Sunday, November 22, 2009

God's kingship: an impregnable love and an inventiveness that finds man by ways that are always new

By Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year

The Feast of Christ the King is of recent origin, but what it celebrates is as old as the Christian Faith itself.

For the word Christ is, in fact, just the Greek translation of the word Messiah: the Anointed One, the King. Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified son of a carpenter, is so intrinsically King that the title "king" has actually become his name. by calling ourselves Christians, we label ourselves as followers of the King, as people who recognize him as their King.

But we can understand properly what the kingship of Jesus Christ means only if we trace its origin in the Old Testament, where we immediately discover a surprising fact. It is obvious that God did not intend Israel to have a kingdom. The kingdom was, in fact, a result of Israel's rebellion against God and against his prophets, a defection from the original will of God. The law was to be Israel's king, and, through the law, God himself.... But Israel was jealous of the neighboring peoples with their powerful kings.... Surprisingly, God yield to Israel's obstinacy and so devised a new kind of kingship for them.

The son of David, the King, is Jesus; in him God entered humanity and espoused it to himself. If we look closely, we shall discover that this is, in fact, the usual form of the divine activity in relation to mankind. God does not have a fixed plan that he must carry out; on the contrary, he has many different ways of finding man and even of turning his wrong ways into right ways.

We can see that, for instance, in the case of Adam, whose fault became a happy fault, and we see it again in all the twisted ways of history.

This, then, is God's kingship--a love that is impregnable and an inventiveness that finds man by ways that are always new. For us, consequently, God's kingship means that we must have an unshakeable confidence. For this is still true and is applicable to every single life: no one has reason to fear or to capitulate. God can always be found.

We, too, should make this the pattern of our lives: to write no one off; to try to reach them again and again with the inventiveness of an open heart. Our most important task is not to have our own way but to be always ready to follow the path that leads to God and to one another.

The Feast of Christ the King is not, therefore, the feast of those who are under a yoke but of those who are grateful to find themselves in the hands of him who writes straight on crooked lines.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why Won't God Heal Amputees?

By Metacrock in Doxa

The Atheist failsafe case?

I continue to be concerned about what is happening in the atheist community. Since I'm perceived as an enemy of their community, or at least not member, they tend to not listen to me. I have hinted at the pure hatred I've found vented against me while seeking good message board discussion. Now I find a website that is so brazen in its attempt to wish away God that it realy exceeds anything I thought I would see. They have developed a real talisman which is a magic formula to wish God away. It's a magic King's X. Here is a problem no Christian can answer, and until one does, God is disproven. How? By wishing:

from "why wont God Heal Amputees?"

Think about it this way. The Bible clearly promises that God answers prayers. For example, in Mark 11:24 Jesus says, "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." And billions of Christians believe these promises. You can find thousands of books, magazine articles and Web sites talking about the power of prayer. According to believers, God is answering millions of their prayers every day. Prayer seems to be especially powerful in the medical arena -- God eliminates cancers, kills viruses, reverses the effects of poisons, heals internal organs, repairs injuries, etc.

The question, therefore, is simple: If God promises to answer prayers, and if God is healing cancers and solving all of these other problems in response to prayer, then what happens if we pray to God to restore amputated limbs?

It is easy to see what happens: Nothing. You can simply look at the world with a scientific eye and note that amputees' limbs are never restored through prayer. If you want to be more rigorous, you can search every medical journal electronically. You will find that there has never been a documented case of an amputated limb spontaneously regenerating.

wow, empirical proof! Right before your eyes, God is provne not to exist, and scientific experiment the whole works. Now why didn't I think to do that?

I have also ventured onto their message board. I find there a very curious thing. I was immediately attacked as a troll. All the threads are bitter attacks against Christianity. I was trying to raise civil discussion about certain issues. Now in all fairness the administration did not tell me I was doing wrong. In fact they were very fair. But the posters unanimously attacked me. I find they define troll as "sowing discord" and that means raising questions they don't want to hear. I am not making this up. They are so battered and bruised by apologists that they can't allow a contrary view. They just want to be left alone to simer in thehir juices and hate God in peace. One guy said to me, when out flanked with gobs of evidence, "you are are just raising things we've put to rest before." The issue was my temporal beginning argument. They argue that there is no such thing as cause and effect. They also argue that time is not marked by change, but change is marked by time. So causes dont' proceed effects and the future is acting upon the past. If that's the case how can they tell if amputees are healed or not? Maybe the time before they lost their limbs is their healing?

The site goes on:

Why would Jesus promise to answer prayers in so many places in the Bible, yet completely ignore every single prayer to regenerate a lost limb?

(1) The Bible promises to give us anything we want in prayer

(2) This doesn't work

(3) therefore there is no God.

The hallmark of the argument is puntuated by the "close your eyes, pray real hard fora bannan split to appear before you...did it? No. see, God is imaringary, this proves it." I prayed for a banna split, and I got one. Just my luck it as "Flegal" from the old "bannsplit" live actor saturday morning cartoon of the late 60's.

