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We are very close to cloning a person. This we should not do.

Our technology is close enough to human cloning that Brian Alexander of Slate magazine said a year or two ago that anyone with $50,000 and a good cell biologist could do this in a closet. Which only means that someone will do so, and soon.

Mary Shelly must be very sad.

I can just hear the terms of the argument now. Those of us opposed to human cloning will be accused of discrimination against children because of their genetic makeup. We will be accused of "killing children before they are born." People will say that this is the "ultimate rage against a woman's right to choose." Just because illogic is predictable doesn't mean it isn't inevitable. Supporters of human cloning--for whatever reason, many of them will be financial--will not fear to paint their opposition in the most emotionally negative colors possible. But that shouldn't stop us from thinkng hard about this subject, for it is dangerous.

There are two reasons that I oppose human cloning:

1. Children will be killed in the search for the "perfect" or even a "viable" child. It's happening now with in vitro fertilization.

"Wired" reported

"Today, thousands of women every year are having babies thanks to IVF. The success rate at well-run clinics has risen to between 20 and 30 percent--50 percent after repeated tries. Despite this great progress, there are still miscarriages, just like natural reproduction, and unneeded viable embryos are still discarded, two common criticisms voiced by oponents of cloning. But the downside is accepted as justified to help people have babies."

In other words, what are a few dead children if we get to have our cute live one?

But do we have the right to deliberately kill some children in order to make one? I don't think so. The God who has told us to stand before him and know that he is God, to see this world as his because he made it, and to see each person as important because he made all people, who has told us to walk in humility and obedience in his sight, did not give us the right to create life to destroy it. We don't destroy things in IVF or in cloning, we destroy people.

I have heard people talk of their "miracle babies" who were conceived in laboratories, but the proud and happy parents did not speak of their baby's brothers and sisters who were killed in order to make this "miracle."

Such is a human miracle, for it is the way of this world. We never quite hit the target we aim for. In trying to make a world where all people are equal, we make a world where most are tyrannized. In trying to make life, we make more death than life. No wonder God has told us to be humble before him. In trying to be God, we wind up being demons. Humility is the only way out of this.

Which brings us to the second point--

2. It's our way of playing God. It's another Tower of Babel. The story of the Tower of Babel is the first occasion for humor in the Bible. Where we decide to build a tower with it's "top in the heavens," God has to "come down to see" what we are doing. From our perspective we are ambitious and proud. From God's perspective we are puny and pitiable.

That doesn't stop us from playing God. It only stops us from being God. We continue to try, but all we do is to continue to lie to ourselves, to see ourselves as what we are not.

One scientist said that since having children was such an important event, "who would possibly leave such a thing to chance if he had a choice?" Then, this is likely to become the new pro-choice demand: designer babies. And of course, since that attempt at interesting people in building designer babies from the DNA of super models a few years ago hasn't taught us anything, how long will it be before we go literally excavating for famous and intelligent people's DNA and offering to build babies with the genes of Napoleon or Einstein?

Has our experience with identical twins taught us nothing? Twins, who share identica DNA, are not identical. Oh, they are usually very similar, but sometimes they are very different, too. Twins separated at birth and raised separately with no knowledge of each other have sometimes found at their reunion that they are quite similar. Some even have the same interests, facial expressions, and hand gestures. But some do not. Some are very different even though they look related.

That's because while we can clone the brain we cannot clone the mind. Though we can clone the body we cannot clone the soul. Some people hope to have a kind of immortality by cloning themselves, apparently hoping to clone their souls and minds. But it can't be done. Eternal life is possible through Christ, but not through the Human Genome Project. You are utterly unique and always will be. That's the way that God works. But God's way is not the way that we work. Cloning will not be what we hope it will. It will only be worse.
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Without diving into the debate about cloning itself, suffice it to say that your definition of the word "children" is on the far side of extreme.

Also, I don't remember reading posts with similar energy about issues affecting the lives of children like adoption, education, health care, Head Start programs, AFDC, etc. I hope your passion for children does not end at their birth.

brosmile



There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life
that is less than the one you are capable of living. - Mandela
MBM,

1. You're being glib. You criticize without showing how what you criticize is wrong.

To call something "on the far side of extreme," is not to say that it is wrong except by insinuation, and then only by numbers. What determines if something is "extreme" except the numbers of people who do not do it?

But something not done very often cannot be right?

By that logic, Jim Crow laws were right once upon a time, because to do otherwise was "extreme."

2. Why should a "child" not be someone who is not yet born? You haven't addressed that issue. Since the unborn have their own DNA, and since they grow at their own rates, since sometmies they even casue immune reactions in their own mothers, and since they have their own brains and bodies, we know that they are separate from their parents--both of them. Separate infant beings are not "children"? Why not?

3. And your final comment is gratuitous. Since you do not know, you could have asked the question instead of insinuiating hypocrisy on my part.

In fact, I have supported many children. I have volunteered my time to helping and tutoring them in school, and I have given money as well, buying them many of their needs. It's why I live where I do, in an apartment not of the first quality, so I can have enough free cash to be a help to others. It is a little frustrating sometimes--our culture soemtimes expects a big or at least new car to be a sign of success, and I have traded the car for a child's life, so some have concluded that I am not "successful"--but it is worth the bother.

Next time, instead of using someone else's snide objections--what you said is a common derogation among opponents of my point of view--please find out the truth.
quote:
Originally posted by Melesi:

1. You're being glib. You criticize without showing how what you criticize is wrong.


Glib? Your response personifies the definition of the word. You ascribe elements to my post that do not exist in my words. Further, you do precisely what you accuse me of in your own post. Too funny! Roll Eyes

quote:
To call something "on the far side of extreme," is not to say that it is wrong except by insinuation, and then only by numbers. What determines if something is "extreme" except the numbers of people who do not do it?


If I didn't say it was "wrong" why inject that into the discussion? I said it was "extreme". I stand firm on that characterization.

quote:
But something not done very often cannot be right?


Where have you articulated why your definition of "children" is "right"? Is it not "glib" to introduce the word "children" into a conversation about cloning? Where is the intellectual integrity in doing such?

quote:
By that logic, Jim Crow laws were right once upon a time, because to do otherwise was "extreme."


