OK, fair enough. IVF generates “extra” embryos that are in the wrong place. Usually they are disposed of. I guess this must be OK.

    If you complain that it’s a “special circumstance because it can “cause harm”, try normal situations: a fertilised egg starts to develop normally, but fails to implant. It’s in the wrong place. It is naturally “disposed” of. This is OK you say, but, wait up a minute: you conceived and fertilised the egg and let it “die”, so you would seem to be wanting to have your logic both ways.

    Arguing that an early embryo (at the stage where embryonic stem cell research might occur) is not only not a person but also is not even a human being is a very daunting task, but you’re welcome to take it up if you like.

    I note that you make no effect to show how early embryos are supposed to be “a person”, but ask that others present the opposite. I have to say that I tire of seeing religious people presenting this “demand of others” style. To me it amounts to saying that you have no argument to present, but just want to make others write so that they might find something to nitpick, an entirely negative approach.

    has a future as an adult human being

    Bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep! Warning: error detected :-) The “extra” early stage embryos from IVF do not have a future as an adult human being. They are usually disposed of unless the parents donate them to research. These are the embryos that people wish to use to obtain embryonic stem cells: those that have no future other than to be disposed of.

    Of course, something might happen tot he embryo to prevent this (e.g. miscarriage, abortion etc), but then terrible things may befall any other human being as well.

    False comparison: you’ve shifted to the in vivo situation and are comparing it with the IVF situation. You are also introducing some of the contradictions I mentioned earlier. Embryonic stem cells—what Ken is talking about—are not pregnancies, nor from them.

    You also have a consistency problem if you work forwards (which your “backtracing” misses): most embryos, naturally conceived or not, die. It’s the “usual” event. (Before you protest that “dying” and “killing” are different look at the actual reason they die, and you’ll find that some amount to unintentional “killing”.)

    So if you accept the value judgment that “It is prima facie wrong to kill a human being,” I think the ball is in your court to give defensible reasons – reasons that I would accept – why I should make an exception for embryos.

    Buried in this is your assertion/assumption granting “personhood” to a fertilised egg. You should really first flesh out this part of your argument yourself, otherwise you are effectively passing this onto others to sort out, when it’s your assumption/assertion, not theirs.

    reasons that I would accept

    … and dismiss anything that doesn’t suit you. Yeah, right. We’re all really stupid…

    This last point brings to me why I believe all your argument is besides the point in the end: you can have your ideology for yourself, but it is really not for you to impose your ideological-based wants on others’ choices. You have the privilege of following your own choice in a secular democracy. It seems to me that if you that privilege, you have to give in back too, and let others follow their own choice.

  38. David, wrote: The Octo mom in SoCal is a perfect example of why non-natural ways of conceiving are wrong.

    I believe she conceived naturally, but it has been widely suggested that she is likely to have taken fertility drugs (without choosing to have this monitored?).

  39. Cedric, if you want to make your silly comments as irrelevant as Heraclides’ have proven to be, that’s fine.

  40. “I also pointed out earlier several things that would make your logic difficult, if not impossible. I suggest you try re-reading my posts (slowly) and thinking about the points I raised. (See also my posts to David.)”

    You comments on where logic leads were simply mistaken. You said that the following is a good comparison to make:
    “Parents kill to feed their children. Killing is a wrong. So it must be never right to feed children.”

    But I have presented no such argument that can be compared to this argument of yours. What’s more, you gave was is no more than an unsound argument. Parents (obviously) do not always kill to feed their children (so the first premise is false), and killing is not always wrong (so the second premise is false). No comparison to be made.

    Unfortunately this is not the only logical hiccup in your post. here’s another:

    “Let’s try your logic: an embryo that gets in the wrong place is OK to dispose of. OK, fair enough. IVF generates “extra” embryos that are in the wrong place. Usually they are disposed of. I guess this must be OK.”

    No, you have just invented an argument that I never used. I did not say that ending ectopic pregnancies is OK because they are in the wrong place. In fact the reason is that they are lethal. So your comeback was just a rhetorical trick.