There are several fallacies involved here:

(1) Bad assumption about the nature of God

The assume is that God is big wish fulfillment machine in the sky, or Santa clause or Dr. feelgood to old grandfather just waiting to give us whatever we want. The Bible never promises any such thing.It also assumes that God is the God of the fundie, big guy on a thorne who thinks through ratiocentenation and who is just waiting for each of us as him for a pink Cadillac.

God is none of those things. Prayer and healing or not happiness dispensers. The point of healing is never just the particular individual who get's healed. The point people make "why doesn't God empty all the hospitals" is part of the general theodicy problem (the problem of pani and evil) and that is still answered by my soteriolgoical drama argument.Read the whole article. Prayer is communion with God. Petitioning and imploring God for aid are part of that process but they are not the only part. God heals out of compassion but always with a larger plan in mind. God is not seeking to empty the hospitals. Read the link and see why.

(2) Bad assumptions about the Bible.

this site takes the most literalistic approach. The bible said it, I believe, (except I don;t but to prove a point) and that settles it. what a fundie! The person who wrote that site has a narrow literalistic reading of scripture that would put the most narrow fundes to shame.

There are verses that say things like "if you believe and do not doubt you can say to that mountain be cast into the sea and it will be." But, barring interpolation, which is entirely possible I really haven't checked, these are clearly not literal passages. Why? Mountains are usually symbolic in the Bible, so moving mountains is a symbol of moving problems, moving obstructions. It's clearly hyperballie, because said moving would clearly depend upon God's purpose.

James "says why don't you get want you want when you pray? Because you pray amiss. Why? you pray selfishly and without faith. God is not a wish machine.

If I was an inerrantist and thought there could be no mistakes in the Bible that might be a point. But the Bible is not a memo dictated from the "big man upstairs." The Bible is a collection of writngs which reflect human/divine encounter. Some of these are directly inspried in vergabe, some are not. Some are mythical some are poetic some are historical. We can't just assume this say this therefore that's that. It's only a problem for an inerentist.

(3) False assumptions about healing

A lot of people assume that healing is just to cure all sickness and God isn't up to it. Or that God would heal everyone he has some petty motive, people or too sinful, or something.. The point of healing is not to end all sickness. The point is the relation between the spiritual and the way the sick person is guided in life. this sort of answer is mocked by that website because it requires subtle understanding. It's easier to mock things rather than try and understand complex subtleties. God is trying to bring together everything in our lives at a point that will give us the optimum chance to know him, to get our lives together and to find ourselves.

this process requires a lot of things. One must be "in the zone" to be healed. What is that? (my own term, not standard theological parlance). Several things have to stack up at once, not just faith, although that is one, but also being in God's timing, and other things.we don't necessarily know all the things that have to stack up. The overall point is that God uses healing like a tool toward a higher purpose, it's not just chart Blanch on healing.

(4) False assumptions about amputees

I don't know that God doesn't heal amputees. I'm sure it's rare, but then it just stands to reason that it would take a lot of faith. Jesus said you only need a little (mustard seed) but he also said you have to use it. It would take a lot of faith to equal a little at times.

Atheists complain about how one never hears of healing amputees. When I do hear of such things, or similar things (growing new lungs, revitalized and raised from the dead from skeleton) all they do is complain about the sources. I can't blame them on the latter. The lungs thing is good evidence. although not best evidence. this is a hobby we have to make due.

St. Anthony is said to have healed amputees, but of course they have a ready made "out" on that one because its' so old it must be a legond! But they can no longer say "I never hear of it." If there is some special reason why God just doesn't heal amputees, and I don't believe there is other than what I've described, it might be that there are natural structures and structures have their limits. But I don't think it wise to limit God and say "God can't do this" Or God doesn't do this. He can, maybe he does, but not often and not around reporters.

The "why doesn't God heal Amputees" site has answers that are suppossedly aimed at the kind of complex spiriutally based answer I've given. Of course they fall woefully short because the author insitss upon making everything as shallow as possilbe.

Here's one of the so called "stock answers." Most of them are not what I argued, but here's oen that's somewhat close, although like I saud, it reduces a complex position to stupidified simplicity.

Here is another explanation that you might have heard: "God needs to remain hidden -- restoring an amputated limb would be too obvious." We will discuss this idea in more detail in later chapters, but let's touch on it here. Does God need to remain hidden?

Quote That does not seem to be the case. In general, God seems to have no problem doing things that are obvious. Think about the Bible. Writing the Bible and having billions of copies published all over the world is obvious.

It would be if God really did it. But using people to do it is kind of a failsafe isn't it? If God really did that then why don't you believe/ Duh? Because he used people. See how it works? Isn't that clever?

Quote So is parting the Red Sea. So is carving the Ten Commandments on stone tables.

Except that it was so long ago and so far away, no one around today saw it. So it's like it didn't happen. what do you need to believe? Hmmm? (the "F" word right?)

Quote So is sending your son to earth and having him perform dozens of recorded miracles. And so on. It makes no sense for a God in hiding to incarnate himself, or to do these other obvious things. Why send your son to earth, and then write a book that talks all about his exploits, if you are trying to hide?

so why don't you believe? If it's all so obvious why are you an atheist?

don't you see how shallow this is? this is not the way to think about this stuff! He's taking the easy targets the stupid people the most fundie ideas, the most ignorant ideas and he's simplified the intelligent ideas so they don't mean anything anymore. playing fast and loose with the facts and just ignoring any kind of obvious refutation.