To those who were served by them, yes - Jim Crow was "right".

quote:
2. Why should a "child" not be someone who is not yet born?


As you know, the meaning of that word does not cover the use that you are attempting to stretch it to cover. Isn't the whole point of words and language to create common meaning to facilitate communication? You bastardize language merely to serve your purposes. It's both transparent and ineffective. (And BTW - you don't need to do that to argue your position. You have a strong enough command of the language that you don't need to resort to manipulation to press your point.)

quote:
Since the unborn have their own DNA, and since they grow at their own rates, since sometmies they even casue immune reactions in their own mothers, and since they have their own brains and bodies, we know that they are separate from their parents--both of them. Separate infant beings are not "children"? Why not?


Because that is not how we define the word.

quote:
3. And your final comment is gratuitous. Since you do not know, you could have asked the question instead of insinuiating hypocrisy on my part.


Melesi, I do no such thing. I clearly make a statement about my own observations. Period. Obviously I can only comment on the interaction that you have on this board. How could I comment about (or insinuate) anything else?

quote:
Next time, instead of using someone else's snide objections--what you said is a common derogation among opponents of my point of view--please find out the truth.


Perhaps you should spend less time worrying about your "opponents" and more time responding to what's been presented to you. brosmile


There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life
that is less than the one you are capable of living. - Mandela


[This message was edited by MBM on December 01, 2003 at 11:43 AM.]
MBM,

I was under the impression that I had responded "to what was presented" to me. What you said was that I was wrong in some way, but you didn't say why you said so. Since it seemed that you were answering quickly instead of thoughtfully, I made the reasonable conclusion that you were being "glib." I did not ascribe to your post what wasn't there, I explained why I said what I did. Moreover I gave reasons for the things I said. As a result, I was not glib.
Your response was defensiveness, not explanation. Read what you just wrote. Where do you explain yourself and your reasoning? All you do is say that I am wrong, without showing what is right.

Now, you would do us both a favor if you explain why you think that what I said was "extreme." If you stand by that characterization, then please say why. That at least would turn the discussion away from personalities to issues.

Your characterization of what I said as "extreme" is puzzling if you did not intend to mean by that that I was wrong in what I said. The only alternative to what is wrong in an argument is what is right. Since it is fair to say that you do not believe that I am right, then you must be responding to me as you do because you think that I am wrong.

Do you think that I am wrong or right in what I originally said? And why do you say that?

No, it is not "glib" to introduce the word "children" into a discussion about cloning, since at this stage of our technology the way to cloning is through children. Was Dolly born full-grown or as a lamb? Are in vitro fertilization humans born as infants or as full-grown adults? When we clone a human, will that human be born as an infant? Of course he will. Then to say "children" in a discussion about human cloning is not out of place.

I believe that I articulated my reasons for defining children as I do. They are separate human beings from conception. Why do you think that am I wrong? In order to question my intellectual integrity, you have to show why you think that I have little or none. So far you haven't done that.

The question was not "did people think that Jim Crow laws were right?" That is accepted for it is historical. The question is "were they right?" Most of us say that they were not. Most white people do, too, hence the laws' repeal. Those that don't have some sort of bigotry as their reasons, not moral or scientific ones. But if you ask people why those laws were wrong, we do not say that they were wrong because the majority of people say that they are but because we say that it is wrong to treat people differently based on race. Jim Crow laws were never right. They "served" some people's interests, yes, and sometimes they were called right, but they were not right. What did Lincoln point out--calling a calf's tail a leg doesn't make it one?

To say that one bastardizes language to serve some purpose without showing exactly how one does that is a serious error, one that would make a reasonable person believe that there is an ulterior reason for it.

Now, MBM, please don't roll your eyes at what I'm about to say, for you have left a few things open in your response that I think we need to clarify.

I think what you are talking about--I have no fear that you will not correct me if I am wrong--is the legal definition of the word "person." The law has had a hard time deciding when a zygote becomes a person because person has a certain legal meaning--though one of our problems is that we have not to my knowledge legally defined "person." We seem to treat it like "art": I know one when I see it. But we really don't. We see only what we recognize, therefore we must be trained to see some truths.

But we cannot let the courts define us. They did that once or twice before, and certainly to our detriment. If "we" do not use a word like "child" to mean the unborn, then what are we to say to the young mother who says, "Of course I'm going to keep my baby," when her baby is yet unborn? Is she wrong to call her whatever-it-is-that-we-just-can't-see-yet a baby? Since the unborn can exist outside of the womb for some time before the end of the normal human gestation period, is that which she carries a child or not? Is it birth that defines a child?

I do not think so, for that is based solely on our convenience (in political discussions) or on the fact that we can see the baby (which is based solely on a self-centered--not always selfish--point of view). That's not good enough.

Language is used in certain ways, but come, you know as well as I that language changes and needs to. Common language is necessary for communication, yes, but language is changed all the time, and not just for organic reasons (as the change from Elizabethan English to today's was) but for political ones (we're not "colored" we're African Americans). That's part of the argument that we are having, I think.

But this is not a political argument--or at least it isn't so far on my part. It's a moral one. I am not supporting a partisan point of view but one that has been shown to effect us very deeply morally. To call the unborn a child, and to explain why I do so, is not "manipulation." I explain why I say what I do. I do not use a word and then demand that that be the only use for the word.

One of the problems here is the mulitplicity of words that English has. "Fetus" (Latin for "unborn child," by the way) is a subset of "baby" which is a subset of "child." These are not medical terms as are "blastocyst" or "zygote." These are terms that indicate age and maturation, and therefore "infant" means one type of child, "baby" means one type of child, even "son" or "daughter" of whatever age also mean a type of child.

And since mothers routinely call their unborn "babies," then why is it wrong to also call the unborn "children"? When does an unborn become a "child" then in your way of thinking? At the seventh month of gestation? The sixth? The fifth? Children have survived birth at all these ages, so when is a "fetus" a "child"?

About point number three. Very well, if my possible hypocrisy was not your point, what was? If not that, then there was no reason for you to say it.

