Cloning Claptrap


Embryos are not babies. All people were once embryos, but the vast majority of embryos naturally don't become people.

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  1. I was waiting for a new initiative to preserve ALL embryos. “No Human Left Behind.”

  2. No matter how many times Bailey repeats this fine example of sophmoric logic, it does not make it any more than a silly rationalization for treating human embryos as mere objects.

    Under what other circumstances are survival rates used to judge the personhood of a human being? Otherwise, 90 year olds better hope “science” does not develop an intense interest in their vital organs.

  3. So, I guess you support “No Human Left Behind,” then?

  4. MJ: No matter how many times you say an embryo is a “person” that won’t make it so. Not that polls decide these issues, but for the last 3 years the majority of Americans favor research on human embryonic stem cells.

  5. Mr. Bailey will not be surprised to find that I think his reasoning in both his linked articles to be, well, overreaching.

    Whatever one thinks about Nature or Nature’s God or any variation thereof, the death rate for human beings still stands at 100%. That many of us don’t make it out of the womb alive may speak to Nature’s (or even Nature’s God’s) indifference to which of us, relatively speaking, wins or loses the lifespan lottery, but it doesn’t say much of anything important about what should or should not count as a person or how we ought to regard fellow members of our species for various reasons.

    Frankly, disingenuous questions about the eschatological implications of human fetal death is less an invitation to a theological discussion than a snide dismissal of those who actually think such questions might be important. One might, after all, ask the same question of the vast numbers of fully developed but still-born or early infant or childhood deaths throughout human history; but that question is only of interest to those who believe in the existence of a God who cares about humanity — a category to which Mr. Bailey certainly does not belong.

    For that matter, there may not be any completely satisfactory one-size-fits-all sense of personhood (indeed, I think it would be amazing if there were), but whether human embryos are or should be considered babies for one reason or another isn’t something we should be deciding purely on the basis of developmental biology. There may be perfectly sound reasons for terming a developing organism an embryo or fetus, etc. at a certain stage of its development, but little if any of the scientific reasons for that terminological taxonomy, let alone the taxonomy itself, sheds much light on any of the moral issues surrounding the beginning and end of human life.

    So what we have is a semantic dispute in which both sides of these moral debates try to gain control of the terminology used because of the largely connotative implications of one set of words over another.

    One can, as I believe Mr. Bailey does, hold with some credibility that the quality of personhood is an attribute that should be ascribed only of those human beings (or homo sapiens) who have developed to a certain point, specifically including certain mental capabilities that, in turn, depend on the physiological development of the human brain.

    But surely that is not itself a scientific determination but a philosophical decision. And just as surely, it is far from being the only defensible position on the topic.

  6. Ron Bailey:

    Your reasoning does not show that embryos are things. What you have given as proof looks a lot like a conclusion desparately searching for a justification, ANY justification. It is telling of how weak your position is that your response falls back to a populist defense. Especially, considering that the polls on that question vary considerably on how it is worded (i.e. the polls don’t look so good when the question is phrased with pro-embryonic research side’s dishonest euphemisms removed).

  7. For what it’s worth, Ron, you are correct in stating that embryos are not babies. You would also be right to point out that adolescents are not fetuses, toddlers are not adults, etc., all of which would be equally (ie, not at all) relevant to the issue you’re talking about.

  8. The battle will always be about whether it’s a fetus or a baby, as if it’s about the baby/fetus and not someting else.

    But the fact is that the words acquire their meanings by expressing an interest people have, and retain that function unless the word is made “theoretical,” that is, made to express some theory, be it the mass of cells theory or the container of a soul theory.

    The fact in ordinary usage is, that it’s a baby if you want it and have a place for it (buying baseball, mitt and bat for future baby), and a fetus if you don’t. In short, it’s something about the parents, not something about the baby/fetus, that’s the original interest that produces the words.

    Making the terms theoretical does not clear anything up, but makes fruitless argument certain.

    Short form : to determine if a baby/fetus has a soul, look not at the baby/fetus, but at the parents. The word expresses a connection to others.

    So embryos can be people but it’s not going to come up with only one person around to do the naming.