In the same way, any medical miracle that God performs today is obvious. The removal of a cancerous tumor is obvious because it is measurable. One month the tumor is visible to everyone on the X-ray, and the next month it is not. If God eliminated the tumor, then it is openly obvious to everyone who sees the X-ray. There is nothing "hidden" about removing a tumor. So, why not regenerate a leg in an equally open way? If God intervenes with cancer patients to remove cancerous tumors in response to prayers, then why wouldn't God also intervene with amputees to regenerate lost limbs?

It still has deniability. that's obvious because you deny it.

If that's so obvious what makes you think you wouldn't deny healing an amputee?

also let's be sure not to forget the way the site over simplifies the statments about "promises to work miracles." Almost all of them are figurative, metaphor. Clearly moving mountains is not literal even Jesus never did that. Mountains are often symbols in the Bible.

I will give you the desires of your heart doesn't mean if you want a milk shake to appear before you magically it will. God never promises to be a little magic genie and give you any wish you want.

Some people might say, "Everyone's life serves God in different ways. Perhaps God uses amputees to teach us something. God must have a higher purpose for amputees." That may be the case -- God may be trying to send a message. But, again, it seems odd that he would single out this one group of people to handle the delivery. To quote Marilyn Hickey once again:

My argument wasnt' God is trying to teach you something, but that God puts us in the optimum sitaution to be drawn to him. That's not quite the same. So there may be some people for whom losing a limb does this, but I woudlnt' try to hang that lable on all amputees.

Most of these arguments have to be subtle because you lable people with them and if the lable doesnt' fit you can hur them.

No matter what has happened in your past, no matter what is happening in your present, seek out your heavenly Father in prayer as often as you can. Take my word for it -- He loves you and wants to answer your prayers. [ref] You see this logic all the time in inspirational literature and hear it every Sunday at thousands of churches: "God loves you! God hears your prayers and will answer them for you!" See this article for an example. Yet, for some reason, miracles never happen when it comes to regenerating lost limbs. It does not seem to make sense that amputees would be cut off from the blessings that Jesus promises in the Bible. And it also does not mesh with all of the prayers that Jesus seems to be answering for other people.

so he's assuming that amputees are just amputees, they have no other aspects to their lives. so if they don't get the limbs regenerated its all over. But I said there may be SOME people for whom losing a limb can help them come to palce where they find God. I dont' know how I'm only asuming it for soem.

why should we not assume God loves us/ If we feel the love of God and changes our lives and makes us better, why should we not assume this is true, that God loves us?

But to say God doens't love this one group because he wonjt change this one thing (and I dont' know that he wont) is just shoallow. Those are people. God can answers any number of prayers they pray and heal them in any number of ways, Just he doens't do that one thing, if indeed he doesn't. I'm not convneced the premise is true.

I know God is real and I know that I know that I know. I've experienced the power of God and I know. I was an atheist, that's why I got saved. I was a very skeptical thoughtful atheist. But the power of God was stronger than my obstinate streak

God Heals everbody in one way or another

Thursday, November 12, 2009

When does human life begin?


A poster

Princeton Pro-life: Academic Articles

Pro-Life Academic Articles. Follow the link and you will find these articles.

Abortion and Embryo Destruction
"Embryology: Inconvenient Facts" by William L. Saunders, Jr.

"The Wrong of Abortion" by Robert P. George and Patrick Lee from Andrew I. Cohen and Christopher Wellman, eds., Contemporary Debates in Applied Ethics (New York: Blackwell Publishers, 2005)

"Acorns and Embryos" by Patrick Lee and Robert P. George

"The Stubborn Facts of Science: Human Embryos are Human Beings" by Patrick Lee and Robert P. George

"Delusions of Dualism: The Human Being is an Integrated Unit" a reply to Professor Paul Bloom of Yale University, by Patrick Lee and Robert P. George

"The Pro-Life Argument from Substantial Identity" by Patrick Lee

"Human Beings are Animals" by Patrick Lee

"Human Personhood Begins at Conception" by Peter Kreeft

"I Was Once a Fetus: an Identity-Based Argument Against Abortion" by Alexander Pruss

"I Was Once a Fetus: That Is Why Abortion Is Wrong" by Alexander Pruss

"When do Human Beings Begin?" by Dianne N. Irving

"Life Begins at Fertilization with the Embryo's Conception" quotes from science textbooks on embryonic development

More Assorted Quotes from Textbooks on Human Development

Pro-Life Feminism
"How Abortion Hurts Women: The Hard Proof" by Erika Bachiochi, JD

Stem Cells
"The Stem Cell Debate" a written exchange between Patrick Lee, Robert P. George and Ronald Bailey

"The Ethics of Embryonic Stem-Cell Research and Human Cloning" by Robert P. George

"Adult Stem Cells, Embryonic Stem Cells and Cloning" by David Prentice

"Adult Stem Cells - The Facts" by David Prentice

"Adult Stem Cells - The Facts, Addendum" by David Prentice

"Benefits of Adult Stem Cells to Human Patients" Do No Harm Fact Sheet

"Quick Scientific References: Human Cloning, Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research" by Dianne N. Irving