I do not worry about my opponents. I am concerned about bad and faulty logic which leads us to bad moral decisions. That was the point of my entire original post on this subject.
quote:
Originally posted by Melesi:

MBM,

I was under the impression that I had responded "to what was presented" to me. What you said was that I was wrong in some way, but you didn't say why you said so.


I said you were wrong? I said nothing about YOU. I said that your definition of a word was extreme. If I said that you were "extremely" articulate would you similarly be offended by my use of the word?

quote:
Since it seemed that you were answering quickly instead of thoughtfully, I made the reasonable conclusion that you were being "glib."


Confused And upon what basis are you able to determine how quick or thoughtful one responds here? Simply by the degree to which the post agrees with your perspective? ( . . . not that "quick" and "thoughtful" are in any way related or opposed to each other - btw. In fact, one's ability to answer "quickly" may directly be related to the degree of thought that one has invested into a subject.).

quote:
I did not ascribe to your post what wasn't there, I explained why I said what I did.


No, you've said on multiple occasions that I said you were "wrong". I've not done that.

quote:
Moreover I gave reasons for the things I said.


No, you in fact did not explain your spin on the word "children". Further, by utilizing an unrelated argument about abortion to substantiate a position against cloning, you leave the reader wondering whether, in fact, you really do have a well-grounded position on cloning or whether you just hijacked this thread to create another opportunity to rail against abortion.

quote:
Your response was defensiveness, not explanation.


My response was an attempt to direct you back to my words and to remove the 'excess' that you attached onto it.

quote:
Where do you explain yourself and your reasoning? All you do is say that I am wrong, without showing what is right.


Reasoning for what? For suggesting that your definition is extreme? Please. Show me one example of a published definition in a dictionary of the English language that would include your interpretation of the word "child". Here are 24 that do not. link

quote:
Now, you would do us both a favor if you explain why you think that what I said was "extreme." If you stand by that characterization, then please say why. That at least would turn the discussion away from personalities to issues.


I just did.

"Personalities"? How is this at all a discussion about personalities? Confused Where have I once commented at all and in any way about your personality or character etc.? You are too funny Melesi! And you say that I was responding defensively? Big Grin

quote:
Your characterization of what I said as "extreme" is puzzling if you did not intend to mean by that that I was wrong in what I said. The only alternative to what is wrong in an argument is what is right. Since it is fair to say that you do not believe that I am right, then you must be responding to me as you do because you think that I am wrong.


Melesi - do you understand that even someone who agreed with you about the broader issue might disagree with your use of the word "children" in the context that you have? Are you really suggesting that someone must agree with every single thought and tactic of yours or else be diametrically opposed to everything you stand for? Is the world really so black and white to you?

quote:
Do you think that I am wrong or right in what I originally said? And why do you say that?


Aside from what I believe about abortion, I think that you are wrong to utilize the tactic that you did in supporting your argument. Respectfully and affectionately, I think the tactic is intellectually lazy. I say that because the English language affords an abundance of words to use in their appropriate contexts to support your position without having to bastardize others in a manipulative and perhaps even dishonest way. Understand? (Understand that the comment is about your use of the word, and not about you? brosmile )

quote:
No, it is not "glib" to introduce the word "children" into a discussion about cloning, since at this stage of our technology the way to cloning is through children. Was Dolly born full-grown or as a lamb? Are in vitro fertilization humans born as infants or as full-grown adults? When we clone a human, will that human be born as an infant? Of course he will. Then to say "children" in a discussion about human cloning is not out of place.


Is it appropriate to talk about my children's Ivy League education despite the fact that they aren't even in first grade yet? Now, as my sons, certainly they will have the ability to get to an Ivy League school ( brosmile ). Can you see that they just haven't gotten there yet? To talk about a zygote as a "child", for example, just makes no sense.

quote:
I believe that I articulated my reasons for defining children as I do. They are separate human beings from conception. Why do you think that am I wrong?


Because, as I mentioned above, a zygote - while having the potential to grow into a human being, is NOT in fact a human being or a child. Are you dead? Since you are heading there, is it appropriate to just go ahead and characterize your state as such? Why not?

quote:
In order to question my intellectual integrity, you have to show why you think that I have little or none. So far you haven't done that.


My comments have been explained above. It's like in a boxing match when one hits below the belt. Why? There are plenty of opportunities to "fight fair" without reverting to a tactic as such. Perhaps using this analogy you see life as more of a street fight, devoid of structure or rules. Cool!

quote:
The question is "were they right?" Most of us say that they were not. Most white people do, too, hence the laws' repeal.


quote:
But if you ask people why those laws were wrong, we do not say that they were wrong because the majority of people say that they are but because we say that it is wrong to treat people differently based on race.


Can you navigate yourself out of the circle that you put yourself into there? brosmile

quote:
What did Lincoln point out--calling a calf's tail a leg doesn't make it one?


Well said Abe. Apply his logic to your use of the word "child" please! brosmile

quote:
To say that one bastardizes language to serve some purpose without showing exactly how one does that is a serious error, one that would make a reasonable person believe that there is an ulterior reason for it.


C'mon Melesi - are you just trying to be coy, or what? 1 cell = "child"? Again, your argument can stand without having to make this particular point. Why go there?

quote:
I think what you are talking about--I have no fear that you will not correct me if I am wrong--is the legal definition of the word "person." The law has had a hard time deciding when a zygote becomes a person because person has a certain legal meaning--though one of our problems is that we have not to my knowledge legally defined "person." We seem to treat it like "art": I know one when I see it. But we really don't. We see only what we recognize, therefore we must be trained to see some truths.


I disagree. If the average life expectancy of a person is, say, 75 years. Even if we take the period from conception to birth to argue about, 9 months, we are only talking about 1% of life. Do we have a real argument about the definition of life if we have universal agreement about 99%+ of it?

quote:
But this is not a political argument--or at least it isn't so far on my part. It's a moral one.


That's my point. You've let a moral issue for you (abortion) seep into an argument about something quite different (cloning)- most likely for the purpose of proselytizing others to agree with your moral viewpoint.

quote:
When does an unborn become a "child" then in your way of thinking? At the seventh month of gestation? The sixth? The fifth? Children have survived birth at all these ages, so when is a "fetus" a "child"?