  9. Ron’s failure to communicate a convincing argument on the subject in no way is a victory for the other side of the argument, as they have yet to persuade by logical argument either. instead, we see ad hominem arguments presented, and the legal personhood of zygotes, blastulas, gastrulas, embryos, etc. assumed prima facie

    rather reminds me of the literal/ strict creationists and intelligent design proponents who think that pointing out flaws in evolutionary theory, both real and imagined, constitutes validation of their view as the default correct view in the wonderful false dichotomies of their minds

  10. biologist,

    Again, I must admit that you are correct in saying that Ron’s failure is not a victory for the other side. I’m sorry that we can’t be as “objective” as you on the subject, but if Bailey makes a bold statement on a divisive subject such as this, he’d better damn well have a convincing argument to back it up.

    Also, I would take issue with your observation that legal personhood is assumed prima facie; in my arguments here, I’ve only assumed the personhood of an already-born human and worked backwards. But we’ve been through that before on plenty of 300-post-threads, so I don’t see the need to go over it again.

  11. biologist:

    It is incumbant for the pro-embryonic research folks to come up with a convincing argument that human embryos are in fact, things, because they are arguing that the government cannot restrict them from doing whatever they want with them. Those against, only have to show that there is sufficient doubt in the matter that the government has a legitimate interest in defending whatever human dignity an embryo can be siad to possess.

    Putting it another way, Bailey and his allies want to classify certain forms of human life as property. If there is any doubt about the appropriateness of such a classifiction, what should society’s default position be?

  12. crimethink:

    you’re right, this disagreement needs a convincing argument. Ron tried, you guys think he failed. I haven’t formed an opinion on Ron’s success or failure yet, I’m still thinking it over. Let’s hear a counter-argument.

    if you don’t assume legal personhood prima facie, then consider yourself excluded from the subject of that portion of my post. I think we agree on this topic, but I am frustrated by the misinformation slung by the pro-life side (which is the side I favor), who use the same tactics in arguing against evolution (since there is probably a substantial intersection between the set of pro-lifers and the set of anti-evolutionists), and I hate the hypocrisy of lies promulgated by Christians and their assumption of our laws being based in Biblical law.

  13. Okay, here’s an argument:

    There is not one shred of evidence that there is any such thing as a soul.

    There is not one iota of evidence that there is any such thing as a god or gods.

    Without a well-developed nervous system, there is no thought, no feeling.

    At the embryonic research stage, there is no well-developed nervous system (biologist, correct me if I’m wrong).

    Therefore, there is no rational reason to treat early-stage embryos as anything other than things. An embryo is a thing that belongs to the two people that donated the genetic material to create it. It should be up to them, and only them, to decide what is or is not to be done with their embryo-thing.

    To all that disagree, I believe that you have a right to worship any god or gods that you choose. Your faith is your own. But unless you can prove the existence of a soul or a god or that an early-stage embryo has thoughts and feelings, you should have no right whatsoever to control what is done with any embryos that you yourself did not have a part in creating.

    Opinions should never receive the same consideration as facts. Hell, they shouldn’t receive any consideration at all unless they are at least somewhat grounded in fact.

    Okay, your ball.

  14. “There is not one shred of evidence that there is any such thing as a soul.

    There is not one iota of evidence that there is any such thing as a god or gods.”

    Gee Bill, by implication that seems to me that means that unless someone proves the existance of God or souls than no human creature should be considered as other than a thing. I had no idea how pervasive the idea is that without God, humans have no rights.

    It is interesting that someone who believes early stage humans should be treated as objects feels compelled to bring religion into the argument, when no one opposing you has been approaching the question from a religious perspective. Beating up on straw men is a fun pastime, I suppose, but not very constructive.

    The nervous system development argument is more substantative: so can you tell me precisely at what stage of development the embryo is no longer a thing and no longer a fit object of desctructive research?

  15. I get my rights from my ability to assert that I have them.

    With regard to the “sanctity of human life” argument, it seems that people are preoccupied with potential. Maybe we should extend laws on houses to apply to each brick, board, and sheet of drywall. Each of these building materials is a potential home.

    My favorite part of the debate is when people start pondering a world where cells from a persons nose can be turned into embryonic stem cells. Does it follow then that every booger with a few living cells in it must be protected as an embryo? Theoretically, with the right skill and know-how, that booger could become a person (though a friend of mine argued that booger babies would not have souls).

    Some people just seem to be clonaphobes. Humans somewhere will eventually do the research, so we might as well do it right, not impede progress, and benefit from what we learn.

  16. I get my rights from my ability to assert that I have them.

    what kind of assertions you looking for here? Spoken? Written? Either one? Do they have to be eloquent? What would a minimally eloquent assertion of rights sound or look like to an observer? does this mean that we can steal your stuff if you are asleep?

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