Congressional Testimony of David Prentice on the scientific drawbacks of embryonic stem cells and the benefits of adult stem cells

"Cast Me Not Off in Old Age" by Eric Cohen and Leon R. Kass

"Personhood, Dignity, Suicide, and Euthanasia" by Patrick Lee

"Euthanasia and the Culture of Life" by Chris Tollefsen

Religious Resources
"Jewish Views on Abortion" by Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits

"Abortion" by Rabbi David Novak

"Abortion in Halakhic Literature" by Rabbi David Bleich

"Abortion" Compiled by the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance

Evangelium Vitae Pope John Paul II's encyclical on the Value and Inviolability of Human Life

Address on "Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State: Scientific Advances and Ethical Dilemmas" by Pope John Paul II

"Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation: Replies to Certain Questions of the Day" from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

"Declaration on Euthanasia" from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

"Respect for the Dignity of the Dying" from the Pontifical Academy for Life

Other Articles
National Review interviews Robert P. George on RU-486

"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" a critique of Princeton's Peter Singer, by Jenny Teichman

Testimony of Richard F. Collier, Jr. on behalf of the proposed amendment to the New Jersey state constitution allowing for the state legislature to enact laws requiring minors to receive parental consent before procuring an abortion


Science of Embryology: Human life begins at conception

From Princeton Prolife

The following references illustrate the fact that a new human embryo, the starting point for a human life, comes into existence with the formation of the one-celled zygote:

"Development of the embryo begins at Stage 1 when a sperm fertilizes an oocyte and together they form a zygote."
[England, Marjorie A. Life Before Birth. 2nd ed. England: Mosby-Wolfe, 1996, p.31]

"Human development begins after the union of male and female gametes or germ cells during a process known as fertilization (conception).
"Fertilization is a sequence of events that begins with the contact of a sperm (spermatozoon) with a secondary oocyte (ovum) and ends with the fusion of their pronuclei (the haploid nuclei of the sperm and ovum) and the mingling of their chromosomes to form a new cell. This fertilized ovum, known as a zygote, is a large diploid cell that is the beginning, or primordium, of a human being."
[Moore, Keith L. Essentials of Human Embryology. Toronto: B.C. Decker Inc, 1988, p.2]

"Embryo: the developing organism from the time of fertilization until significant differentiation has occurred, when the organism becomes known as a fetus."
[Cloning Human Beings. Report and Recommendations of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission. Rockville, MD: GPO, 1997, Appendix-2.]

"Embryo: An organism in the earliest stage of development; in a man, from the time of conception to the end of the second month in the uterus."
[Dox, Ida G. et al. The Harper Collins Illustrated Medical Dictionary. New York: Harper Perennial, 1993, p. 146]

"Embryo: The early developing fertilized egg that is growing into another individual of the species. In man the term 'embryo' is usually restricted to the period of development from fertilization until the end of the eighth week of pregnancy."
[Walters, William and Singer, Peter (eds.). Test-Tube Babies. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1982, p. 160]

"The development of a human being begins with fertilization, a process by which two highly specialized cells, the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female, unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote."
[Langman, Jan. Medical Embryology. 3rd edition. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 1975, p. 3]

"Embryo: The developing individual between the union of the germ cells and the completion of the organs which characterize its body when it becomes a separate organism.... At the moment the sperm cell of the human male meets the ovum of the female and the union results in a fertilized ovum (zygote), a new life has begun.... The term embryo covers the several stages of early development from conception to the ninth or tenth week of life."
[Considine, Douglas (ed.). Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia. 5th edition. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1976, p. 943]

"I would say that among most scientists, the word 'embryo' includes the time from after fertilization..."
[Dr. John Eppig, Senior Staff Scientist, Jackson Laboratory (Bar Harbor, Maine) and Member of the NIH Human Embryo Research Panel -- Panel Transcript, February 2, 1994, p. 31]

"The development of a human begins with fertilization, a process by which the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote."
[Sadler, T.W. Langman's Medical Embryology. 7th edition. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins 1995, p. 3]

"The question came up of what is an embryo, when does an embryo exist, when does it occur. I think, as you know, that in development, life is a continuum.... But I think one of the useful definitions that has come out, especially from Germany, has been the stage at which these two nuclei [from sperm and egg] come together and the membranes between the two break down."
[Jonathan Van Blerkom of University of Colorado, expert witness on human embryology before the NIH Human Embryo Research Panel -- Panel Transcript, February 2, 1994, p. 63]

"Zygote. This cell, formed by the union of an ovum and a sperm (Gr. zyg tos, yoked together), represents the beginning of a human being. The common expression 'fertilized ovum' refers to the zygote."
[Moore, Keith L. and Persaud, T.V.N. Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology and Birth Defects. 4th edition. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1993, p. 1]

"The chromosomes of the oocyte and sperm are...respectively enclosed within female and male pronuclei. These pronuclei fuse with each other to produce the single, diploid, 2N nucleus of the fertilized zygote. This moment of zygote formation may be taken as the beginning or zero time point of embryonic development."
[Larsen, William J. Human Embryology. 2nd edition. New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1997, p. 17]

"Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed.... The combination of 23 chromosomes present in each pronucleus results in 46 chromosomes in the zygote. Thus the diploid number is restored and the embryonic genome is formed. The embryo now exists as a genetic unity."
[O'Rahilly, Ronan and Müller, Fabiola. Human Embryology & Teratology. 2nd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996, pp. 8, 29. This textbook lists "pre-embryo" among "discarded and replaced terms" in modern embryology, describing it as "ill-defined and inaccurate" (p. 12}]

"Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote)... The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual."
[Carlson, Bruce M. Patten's Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996, p. 3]

"[A]nimal biologists use the term embryo to describe the single cell stage, the two-cell stage, and all subsequent stages up until a time when recognizable humanlike limbs and facial features begin to appear between six to eight weeks after fertilization....
"[A] number of specialists working in the field of human reproduction have suggested that we stop using the word embryo to describe the developing entity that exists for the first two weeks after fertilization. In its place, they proposed the term pre-embryo....
"I'll let you in on a secret. The term pre-embryo has been embraced wholeheartedly by IVF practitioners for reasons that are political, not scientific. The new term is used to provide the illusion that there is something profoundly different between what we nonmedical biologists still call a six-day-old embryo and what we and everyone else call a sixteen-day-old embryo.
"The term pre-embryo is useful in the political arena -- where decisions are made about whether to allow early embryo (now called pre-embryo) experimentation -- as well as in the confines of a doctor's office, where it can be used to allay moral concerns that might be expressed by IVF patients. 'Don't worry,' a doctor might say, 'it's only pre-embryos that we're manipulating or freezing. They won't turn into real human embryos until after we've put them back into your body.'"
[Silver, Lee M. Remaking Eden: Cloning and Beyond in a Brave New World. New York: Avon Books, 1997, p. 39]

Embryonic Debate

A Reply to William Saletan, liberal bioethics writer, former embryo.

By Robert P. George & Christopher Tollefsen

In yesterday’s New York Times Book Review, William Saletan of Slate magazine reviewed our new book Embryo: A Defense of Human Life. Saletan is a deservedly respected bioethics journalist. While he is a determined defender of legal abortion and the public funding of embryo-destructive research, he is not unsympathetic to the concerns of those opposed to these practices. Unsurprisingly, then, his review of our book, though critical, was neither ungracious nor even unyielding on some important points. Saletan praised the book’s “essential and timely message.” He conceded that embryos have a certain moral standing—one that is, presumably, not enjoyed by mere gametes, tissues, or organs. “We should never create and destroy embryos lightly. We owe them our respect.” Yet the respect to which embryos are entitled, Saletan evidently believes, is not inconsistent with what he himself describes (in considering cloning) as “the mass production, exploitation, and destruction of human embryos.”

In attempting to resist our conclusion that human embryos ought not to be exploited and killed, while at the same time acknowledging their moral standing and the special respect they are owed, Saletan gets himself into a jam. To meet our argument that a human embryo is, as a matter of scientific fact, a developing human being—i.e., a living member of the species Homo sapiens in the earliest stages of development—and thus, as a matter of basic justice, a possessor of inherent dignity and a right to life, Saletan is driven to deny that human embryos are whole entities, as opposed to mere parts (such as gametes, tissues, or organs). He denies that embryos are determinate individuals, and he seems to doubt that they are organisms at all. But if these denials and doubts are warranted, then there is no rational basis for believing that human embryos “deserve our respect” or that “we should never create or destroy them lightly.” Saletan is trying to find a plot of solid ground lying between the views of radical liberal bioethicists, on the one side, and defenders of the pro-life view, on the other. The failure of his effort shows that the middle ground is nothing but quicksand.

Saletan’s denial that human embryos are human beings in the embryonic stage of development cannot be sustained in light of the scientific facts. Modern embryology and human developmental biology establish beyond any doubt that human embryos are wholes and not mere parts, that they are indeed determinate individuals; and that they are organisms that endure throughout the developmental process, that is, both during gestation and after birth.

Consider any adult human being—William Saletan, for example. He is the same whole living individual human organism—i.e., the same human being—that was at an earlier stage of his life an adolescent. And the adolescent Will was the same whole living individual human organism that was at earlier developmental stages a child, an infant, a fetus, and an embryo. By contrast, he was never an ovum or a sperm cell. The gametes whose felicitous union brought the embryonic Will Saletan into existence were parts of other organisms, his mother and father. But Will was once an embryo, just as he was once a fetus, an infant, a child, and an adolescent. From the embryonic stage forward, Will was a complete (though in the beginning developmentally immature) and distinct (both genetically and functionally) organism. He developed by an internally directed and gapless process from the embryonic into and through the infant, child, and adolescent stages and ultimately into adulthood with his organismic determinateness, distinctness, and unity intact.

Will, meet Will
The argument against our view being advanced by the adult Will Saletan is confounded by the fact that Will Saletan, like the rest of us, really was once an embryo. In telling the story of Will’s life, it would be a howler of a scientific mistake to say that once upon a time there was an embryo that was something distinct from the living human organism that is now Will Saletan, but that got transformed from whatever it was into the organism that is Will Saletan at some point after the embryo came into existence. The true story is that the organism that is Will Saletan is the same organism that, at an earlier stage of Will’s development, was that embryo.