Well, you've already conceded 5/9 of your argument. That's a great start! brosmile

quote:
About point number three. Very well, if my possible hypocrisy was not your point, what was? If not that, then there was no reason for you to say it.


It was to inquire about your true commitment to children.

quote:
I am concerned about bad and faulty logic which leads us to bad moral decisions. That was the point of my entire original post on this subject.


Respectfully, I find little logic in interjecting an argument about abortion and using the word "children" to support your position against cloning.


There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life
that is less than the one you are capable of living. - Mandela


[This message was edited by MBM on December 01, 2003 at 04:48 PM.]
Is it that you are incredulous that someone could disagree with you? How more clearly can I respond than by dissecting your posts and answering to just about every phrase as I've done!


There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life
that is less than the one you are capable of living. - Mandela
quote:
Originally posted by Melesi:
MBM,

You're still not really answering. To say "no" as you are doing repeatedly is to disagree but without showing why, therefore without really entering the discussion.

So tell you what: give me your perspective on the issue of cloning and we'll go from there.
This is funny Melesi very funny, do you do and say these things to deliberately wind people up.

Maybe you should tell him what to say and then you would have the response you want Big Grin

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MBM,

You litle know me, ohterwise you would know that I take disagreements seriously. Those who disagree with me do not have to earn the benefit of the doubt, they have to lose it. I assume that those who disagree with me have a good reason for doing so until they prove otherwise.

In your case, you have so far only produced half an argument. You haven't "dissected" anything, only shown that there is the possibility of my being wrong. You have not yet shown how that might be, however. You have not provided a positive argument, only a negative one, and along the way you have inserted motives for me that do not exist.

Making the argument one of personalities does not help. So I ask you again, what is your perspective on the issue of human cloning?
quote:
Originally posted by Melesi:

In your case, you have so far only produced half an argument. You haven't "dissected" anything, only shown that there is the possibility of my being wrong.


I'm losing patience with this. First, I've made no argument other than calling into question your use of a word. Second, more than anything, I've said your use of the word was "extreme". You've consistently said wrong, not me.

quote:
You have not yet shown how that might be, however. You have not provided a positive argument, only a negative one, and along the way you have inserted motives for me that do not exist.


Are you delusional? Please cut and paste showing where I have commented on your motives? Regarding the argument, this is what I said:

quote:
Originally posted by MBM:

quote:
Originally posted by Melesi:

Where do you explain yourself and your reasoning? All you do is say that I am wrong, without showing what is right.


Reasoning for what? For suggesting that your definition is extreme? Please. Show me one example of a published definition in a dictionary of the English language that would include your interpretation of the word "child". Here are 24 that do not.


quote:
Originally posted by MBM:

quote:
Originally posted by Melesi:

Do you think that I am wrong or right in what I originally said? And why do you say that?


Aside from what I believe about abortion, I think that you are wrong to utilize the tactic that you did in supporting your argument. Respectfully and affectionately, I think the tactic is intellectually lazy. I say that because the English language affords an abundance of words to use in their appropriate contexts to support your position without having to bastardize others in a manipulative and perhaps even dishonest way. Understand? (Understand that the comment is about your use of the word, and not about you? brosmile )





quote:
Making the argument one of personalities does not help. So I ask you again, what is your perspective on the issue of human cloning?


What? Please show me where I have made any comment about you personally?

Further, you're not interested in cloning. Your answer to the original post about it demonstrates where your true interests lie.


There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life
that is less than the one you are capable of living. - Mandela
MBM,

1. If you did not intend to say that my use of a word was wrong, then why did you say that it was extreme? What is the difference to you bewteen "extreme" and "wrong"? I did not say that you used the word, I said that you "insinuated" that it was wrong of me to do so by your use of the word "extreme."

That's part of the problem with this ensuing discussion. A logical conclusion is not out of line. You seem to be saying that in this case it is.

A. You criticized my use of the word "child" as I did, right? Therefore
B. You think that I was wrong to do so.

If not wrong, then what was I, right to do so? But if that's the case, why the criticism?

2. About my motives, you questioned my "intellectual integrity," right? The problem with that questioning is that you apparently decided that my use of the word "child" or "children" had something to do with abortion, which you then said that I shoculd not have "injected" into a discussion on cloning.

That surprised me, for I swear to you that I had no thought at all about the subject of abortion. It puzzled me that you would bring it up in the first place, for I had not, nor was my post some kind of "code" for that subject.

I assure you, that when I speak about abortion I do so directly and clearly. I did not even once think about it until you brought it up.

You first mentioned your problem with the owrd "children" in your second post, but you illumined your objection a little more at the end of your third post. That's where you used the word "abortion." Until then I hadn't thought of it at all.

YOu also said, at the end of your second post, that I should spend less time worrying about my "opponents and more time responding to what's presented" to me.

That, too, is an ascription of motive. I assure you that I am not "delusional," the saying of which was a personal attack, since it addresses the person and neither the issue nor the method of the argument.

Now, does it make a difference to know that I was not saying what you thought I was and what you ascribed to me? I was talking only about cloning and in vitro fertilization, not about abortion.
quote:
Originally posted by Melesi:

MBM,

You still haven't given your position and arguments on human cloning.


Position: Proceed with caution.

Argument: Proceed - because it appears that there may be life-saving advances as well as other positive results that can be developed from it.

"With caution" - because that would be prudent based on the youth of the technology.


There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life
that is less than the one you are capable of living. - Mandela
"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."
--Abraham Lincoln

MBM,

Yours is a widely-held attitude, I think, and for that reason we should be careful of it. That which is believed by many or most people takes on the air of self-evidence and is felt to be no longer in need of examination. At that point, it is dangerous. It is the unquestioned beliefs that lead us into evil. Nazis and Jews, slaveholders and slaves, for example.

Your position at first look seems quite reasonable. Why not do all that we can to promote human health? Why not study and research to find ways of ending the scourges of genetic disease?

These are somewhat separate issues from the point of my post, which is about cloning people and not about genetic research. The impulse to clone oneself or to clone the "right" child is from a Frankenstein pride that will not stop at anything simply because we "want" this so much that we will do it if we can. Our wants have often overruled what is right. Nietzsche would understand.