    You also misrepresent me again when you say:
    ” note that you make no effect to show how early embryos are supposed to be “a person”, but ask that others present the opposite. ”

    This is just untrue, and I have begun to suspect you of doing this deliberately. I did not bring personhood into it. My argument was based on the fact that an embryo is a human being, and I expressly stated that I have not waded into any debate about some quality called “personhood.” try to be honest please.

    You then showed that you are just too hasty to reply when you said:
    “leep, bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep! Warning: error detected The “extra” early stage embryos from IVF do not have a future as an adult human being. They are usually disposed of unless the parents donate them to research. ”

    I already anticipated that objection and answered it. If future premature death makes it ethical to kill something, why stop at embryos?

    What’s more, you’ve just placed yourself in a very strange position on this issue: You could not make this claim about an embryo in utero that is carried to term, yet it is physically identical to one that is created in a lab.

    You make a further error here:

    “You also have a consistency problem if you work forwards (which your “backtracing” misses): most embryos, naturally conceived or not, die. It’s the “usual” event.”

    There is no consistency problem at all. Please identify the two inconsistent claims, if you’d care to enlighten me. The trace back argument states that those of us who are adults can trace our own history back to a time when we were an embryo. Ergo embryos are human. That many humans die before they become later humans is not a rebuttal.

    You then say:

    “Buried in this is your assertion/assumption granting “personhood” to a fertilised egg. ”

    Wrong. I have not made any claims about personhood. You are just making claims up. My claim – backed up with several arguments that you have not rebutted – is the claim that an early embryo is a human being.

    As for my reference to “reasons that I would accept,” your dismissiveness and haste are letting you down. When you are trying to get someone to grant a conclusion, you must use premises that they would accept, or you will fail. Ergo, you need to provide support for your premises to make them acceptable.

    Heraclides, I say this in all seriousness: You glibness and superficial hasty approach makes you look like an idiot. My guess is that the author of this blog and probably fellow contributors can see this, and I am sure you are capable of better. Let’s see you lift your game.

  41. Cedric, if you want to make your silly comments as irrelevant as Heraclides’ have proven to be, that’s fine.

    Your delusional beliefs that my comments are silly are yours to keep. Just keep them well hidden, for your own good.
    (yawn)

  42. Making excuses by repeatedly “overlooking” things I wrote; by claiming my arguments don’t address anything you wrote, when I very clearly quote what you wrote that I am replying to; by leaving out completely some things I did write (perhaps because you aren’t able to address them?) etc., etc, is either quite dishonest or being so doggedly determined to “win at all costs” that you have abandoned reason.

    If you don’t want to be accused of “reading selectively”, I suggest you correct your reply. I don’t think your post deserves a point-by-point analysis, so I’m not going to, but literally every single “defence” you made in reply is either dishonest or incorrect, depending on how I should take the inaccuracies. Whether you can see that, I don’t know. I know that some people seem quite unable to see their own mischief (ideologues in particular).

    When you are trying to get someone to grant a conclusion [...]

    you ask to receive something that stands up under logic, not what “would be accepted” (read: suit) the person asking.

    In your current arguments you label people (“silly”, “glob”, “naive”, etc.) as if these somehow resolve things, then make out that you are superior. To me, this reads fair too much like the all-too-familiar dismissive arrogance of religious apologetics who strain to “win at all costs”, especially when they are pressed to reply. This approach will not make you right, only able to see other’s points or question your own.

    In any event it’s all moot to me as everyone is already in a position to take their own choice on having anything to do with stem-cell-based-treatments or not. I think this is an important point, as given this, going beyond this is simply imposing choices on others. To me, the issue then moves to one similar to labelling food: provide people with information so that they can act as they choose.

  43. Heraclides, as you wish. You can make general assertions about my post as a whole as long as you like.

  44. Glenn – I have real trouble working out you argument because it is buried in so much other stuff (some of it putting unwarranted words in my mouth). A problem with emotional reaction I guess.

    However, you seem to reject the concept of evidence-based morality – claiming it is naive. But then you go on to use “evidence” referring to skin cells, sperm and ova, ectopic pregnancies, etc. This does suggest that one should use evidence when working out one’s moral position and that you do, in practice, accept that. In effect you accept that an absolutist “supernatural”-based morality cannot really be justified.