Let’s now examine the specific claims about embryogenesis and early intrauterine human development on the basis of which Saletan tries to make his case against our position. He quotes us saying that “nothing extrinsic to the developing organism itself acts on it to produce a new character or direction of growth.” But despite having quoted us on this point in full, Saletan mistakenly argues against the quite different claim that nothing acts on the embryo at all. We do not make this claim and it is unnecessary to make in order to establish that human embryos are, as a matter of biological fact, new and distinct individuals of the human species. We did not claim comprehensively that nothing acts on the embryo. Such a claim would be false of the human embryo and perhaps every other developing organism, whether that organism is in utero, if viviparous, or in an egg, if oviparous. Developing organisms (including humans during gestation and even after birth) are dependent in various ways and often depend upon environmental cues and prompts for certain aspects of their development. In some cases, development will even stall while the organism waits for environmental signals indicating, say, receptivity for implantation, in the case of embryos of certain species.

In the early development of a human being, the embryo requires maternal signaling of receptivity for successful implantation. Yet, as every human embryology text affirms, even during the process of implantation the embryo is acting as a distinct biological unit—an organism. The embryo is not a maternal body part. No text of modern embryology even remotely suggests such a thing. As Saletan notices, the embryo acts on the mother, just as she acts on him or her. He quotes an embryology text saying that “the early embryo and the female reproductive tract influence one another.” Indeed, they do. (For example, the embryonic human secretes human chorionic gonadotropin, which helps to maintain the maternal secretion of progesterone and estrogen without which menstruation would begin and the embryo would be expelled.) But the interactions of mother and developing child in no way warrant the conclusion Saletan seems to want to draw, namely, that the embryo is not a whole, distinct, living organism.

Consider the Science
Our claim was not that nothing acts on the embryo in the developmental process. It was that nothing acts on the embryo in such a way as to “produce a new character or new direction of growth.” This is a straightforward fact fully established by embryological science. Nothing in the developmental process (certainly no action of the mother) transforms the developing organism from one kind of entity (say a nonorganismic entity or a nonhuman organism) into another kind of entity (a human). Human development is the development of an entity that comes into existence as, and remains until death, a complete, self-integrating, determinate human organism—a human being. Indeed, we can see this in the fact that the effect had by the mother on her developing child is species specific: maternal signaling, the provision of nutrition and an environment hospitable to the child’s life and development, and other maternal factors help to enable the embryo and fetus to continue along the distinctive developmental pathway determined by the embryo itself. When zebra embryos are experimentally transferred to horse mares, such trans-species pregnancies can proceed successfully to term, but invariably result in the birth of baby zebras, not baby horses or zebra-horse hybrids. The maternal environment supports and influences the development of the embryo, but does not control development. Similarly, no maternal or other extrinsic action changes the human embryo from a human being or into a human being; they merely enable it to continue to grow and develop as a human being.

Similar points could be made about another feature of embryonic development to which Saletan alludes in trying to resist our defense of the embryo, i.e., the influence of maternal RNA on early embryonic development. The RNA is “maternal” only in the sense that it is contributed by the oocyte. But as human embryologist Maureen Condic explains, “once an embryo has come into existence, the maternally-derived RNA, like the embryo’s genome, belong to the embryo itself. They are not components of the mother, somehow acting at a distance, but components of the embryo acting to further its own development.” They form aspects of the complete developmental program of the embryo and are neither extrinsic, nor distinct agents. (Nor do they cause the embryo of some early stage to become a numerically different being.) These facts discredit Saletan’s claim—central to his case against our position—that “maternal factors don’t just facilitate the embryo’s program; they direct it.” The truth is that the embryo’s development is internally directed. The embryo directs not only its own integral organic functioning, but also its development in the direction of maturity as a member of the human species.

If a human embryo were something other than a human being in the embryonic stage of development—an embryonic human being—what could it be? Saletan’s suggestion seems to be, not simply that the embryo is less than a human being, but that the mother and embryo taken together form the relevant biological unit. Writing of the mother’s relation to the developing embryo, he says that “[h]er body sustains it, guides it and affects its direction of growth. Mother and child are a system.” Later, Saletan casts an even wider net in search of the relevant unit: The biological program for humanity “doesn’t run on one body. It runs on the network of humanity. In fact, it runs on the entire Internet of evolving species.”
Here Saletan is veering away from straightforward biology toward metaphysical speculation of considerable abstraction. Human embryologists focus strictly, and rightly, on the life of a developing human, and his or her developmental program. Their business is not with the biological program for humanity. From their work, we can understand when the life of a human being begins, while fully acknowledging that “human life” is transmitted and has been transmitted from human beings to new human beings from the time of the appearance of the first members of the species.