Czeslaw Milosz, in his "Poem For the End Of the Century," includes the stanza,

Why then innocence
On paradisal beaches
Under an impeccable shy
Over the church of hygiene?

because this is what we are after. This is what we search and work for. The striving for a "better life" is more often the fear of death and a selfish desire for "more of me" than it is for "more of right." You know this as well as I do. We talk about it often enough on these boards, usually in the guise of "why are we doing so badly?" in one form or other. This is not a bad question until we individualize it and wish to clone "the child I want" or even to clone "me." None of which can be done, of course, because as I pointed out, we can clone the brain but not the mind or the soul. The mind will make its own decisions, and not always will those decisions be right. Our attempt at extending ourselves is doomed. To try is an attempt at playing God. We've always done badly when trying that.

That was my main point, a point rather lost in the rush to judgment against a subject that I did not bring up. It's easy to do a brisk business in straw men.

However, now that you mention therapeutic genetic engineering--as I believe you include in your reference to "life saving advances"--what about that issue, too?

If the impulse is the same, the moral end will be the same. "What good does it do you if you gain the whle world and lose your own soul?" Jesus asked. Genetic engineering is another indication that his question is still an important one. We play with life in order to do what we want to do with stem cells and genetic engineering, and this is dangerous.

I asked you in this thread just where the point is that the unborn becomes human. You didn't answer that question. It usually isn't answered because few can agree on the answer. Besides, the answer could "get in the way" of our progress toward the church of hygiene.

Then we are already on dangerous moral ground. If we go ahead with something that might be wrong, morally we are doing wrong already. We have shown that our impulse is not to do right--except in some utilitarian sense, which is a crabbed and shriveled morality at best--but to do what we can. Now we're on very shaky ground.

What is the difference between a fertilized egg and an adult?
quote:
Originally posted by Melesi:

That was my main point, a point rather lost in the rush to judgment against a subject that I did not bring up. It's easy to do a brisk business in straw men.



Melesi - you fool no one in your attempt to cover your tracks from your previous posts. I'm sorry you feel the need to do that though. While you did not mention the word abortion, there is absolutely no doubt about the origin of your thinking and language. Are you trying to suggest that there is no connectivity in your mind between the two issues?

BTW - because of our previous interaction on this subject I feel the need to clarify my comments. The fact that your thinking on cloning may be driven by your thinking about abortion is in no way an indictment of you, or should be perceived in any negative way. If your commitment is to "children" (in as broad a definition of that word as you like) then for your position on cloning not to be influenced by your position on abortion would be entirely nonsensical.

I'll respond to your other points as time allows.


There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life
that is less than the one you are capable of living. - Mandela
Going back to the original post in this thread:

quote:
Originally posted by Melesi:

We are very close to cloning a person. This we should not do.

There are two reasons that I oppose human cloning:
1. Children will be killed in the search for the "perfect" or even a "viable" child. It's happening now with in vitro fertilization.

"Wired" reported

"Today, thousands of women every year are having babies thanks to IVF. The success rate at well-run clinics has risen to between 20 and 30 percent--50 percent after repeated tries. Despite this great progress, there are still miscarriages, just like natural reproduction, and unneeded viable embryos are still discarded, two common criticisms voiced by oponents of cloning. But the downside is accepted as justified to help people have babies."

In other words, what are a few dead children if we get to have our cute live one?


This last statement is a bit misleading. IVF treatments do not intentionally sacrifice any embryo for the sake of another. The older practice of overstimulating a woman's ovaries with too much hormone and producing multiples (which are sometimes culled) is rapidly passing out of favor. What actually happens under the care of a responsible doctor is that after fertilization, the embryo(s) that are lost are either not viable to begin with, do not properly attach to the uterine wall, or are otherwise naturally rejected by the mother's body. Because this is what happens when women miscarry on their own, the statement that they should not undergo IVF treatment because of the risk of miscarriage in this case is akin to saying no woman should attempt to get pregnant who cannot guarantee a safe delivery.

Discarded embryos are more clearly an intentional destruction of life, but if the future brings human cloning, we cannot say now whether such cloning will involve the techniques we use currently. What if methods are developed that can guarantee a better survival rate than a natural pregnancy? We can't do that without research, and they don't need human fetuses for that.


quote:
Originally posted by Melesi:
2. It's our way of playing God. It's another Tower of Babel. The story of the Tower of Babel is the first occasion for humor in the Bible. Where we decide to build a tower with it's "top in the heavens," God has to "come down to see" what we are doing. From our perspective we are ambitious and proud. From God's perspective we are puny and pitiable.

That doesn't stop us from playing God. It only stops us from being God. We continue to try, but all we do is to continue to lie to ourselves, to see ourselves as what we are not.


From the perspective of an academic, what bearing can this possibly have on the world of science? Should any laws based on our relationship with God exclude only Christians/Jews/Muslims from cloning? I understand your apprehension, but this is no argument that will last in the face of progress. Any scientific leap we have made since the Flood would be suspect otherwise.

For the record, I am also leery of human cloning and concerned about where it may take us, but I don't think we should bury our heads in the sand and pretend we have no use for it. Cloning need not produce superhumans or benefit only the wealthy; it can also be used to grow organs for people who need transplants from their own stem cells. It can teach us about human regeneration and show us a better way to help amputees or people with spinal cord injuries. It can save lives. For that reason alone, we need to do what we can to understand it.

djona.
MBM your position on what defines a human being is f***ing hilarious, considering way way back, people were playing with definitions like that to deny minorities such as yourself the rights you now enjoy. So you support using "accepted" definitions to deny a fetus his or her humanity. You hypocrite.

"You liberals with your conspiracy theories are starting to sound like your own version of the John Birch Society"-Rush Limbaugh
MBM,

How interesting that you will refuse the truth--that I had no thought at all of the subject of abortion as I began this thread--in favor of your own interests.

But it does show that how you engage this question. If the square peg doesn't fit the round hole, then just pound it until it does.

No, as I told you before, I had no thought at all about abortion. I was and am talking about cloning. Now, can you just deal with this issue without insisting that I really must have been thinking about what you apparently want me to have been thinking?