    So, I guess – if you are not going to fall back on a “supernatural” -morality (is this what you mean by “normative”?) then the debate falls back on to our science-derived knowledge about the processes of fertilisation, cell development, cell division, implantation, etc., etc. One also discusses what is meant by “life,” “human,” “sentient,” etc. This is, of course, the process that most people have thought about in developing their attitudes towards stem cell research and its legal framework.

    As the book shows (and it does go into the arguments each side uses in what I see as a balanced way) most religious people in the US have rejected the absolutist positions of their leadership. That is why they, together with most non-religious, support Obama’s recent reversal of Bush’s veto on this research.

  45. Have a look at this: Man-hating Chinese doctors murder baby!.

    It demonstrates some of the problems of an absolutist moral position on these sort of issues.

  46. Ken, now you’re simply not being serious at all, and it’s my signal to leave.

    In spite of my post clearly not being such, you label it an emotional reaction.

    Revealing your utter ignorance of logical terminology, you suggest that “normative” = “supernatural.”

    You say that we need to appeal to science, yet you have literally nothing to say about the reason-based argument I presented, apparently pretending not to understand it.

    What a substance free blog this has turned out to be. I expect at very least some elementary understanding of the ethical debate, but even that, it seems, is asking far too much. Farewell, the mic is yours.

  47. It demonstrates some of the problems of an absolutist moral position on these sort of issues.

    Those murderous doctors! This wicked crime strikes me as typical of the hasty and dismissive procedures taken by many in the medical profession. Where were the parents in all this? Why didn’t somebody call the police?????

  48. I have not made any claims about personhood. You are just making claims up. My claim – backed up with several arguments that you have not rebutted – is the claim that an early embryo is a human being.
    This sounds awfully like playing with words to me. At what point is a human being not a person?

  49. What the Harris Poll needs is a “why” element! It’d be nice to see if it’s (say) because the members can sense that this is an issue where people are already able to make their own choices, so what’s with the leaders pushing a view on others? Or, because they don’t think so much of the more apologetic approach of the leaders. Or whatever.

    On one hand I have to laugh at PZ’s post, on the other I worry that his blog gets into juvenile humour too much sometimes. In small doses it’s a laugh, but done too often it starts to feel “tabloid” in a way. Foetus-in-foetu and teratomas are very striking for how they show surprisingly well-developed body parts in an otherwise obviously “non-human” form, eh?

  50. In small doses it’s a laugh, but done too often it starts to feel “tabloid” in a way.

    I understand the sentiment but I feel that humour has an important role to play in educating people about science and creationism.
    There are plenty of dour, soberminded blogs that are science focused. There’s room for a change of pace.

    PZ’s site has a lively quality to it that I find very appealing.
    Take cephalopods for example.
    Even the word sounds boring!

    Yet now I am fascinated by them. I’m not claiming to be a marine biologist by any means but some of the field research that he points out and carefully explains is (for me at least) very interesting indeed.

    The ridicule that is a mainstay of his blog has an important role to play.
    Sure, I respect the time and patience that sane people use to take on creationist crap in blog discussions. It’s vital.
    Yet humour and ridicule also do their part.
    Jesus and Mo.
    Land over Baptist. etc.

    I can’t remember who said it first but someone made a comment about the way people stop believing in Santa Claus.
    Very few of them stop believing in a fat person climbing down a chimney because some grown-up carefully prepared a half-hour lecture on why Santa Claus doesn’t really exist.
    Most of them stop believing in the “bearded one” the minute the other kids in school start sniggering at them.
    That sniggering (uncomfortable as it may be at the time) gets the believer out of their comfort zone and forces them to re-examine their beliefs.

    Allowing unsupportable beliefs to remain unchallenged is a dangerous thing.
    The sweet voice of reason is a powerful tool but (in the right circumstances) the shiv of sarcasm can also draw plenty of blood.
    I do like the blood flow at PZ’s blog. ;)

  51. I am sorry you don’t want to discuss this Glenn as I think there are some important scientific and ethical issues. I would have been interested in a brief non-emotive response to the content of my article – especially the quote from the book that the polls “show a disagreement between those who profess faith and those who institutionalise it.”