Saletan points out (as do we, in Embryo) that “Within two weeks of conception, a female embryo’s primordial germ cells begin the assembly of her future children. Her primary oocytes are complete at birth.” But Saletan’s own words should make him pause: Who is this entity to whom Saletan (rightly) refers as “her”? Surely he is here describing precisely what we have described: a new and complete (whole) human organism—a new individual of the human species, already female, who is herself providing for her future reproductive success—not, of course, in the way of a voluntary agent (for in the embryonic stage, as in the fetal, infant, and early childhood stages, humans do not yet exercise agentic capacities), but rather in the way of a biological organism.

Three Last Things
We shall conclude by addressing three arguments Saletan tries to run against our view: The first concerns the phenomenon of twinning; the second the relationship between embryo and placenta; and the third the phenomenon of parthenogenesis.

Some people have argued that until the point at which monozygotic (i.e., identical) twinning is no longer possible a human embryo is not yet an individual member of the human species. If one embryo can split into two, then it lacks individuality. We are by no means the first writers to notice the flaws in this argument, but we provided in Embryo a highly detailed refutation of it. We were therefore surprised that Saletan proposed it in his review as if we had not answered it—and at length—in the book he was reviewing. Of course, it is possible that our answer is wrong; and Saletan is perfectly entitled to point to defects if he can find any. But he failed to do that. So we have no idea of the grounds on which he thinks the “twinning argument” remains defensible despite the points we and others have made against it.

Saletan presented the argument as a response to our claim that the cells of an embryo “function together to develop into a single, more mature member of the human species.” He pointed out that in “one of every 300 cases, the embryo splits to become two or more people, at least one of whom wasn’t a distinct organism at conception.” But that fact in no way establishes that the embryo lacks individuality. If A splits into B and C, that provides no evidence at all that prior to that splitting A was not a determinate individual. For example, a flatworm can be split and the result will be two whole flatworms: but that of course does not show that prior to that division there was not a determinate individual flatworm. With human embryos, it is clear that at fertilization, a new and complete organism comes into existence—a distinct, actively self-developing human organism—for he or she exhibits internally directed, complex development between fertilization and the last point in time at which twinning may occur. So, the original embryo A lives until twinning occurs, and at that point, either A continues to exist and a new embryo comes to be by “budding” from the original one, or (less likely, given recent findings) A ceases to be and two new embryos, B and C, come to be.

Since most twinning occurs after day 5, and since in many cases one of the twins has more qualitative likeness to the original than the other, the “budding” scenario is more likely what occurs. Twin B is a sort of natural clone of Twin A. (Of course, A and B might never know which of them is A and which is B.) Twin B comes into being as an embryo, just as twin A did, though twin B was not produced by the union of gametes. Even in the less likely possibility—that is, if the embryo “splits” and gives rise to two distinct new embryos (its material constituents entering into their composition)—the fact of twinning does nothing to show that the original embryo was not a determinate, individual human organism. Twinning in this case would be akin to what happens in the case of cells that divide by mitosis, for example, or in the dividing of an amoeba.

A second argument of Saletan’s concerns the placenta, a structure generated by the embryo to provide the nourishing environment needed for 8 months of the developing child’s life. Focusing on this organ, Saletan concludes “The embryo, too, is collective.” This is a bit opaque, but Saletan’s point seems to be that because the entire embryo is, or becomes, two distinct parts, one of which will eventually be discarded, the embryo is therefore not an individual. But this argument fares no better than Saletan’s attempt to revive the twinning argument. Organisms do have parts—organs, cells, extracellular matrices—the existence and functional roles of which are subordinated to the existence and needs of the organism itself. Organisms are unities of multiple structures—biological wholes which, in fact, precede the existence of many of their organic parts: organisms contain the developmental program to establish the parts they need to continue to grow and develop.

Some of these parts, such as the brain, are, once they exist, more or less permanent and co-extensive with the remainder of the organism’s life. But some parts, such as cells, are not permanent, and, indeed, in the early stages of the organism’s existence, programmed cell death is essential for proper development. Somewhat similarly, the placenta is, not just a collection of cells, but an entire organ whose role in the organism’s biological economy is temporary. The embryo generates through its own activities that organ, as it develops its other organs, but its reliance on the placenta is bound by narrow temporal conditions, and the placenta will (like baby teeth) be discarded in time.

How could this possibly demonstrate that the embryo is not an individual? It cannot—unless Saletan is holding that any form of biological complexity jeopardizes individuality. And surely he would not want to say that. As we see it, the fact that the embryo itself is capable of generating even temporary organs to foster its own growth and development strongly supports the claim that it is a distinct living organism of the human kind, precisely the same kind of organism, that is to say, as you and we are and William Saletan is. Indeed, as we’ve observed, all of us adult human organisms were once in the embryonic stage of our lives, just as we were once in the adolescent and before that in the child and infant stages. We were human organisms then, as we are now. Indeed, we were then the same human organism we are now. It is that organism that has experienced human development.

Finally, Saletan takes issue with our sharp distinction between the embryo, which, again, we claim is a whole and distinct (both genetically and functionally) biological organism of the species Homo sapiens, and the sperm and oocyte, which we claim are biological parts of the parental organisms. As we stated the case in Embryo, sperm and ova are “parts of the men and women whose gametes they are. Their union can generate another organism, an entity that is not merely part of another organism. But that organism was never itself a sperm cell or an ovum.” Saletan, however, thinks he might be able to call into question this distinction between embryos and gametes. “In some 70 vertebrate species,” he reports “unfertilized eggs have developed into offspring.” Of course, these 70 species do not include human beings, which was our subject for discussion. Nevertheless, we think our claim is true even in the unrestricted context: no organism was ever a sperm or ovum.