After you mentioned it, I did see how you made the connection between the two. Both do impinge on the subject of personhood, and both do deal with children. But you made the connection, not me.

However, I would be glad to deal with both issues if you wish to.
quote:
Originally posted by shebakoby:

MBM your position on what defines a human being is f***ing hilarious, considering way way back, people were playing with definitions like that to deny minorities such as yourself the rights you now enjoy.



shebakoby, this is a conversation about language. Not abortion. Without regard to what one believes about any issue, it would seem somewhat important to use words in a way that others can understand them.

Also, am I supposed to eschew all arguments about "definitions" of any kind because black people were denied rights in the past? Is that really what you are saying? Is there any logic or sense to that at all? Confused


There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life
that is less than the one you are capable of living. - Mandela


[This message was edited by MBM on December 17, 2003 at 12:52 PM.]
djonmaila,

I don't think that the statement was misleading. Note your own wording, "is rapidly passing out of favor." That means that it still goes on, which means that the "old" problem of parents and doctors willing to create embryos knowing that they will be destroyed (where did the lines for stem cell research come from?) is still a practice. I'm glad that it is passing out of favor, but it is still a fact, and the willingness to destroy some in order that I may be happy with my one still exists.

It is that willingness which should tell us something about ourselves which the central point of the original post. The willingness to "dispose" (what was that line from "Apocalypse Now": "neutralize with extreme agression"? When asked by the central figure if that meant to "kill," the phrase was merely repeated. So it is with "disopse." It still means "kill.") of soem so that I may have one to achieve what today I see as my happiness and fulfilment is a looming, dangerous selfishness that we do not speak of but should.

However rapidly this method is passing out of favor, it still exists, and the selfishness that decided upon it does, too. That selfishness is the root of all evil. Therefore, so are we.

Since I did not mention the risk of miscarriage, the referral to it in your post is just a little beside the point. Miscarriages happen. They are not the same.

Is "progress" always good? This is precisely the argument of Vistor Frankenstein and Friedrich Nietzsche.

Your question about what bearing the Tower of Babel has on cloning I would say comes from not understanding the story. It is monitory, like the story of Frankenstein or Mussolini, stories that tell us, "Don't be like that." If the theme is true it applies to all people, not just monotheists. Given how long Frankenstein has lasted while "progress" has marched on, I think it a little premature to say with certainty that the argument will not "last."

Frankenstein, you'll remember, was about science without heart playing with the new discovery of electricity. After Luigi Galvani discovered that frog's legs jump (well, twitch) when electricity from Alessandro Volta's battery was applied to them, the idea that this new "fluid" was somehow connected to, if it didn't actually make up, the "essence" of life, people began to try to experiment with electricity and life.

Mary Shelly--a better student of the human heart than of writing--then created this scenario, one not at all far-fetched. Scientists have more than once overstepped their proper bounds and done what they should not. That's why we need to have ethical guidelines in science: some scientists do unethical things. Mary Shelly, Michael Chrichton, Nazi doctors, Genesis, and some researchers who have deliberately kept heads alive after being separated from their bodies, all tell us that we don't have to be Christians in order to understand the need for rules to curb our pride and selfishness.

And there are few advances that we have made that are "suspect." I can only think of one--the atomic bomb--but the others are merely advances put to bad use. Television, for example, Newton Minnow's "vast wasteland." Or computers, which waste millions of man-hours per year on obssessive, pointless games. Good advances, bad uses.

Please don't misunderstand me. I like, respect, and admire science and am quite grateful for it.

But it needs to be on a leash, because we do. And one the leashes that we need to keep short it the way that we think about each other. We are not, at whatever stage of development, to be used for our own "happiness."
I don't think that the statement was misleading. Note your own wording, "is rapidly passing out of favor." That means that it still goes on, which means that the "old" problem of parents and doctors willing to create embryos knowing that they will be destroyed (where did the lines for stem cell research come from?) is still a practice. I'm glad that it is passing out of favor, but it is still a fact, and the willingness to destroy some in order that I may be happy with my one still exists.

So the question becomes this: What is the argument against in vitro fertilization (and by proxy, cloning) in the case where neither requires the destruction of an embryo? The fact that practices like culling are "passing out of favor" is an indication that fertilization can be accomplished without without it, which is why I objected to the IVF argument in the first place. If the problem is discarded embryos and culling, then why attack those IVF methods that don't employ either?

"Since I did not mention the risk of miscarriage, the referral to it in your post is just a little beside the point. Miscarriages happen. They are not the same."

But if natural miscarriage and not the intentional destruction of life is the result of many failed IVF treatments, then my defense of IVF is valid, especially given that you never differentiated between different IVF methods when you said:

"We don't destroy things in IVF or in cloning, we destroy people."

My point is that the issue isn't IVF as a whole, it's a particular subset of fertilization methodologies which have no bearing on other, less controversial IVF treatments and should not confused with them.

Your question about what bearing the Tower of Babel has on cloning I would say comes from not understanding the story. It is monitory, like the story of Frankenstein or Mussolini, stories that tell us, "Don't be like that." If the theme is true it applies to all people, not just monotheists.

Actually, the question comes from not understanding what possible relevance a Christian fable can have on a question secular scientific endeavor. The Tower of Babel, a story with which I am vaguely familiar, thank you, is not an argument outside of church and there's a very good reason for that. Despite any rhetoric proclaiming that all mankind falls within the moral reach of any particular deity, the secular world exists outside the bounds of all recognized religion, and despite the public homage our elected leaders pay to their respective faiths, the bible is not the law in this country.

"Given how long Frankenstein has lasted while "progress" has marched on, I think it a little premature to say with certainty that the argument will not "last." "

That's not quite the point. Shelley's "Frankenstein" is not a law forbidding the use of cadavers in scientific study, it's a story, and the fact that we remember it is hardly proof that we are upholding some ideal corpseless, experiment-free society, because we certainly aren't. You are arguing that a biblical reference is reason to stop cloning research, and I am saying that in the long run, given the number of atheists and non- and secular Christians, and the fact that we don't live in a theocracy, no biblical argument is going to fly (which is not to say we won't remember such an argument fondly). But we will never in this century witness the day that legislation is produced that prohibits any form of research on the basis that it violates the lessons learned in the story of the Tower of Babel. The best argument against cloning to date is the very first one you raised – the intentional destruction of human life - something neither the Christian god nor his followers have historically had much of an issue with.
djonmaila,

The problems with IVF are twofold. First, the problem of discarded embryos. About this one you are right. As this problem is solved, the objection by definition disappears.