    There are of course other big ethical issues not covered in my article (such as the role of biomedical business interests).

    For what it’s worth – I think one of the big problems in a personal approach is the “tyranny of classification.” (Dawkins has written about this regarding tyhe problem of defining “species.”) We can define when a conglomeration of cells are really “human” and when they are not. That’s easy. But the transition is not sharp – it’s a gradual transtion. So this leads to intensive debate about the acceptability of things like abortion at different terms.

    I think the issues on use of discarded IVF embryo for research purposes is really a bit of a no-brainer (being at one end of this spectrum) and that is why stem cell research is supported by most Americans – many of whom oppose or wish to limit abortion.

  52. I wasn’t referring to the anti-creationist stuff, so much as the run of “penis” humour lately.

  53. If I had more time, I would have liked to look into the idea that the “intent” of a zygote and the early embryo stage to “pass through” and this intent being “rescued” by the mother. It’d be a way of looking at the actual process and seeing if it provides some obvious lead to thinking about it. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find that the early stage embryos are “set up” to default to “passing through” and need have positive action. I’m out time to flesh this out, but it seems reasonable to me.

    Starting with philosophy seems a bad move and some of the strategies seem unsound to me (e.g. the backtrace idea is obviously flawed, as it cannot take into account that the majority of embryos do not do on to form an adult, nor what the “intention” of the early embryo itself is, as opposed to the larger system of the early embryo and the mother taken together).

  54. Strange, my last reply came out of order, it’s supposed to be down here! :-)

  55. If you have a subscription to EMBO Reports and are interested in this topic, you might want to take a peek at the ‘Talking Point on morality and human embryo research’ in the 10(4) issue (the current issue at the time I’m writing). There are three letters on this subject in this issue of EMBO Reports.

  56. For some reason your post seems to “the last word” in this thread! :-)

  57. Yes – pity. But then again once people become emotional it’s hard to discuss things.

    Related to this is a discussion Ian is having with Stuart on Thinking matters. According to Stuart “I’ve never seen a Christian apologist (or lay-person) react in an angry fashion when their ideas were challenged – the most I’ve seen is politely restrained frustration.”

    You really have to wonder how blind these people can be – with Bnonn pouring out his anger, accusing his discussion partner of being a moron, idiot, a fool, etc. These people seem to live on a different planet.

  58. Saw that comment too, although I haven’t followed the discussion, nor read the article. I wrote a very brief comment, but of course I’m “banned” so it never showed up. Something to the effect that Stuart as a short memory. I recall him loosing his cool over something I wrote on their blog, even after me repeatedly pointing out I wasn’t attacking him personally. When I read his remark I was immediately reminded of it. (Bnonn is a better example really in that, in my limited experience, he’s quicker to “react” than Stuart.)

    Having a quick look at the comments in that thread now, Johnson’s claim “apologetics cannot be isolated from one’s behaviour — for that would be hypocrisy” would be one to push him on, since this would imply that their behaviour informs us about apologetics. Haul in examples of all blindness, negativity, word gaming playing, denial, avoidance of obvious truths, etc., etc, and ask them what this says about apologetics. That’s the hypocrisy everyone else sees in them.

    Pity I can’t comment as I’d expand on Mike’s last paragraph of his comment on April 12th, 2009 11:43 pm. There are plenty of examples using anti-vaccine promoters, “natural remedies” people and so on that illustrate that these behaviours are more general and aren’t much to do with the subject matter per se but how people hold and examine their beliefs.

    This might be useful to their readership:

    http://atheism.about.com/b/2007/11/13/comment-of-the-week-angry-atheists-or-angry-theists.htm

  59. Done it again, by default my reply seem to want to “reply” before your post. I’m not sure what’s wrong. It might be cookie issue, or the code it’s using to track what post I’m replying to. My previous post ‘April 14, 2009 at 4:44 pm’ is in reply to your post ‘April 14, 2009 at 3:27 pm’. Sorry about this.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s