In parthenogenesis, embryogenesis occurs in an unusual way: there is no fertilization of an ovum by sperm. In ‘ordinary’ fertilization, one copy of the chromosomes contributed by the egg is rapidly expelled into a small polar body that contains very little cytoplasm, leaving only a haploid number of maternally-derived chromosomes. Thus, the nuclear material of the already haploid sperm and egg can combine to form a new diploid cell (one with all the necessary chromosomal material). In most cases of parthenogenesis, by contrast, whether natural or induced in a lab, all the chromosomes of the newly developing embryo are derived from one source only, the egg. The mechanisms by which the ovum is transformed into a one celled zygote are various; in some cases, haploid nuclei are duplicated; in other cases, the ova never undergo a meiotic process to become haploid, and remain diploid. But in all such cases there is a critical change from an entity that acts only as a part of the larger biological whole to which it belongs to an entity that acts in the way characteristic of an embryo.

The oocyte as such will not continue along the developmental path characteristic of its species. But a single-celled parthenote does begin the process of cell division characteristic of an embryo. There is, in other words, a transition from oocyte to embryo just as there is in fertilization by sperm (and just as there is, we should add, in cloning by use of somatic cell nuclear transfer.) Neither the egg, nor the genetic material of the somatic cell as such are an embryo. But they can be acted on (i.e., induced either by human intervention or some other cause) to produce a single, living, one-celled organism, capable of its own self-directed growth and development.

We reiterate that there is no documented evidence of this ever happening in human beings. But even if it did, our analysis would stand: parthenogenetic reproduction would involve a transformation of the oocyte from being a part of a human being (the woman whose oocyte it is), to being a new, distinct, biological individual. The “egg-embryo distinction” is not suspended, as Saletan claims.

We thank Saletan for his review of Embryo and commend him for focusing (for the most part) on just the right question: Is the human embryo a whole living member of the species Homo sapiens—a human being—in the earliest stage of his or her natural development? We say yes, that is exactly what a human embryo is; he says no. The question is not metaphysical or religious, but rather scientific. But it is a scientific question with profound moral consequences for those who believe, as we do, and as we are sure Saletan does, in the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of all members of the human family. So we urge readers to consider what Saletan has said, what we have said in reply, and to consult any of the major textbooks in human embryology to determine who has gotten the science right. It is worth the effort, for what is ultimately at stake, if we are right, is a true moral nightmare: “the mass production, exploitation, and destruction of human embryos.”

—Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton and a Member of the President’s Council on Bioethics. Christopher Tollefsen is Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina. They are co-authors of Embryo: A Defense of Human Life.
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Humans More Than Bodies, Bodies More Than Cells

Leader of Vatican's Health Care Council Defends Dignity

By Antonio Gaspari

ROME, NOV. 12, 2009 ( The human body -- even from the first stages of its existence -- should not be reduced to the whole of its cells, a Vatican official in the field of health care is affirming.

Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, spoke about human identity and dignity in an event Wednesday in Rome marking the new academic year.

The prelate stressed that "the dignity of the person must be recognized in every human being, from conception until natural death; and this principle of dignity is so fundamental that it calls for a great 'yes' to human life."

This "yes," the archbishop added, "must be at the center of ethical reflection on biomedical research, which has ever greater importance in today's world."

Archbishop Zimowski noted how medical sciences have markedly increased their knowledge on human life in the initial stages of its existence, better understanding the biological structures of man and the process of his generation.

"These developments are certainly positive and merit being supported when they serve to overcome or correct pathologies and contribute to re-establish the normal development of the generative processes," he said.

"However, and it must be said clearly, they are negative and hence cannot be shared, if they imply the suppression of human beings," the Vatican official clarified, "or [if they] use means that harm the person's liberty or are adopted for ends that are contrary to man's integral good."


Taking up the words of Pope John Paul II in "Novo Millennio Ineunte," Archbishop Zimowski declared that the Church must be radical in proclaiming the value of life.

This defense "is on the ecclesial agenda of charity," he said, and responds to the "duty to be committed to the respect of every human being from conception to his natural death."

"In the same way," the archbishop continued, "the service to man obliges us to cry out, opportunely or inopportunely, that those who make use of the new powers of science, especially in the area of biotechnology, cannot neglect the fundamental demands of ethics, by appealing perhaps to a debatable solidarity that ends up discriminating between life and life, showing contempt for the very reality of each human being."

In this context, the prelate said that man's life is at the heart of Christ's message, because "it is man, that great and wonderful living figure, more precious in God's eyes than the whole of creation."

"In the plan of God the Creator, everything has been created for man, but man has been created to serve God and to offer the whole of creation to him," he said. Because of this, the defense of life understood as charity "is necessarily at the service of culture, of politics, of the economy, of the family -- so that the fundamental principles on which the destiny of the human being and the future of civilization depend are respected everywhere."