But there is a second problem, the Frankenstein/Tower of Babel problem: our motives and goals. Just as we can use any other kind of technology badly, we can use this one so. If parents go "shopping" for children, then children become a commodity. The difficulty with much human thinking is that it is not good thinking. That which is legal soon becomes moral in our thoughts. We know this to be false, but we act as though it is true.

So the problem is motive. Infertile couples who can take one sperm and one egg and produce one child have as far as I can see done nothing wrong. In fact I think that there's a strong argument for believing them to have done a good. If, however, their idea is to produce a president or a Miss America or a Mr. Olmypia or some such, then the problem, while not a legal one, still is a huge moral one. We have started treating people as objects of and for our own happiness and satisfaction. People often do that now to an extent. I have seen the Kennedy/Gore Effect (both of them had fathers who worked and pushed to have them sons become president) in many places: sports, Boy Scouts, school, church. Since this is so pervasive, it will inevitably happen in IVF, too. While this is a problem with the people and not the technology, still to institute a technology and open it to widespread use knowing that it will be misused to our human harm is not good.

This of course is a secondary difficulty. IVF's biggest moral difficulty is the creation of mulitple embryos who are discarded. We should not do that.

Since you yet say that you do not see the relevance of the Tower of Babel story, a story with which you are "vaguely familiar," even though I have put it into the context of the Frankenstein story and equated the two meanings, I believe that you object to the story's inclusion not because of its meaning but because of its origin. I did not say anything about a "particular deity," nor did I say anything about the Bible as a whole. I did say that it has an important lesson. Since your concentration has been on the fact that it is religious, you seem to be making the genetic fallacy. "Don't use that story. It's religious." But that does not address the rightness or wrongness of the story as it applies here. Aesop is not the law in this country, either, yet he has said things that apply to our lives, and we do well to listen to him insofar as he is applicable. The Tower of Babel is just so applicable, for it is a story of overweening technological pride, the same pride that brought us such gifts as the hydrogen bomb and Soviet communism. "We can, so we will" is the attitude in the Tower of Babel that is held up for our critical meditation.

"Frankenstein, or the Modern Promethius" is not a diatribe against vivisection or experimenting with corpses, so your paragraph on that issue is not to the point. It is a book warning us about the dangers of pride in science. Science is very powerful, therefore we have to handle it with care, for it can do great good or great harm. It killed millions in World War One through the Haber-Bosch method of synthesizing gunpowder out of coal and hot ammonia. Instead of a six-month war (all the gunpowder that Germany had in 1914) we got a four-year war with all the benefits that gas and high explosive can give. That's the lesson of Frankenstein. When we bull ahead with our wants and dreams, we impact lives. When we do it with science, we impact life itself. The Babel builders and Victor Frankenstein both tried to play God. Both failed, as we always have whenever we've tried.

One does not have to be Christian to see that there is truth in what Christians have said. Just as, oh, Carl Sagan or Bertrand Russel could be right, so can Christians.

Your final line, meant I think to be pointed and unanswerable, instead confused justice with mercy and imported a 21st-century view of the individual to another time and culture and place, a time and culture that may not have been wrong in their view of corporate responsibility. God gave the guilty the consequences of their choices after letting them have enough time to correct their errors. But you will find much mercy with God as well. He hasn't destroyed either of us, for example, even though there's a good case for saying that he's had reason to do so.
Melesi:

I have not read your last post in depth, but I will do so tonight. For the time being, I will address this statement:


One does not have to be Christian to see that there is truth in what Christians have said. Just as, oh, Carl Sagan or Bertrand Russel could be right, so can Christians.

I agree completely, you don't have to be Christian to agree that there may be truth in what a Christian may say. To say otherwise would imply that no christian ever got anything right. However, with regard to the Tower of Babel, the message of that story is clearly religious in nature; Don't try to connect Heaven and Earth because god doesn't like that, don't try to rise to the level of god because you are not a god, scatter and populate the earth with believers of god or god will get angry. God, or the belief in a god, are necessary aspects of the moral of this story which therefore loses meaning in a secular context.

But even if we remove the concept of god from the statement "Don't try to rise to the level of god", what we are left with, "Don't try", still academically meaningless. To say that we should fear information, fear learning, to the point that we refuse it on the basis that it's "too advanced" or "too technical" or "too prideful" is like telling your ten year old not to study too hard for fear she may one day use her knowledge to hurt people. It's both simplistic, given the history of technology, and extremely pessimistic.

Yes, innovation and technology can do great harm, but they can also do great good. Distrust is in not understanding the power of a new technology, but that power will never be understood if we are too afraid or too superstitious to face it.
djonmalia,

The Tower of Babel story is not about not trying. No serious scholar of the Bible--conservative or liberal--in all of history has ever said that the story tells us not to try. So, saying that it does so when we take God out of it is your own interpretation, and I believe that interpretation to be incorrect.

Now, not only does separating God from the story distort the story itself, but to say that it only says that we shouldn't try to connect earth and God is also to distort the story. The story is a little more than that.

It is the first occasion for humor in the Bible, which means in itself that it is more multilayered than you are giving it credit for being. In it people do want to connect heaven and earth, yet God has to "come down" to them. That says something about our efforts, and reminds us of our stature in our own eyes verses the size of the world ("kosmos") we inhabit. The scattering of all mankind is an effect that we have seen since then, for whenever we try to be proud with our accomplishments we destroy relationships. Pride and ambition have separated many a friend or family or nation.

This means that one needs to be humble. Humility before God is best, because if one is humble before God one will be humble with all people, too, but humility before people will achieve great effects as well, and one does not have to so narrow the story of the Tower of Babel as to believe that if one does not believe in it all one cannot get anything at all from it. There is more than one teaching in it.

You sound as though you have committed the error of the excluded middle, saying that the Tower story says that either we follow and obey God or it cannot say anything meaningful at all. That's not true. While of course it does urge us to humbly obey God, it also tells us to beware our pride and our drives and our wants, for they lead to unintended but inescapable and often tragic consequences. It doesn't leave us only with the choice between "don't try to be like God" and "Don't try."

Correct me if I am wrong about this, but it sounds to me as though your distrust of the religious leads you to throw the baby out with the bath water and to conclude that there is no meaningful lesson in religious teaching beyond the religion. There is. In much religious teaching there is a moral element which is applicable to the nonreligious as well as the religious. Just because "Don't lie" is in the Ten Commandments doesn't mean that the rest of us say that fraud is permissible.Take the God element out of the Tower of Babel, and you still have the issue of people doing what is not right and then reaping the unforseen consequences of their acts.

Just so, technology can do and has done great good. On that we agree. I am not a Luddite. But it has done and still does great harm in the wrong hands or when used for the wrong reason.

I have never said, neither in any of my posts here nor anywhere else, that we should be suspicious of "technology." I admire the sciences and applaud them all. But sometimes we use it to kill body or soul. That's my warning.
Junebug,

May I respectfully disagree? "Meanings" is not exactly "semantics" as we pejoratively use the term. We think in words, therefore words are important. If we misuse words, we think wrongly. If we deliberately misunderstand--which has been done here--then we commit a moral crime against another person.

The point is not to use the same word the same way, but to use the same words to reach the truth. Sometimes that means to make clear what we mean when we use the wrods we use. Sometimes that means that we have to learn to use our compass a little better. Our thoughts are both compass and engine to get us to the right goal.

But that's the trick. Sometmes our goal is the wrong one, which is one reason that we have decided that our thoughts will do as we want instead of as they should.
"This means that one needs to be humble. Humility before God is best, because if one is humble before God one will be humble with all people, too, but humility before people will achieve great effects as well, and one does not have to so narrow the story of the Tower of Babel as to believe that if one does not believe in it all one cannot get anything at all from it. There is more than one teaching in it."

OK, now is that the same as arguing, as you did in your first post, that we should not explore cloning or that we should approach it with care? In that post you said:

We are very close to cloning a person. This we should not do.

because (second point):

It's our way of playing God. It's another Tower of Babel.

Here you bring the concept of the deity into the fore as an argument against cloning research, and it is this text that I objected to. The story goes that the people were busy working together at building the tower. They were not hurting each other or oppressing anyone, they were cooperating and they were punished for it not because they were causing each other harm, but because their progress offended god. If we remove god from this particular story, what we are left with really is the equivalent of "Don't try" or "Don't achieve". There are other biblical stories with perfectly valid messages even in the absense of a deity, but this one in particular is meaningless outside a religious context. Don't try or what? What harm would have befallen them had not they been struck down to the earth?

At any rate, we know that the story of the Tower is meant to teach humility before god, so I disagree that humility for humility's sake was the intent of the story, but nevermind. Even if I accept your explanation of a moral of humility to mankind, how does that translate to an argument against cloning, especially in the case that cloning can be done without the intentional destruction of human life? The only argument that makes sense to me is one that suggests we are moving too close to the realm of the creator in tinkering with the makings of a human, and because that argument is so inherently religious, I fail to see its relevance in an academic setting. The argument of caution you now bring up is more palatable because it is rational - much of medical science is dangerous and must be dealt with carefully, humbly, especially when its consequences are not yet fully understood. But not even caution of a new technology prevents us from understanding it or using it with care, so that argument disintegrates in application.

For the record, I am not a proponent of human cloning either, but for entirely different reasons. My view is that aside from the generation from stem cells of human tissues and organs for transplantation and the increased knowledge we would gain, the act of creating a person from a single parent would be rather pointless. The argument that creating a genetic phalanx of little Einsteins would never reproduce the original is a true one. But from a biological perspective, DNA has a lifetime and just as we saw with Dolly, creating a child with the genes of an adult (at least so far) has only resulted in creating a very sick child. It also violates the most primal fact of mammalian biology - that our genes are designed to mingle and asexual reproduction does not benefit us (though it won't make much difference unless we all start doing it). But regardless, we will move forward with cloning research eventually and whatever useful applications exist will be discovered and possibly abused, but we'll learn from them. We always do.
"Correct me if I am wrong about this, but it sounds to me as though your distrust of the religious leads you to throw the baby out with the bath water and to conclude that there is no meaningful lesson in religious teaching beyond the religion."

The issue is not one of distrust but of relevance, and I am not concluding that there are no meaningful lessons in any religious teachings just because I feel that the story of the Tower is dependent on the concept of a deity. For the record, I was raised Christian and have no problem with the biblical teachings like those of non-violence, charity, and even faith. My objection in this specific thread over the meaningfulness of a biblical reference in a discussion of cloning should not be taken to mean that I see no good in the bible. That is not the case. That I do not accept its religious teachings is another matter.
djonmailia,

OK, but my oint was not a religious one at the time that I spoke of the Tower. I spoke only of the human pride that led to the overreaching that the Tower represents. That's why I also included Frankenstein, because to an extent both stories agree and say the same thing.

Now, I would go on to speak about religious teahcings, too, because I am obviously a Christian (if not always obviously Christian) and do believe the religious teachings, too. But I also recognize that there are lessons to be learned apart from the explicit theological ones. That is what I emphasized in my post.

By the way, djonmalia, may I say that I respect and appreciate the way that you argue and even disagree? You do it with reasons and reasoning and not with irrationality. It has been pleasant to discuss with you. I look forward to doing so some more. I may not agree with you about some important issues, but I am grateful for the way that you think.
Thank you, Melesi, and I should say that the feeling is mutual. I have read many of your posts and I notice you always hold your head above the fray and never enter a discussion unprepared. That's a standard I try to live up to, and I have nothing but respect for those like you who do it well.

Incidently, it was actually one of your posts that brought me to this site. On another board, someone posted a reference to a discussion here in which you were a solitary voice of reason, and I was very impressed. So it's good to have the chance to speak to you and give my head a little exercise. Very much appreciated. thumbsup

Merry Christmas

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