Saturday, May 21, 2005

Cutting Edge Koreans

Well, the Koreans have dropped a bombshell and it is not nuclear and it is not the North Koreans. You just had to know that a nation with such high bandwidth penetration, densely urbanized and educated population and some disposable income to kick around was going to be a force to be recognized. Plus they have a lot of video gamers and we all know that they are a superior life form regardless of what the horrid yet dwindling mass minority of ungamed cretins may think (if you are an ungamed cretin, my apologies for offending you, perhaps we could make more of an effort to produce more remedial games to help the digitally challenged like yourselves :-)

Where was I... Oh yes, Korea. While the people in the North are barely subsisting on charity aid from the evil Western and Asian conspirators because the great cult of the commie nut-bucket is busy trying to micro manage every aspect of life from hair-cuts to horse shit timing and otherwise killing time before the next famine, the south is doing the heavy lifting of civilization that the west quivers at, specifically in this case, pursuing medical research.

Now George Bush, many Republicans and countless bio-ethicists (they are the ones with clerical collars, crucifixes and bibles handy but with no biology training; lots of credentials like theology, philosophy ant thinkology but they get their biology training from Jack Chick) have immediately condemned the Korean research. They then hurried off to find someone who could explain to them what it actually was and why exactly they were against it.

What is really interesting about this controversy is that it marks a complete 180 degree turn for the pro-life and bio-ethicists. They have not actually followed through with the reasoning yet but they must effectively give up on the idea that life begins at conception. The Korean experiments do not involve conception in any way.

During conception, a gamete (a specialized reproductive cell which in mammals has half the normal number of chromosomes) from one organism fuses with another gamete, usually from the same species but from a separate organism, to form a "fertilized" cell which is diploid - meaning it has the full double set of chromosomes that will be inherited by every successive body cell except those which become the next generation of gametes (again we are dealing with mammals because my knowledge of worm and jellyfish reproduction is far from complete and I imagine that it is human conception that bio-ethicists/evangelicals are jumping about). The egg cells used in the experiment have not been fertilized via conception because they can not be. They have had their chromosomes removed; they are not haploid gametes, they are not even, strictly speaking fully eukaryotic cells (of which all human, animal plant and fungi are composed). They would even lack the standing of living cells because they can not divide, metabolize, grow or repair.

The nucleus of the so-called cloned human does not fertilize anything; it is diploid to begin with, diploid after and contains the same genes that it had before with no crossover events, no random sorting of chromosomes nothing that makes it a gamete. It is an Apesnake nuclei before the transfer, it is an Apesnake nuclei after. Period.

If none of the defining characteristics of conception are present, yet a new life is supposed to have been created, Live does not begin at conception. In order for the anti- therapeutic cloning argument to make sense, (there is of course never any real burden on people these days to make sense but that is a different issue) life must begin before conception. While this makes the Roman Catholic church's position against birth control and masturbation somewhat more understandable (every sperm is sacred) it does not make it any less bizarre.

I wonder when the religious groups are going to get tired of being wrong about EVERYTHING, ALWAYS, ALL THE TIME, WITHOUT A SINGLE EXCEPTION! You know... slavery, segregation, "social justice" (aka supporting tariffs, socialism and poverty), creationism/ID, the concept of homosexuality being of demonic supernatural origin, the idea of life beginning at conception, the belief that the American founding fathers were all theocrats (rather than the atheists, deists and secularists which they actually were) and that priest who are sexually abusing children should be shuffled around so that they can have "an eye kept on them" rather than just turning them over to the cops and firing sick hides. Oh and the belief that no teenager or young adult or, hell anyone should know factual information about sex, sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy or any other biological process, I almost forgot about that one. Now globalization treats us to the spectacle of religious organizations from around the world being wrong about everything. Like staging a riot over the alleged treatment of one or two of their holy books; a riot which kills their own people while not batting an eye over sectarian violence which burns down mosques and results in the destruction of hundreds of copies of the same book.

I am sure that religious experts from around the world are even now scouring trends and current events, looking out for that next new thing to be wrong about. I have no doubt that before most of us have even heard of an issue, church groups will have formed an organized wrong response to it. Who says organized religion can't keep up with the times.


At Mon May 23, 12:23:00 AM 2005, Blogger Eric Grumbles said...

Nicely written rant! I'm going to be quite curious to see how the "life begins at conception" idea and the "life is created in a test tube" idea play out. The only reasonable conclusion is that life begins the first time a cell divides and replicates itself. Since, obviously, the first cell is living, and so are the subsequent two cells, then there is life. It doesn't matter whether it happens through conception or cloning. Of course, once you accept this argument, based in science, then you will logically be forced down the path that abortion is actually wrong, but at least it is based on a foundation of scientific evidence, not mythology. :-)

By the way, libertarians actually should be opposed to abortion because of the no violence, no coercion concepts.

In any case, the use of cloning is coming, whether the religious folks like it, or not.

At Mon May 23, 04:15:00 PM 2005, Blogger Apesnake said...

Thanks for your comments. Here are some counter points.

"By the way, libertarians actually should be opposed to abortion because of the no violence, no coercion concepts."

Fortunately I don't have to oppose abortion because I recently discovered that I am not actually a libertarian. It seems that there are a lot of rules about what one can believe and still be considered a libertarian and I ran afoul of a large number of them. (Call me quirky. No wait, call me Apesnake... quirky makes me should kinda girly. Not that there is anything wrong with that but with all this upper body hair I don't think girly is the image I should be shooting for. It is important to know your limitations.)

For the conclusion that a libertarian must be against abortion because they are against violence (either universally like the Quakers or conditionally like the Allies in world war II) to be true you need to accept the assumed definition of violence with the assumed definition of a victim or "human life" which I will deal with below.

"The only reasonable conclusion is that life begins the first time a cell divides and replicates itself. Since, obviously, the first cell is living, and so are the subsequent two cells, then there is life."

I usually try to steer clear of the phrase "The only reasonable conclusion is..." (at least outside of sarcasm) for two reasons: It assumes that your audience is able to come to a reasonable conclusion that will be identical to yours(while I am flattered that anyone would make that presumption about me, it is not always a safe assumption)and also because it can lull oneself into feeling that there are no hidden assumptions in our argument which others might not assume as a given.

Central assumption)

'All life is worthy of protection and should be mourned when it can not be saved'. Fungi cells divide and are living but let us stick with human life. I will rephrase the central assumption as 'All human live is worthy of protection and should be mourned when it can not be saved'. Some of the divided living cells, possibly one of the first daughter cells of those "cloned/conceived" cells are going to become placental and umbilical chord tissue. They will not be part of the human being and will be incinerated as medical waste or used to fertilize someone's garden. Some of the chord cells may be used as stem cells in medical procedures but the point is that after the first division there is not yet a physical or chemical difference between those which will become a person and those which will die after nine months. If all human live is at least worthy of protection even if we can not protect it, should we not at least mourn over the tissue which, had some chemical concentrations been slightly different, might have become a human brain with thoughts and feelings? We don't mourn placental passings because we don't assign them any particular humanity.

If life (human life) begins at the first division, we face an awful responsibility when we try to reproduce. It is my understanding that roughly one out of every four naturally fertilized eggs does not implant in the womb. These are blastocyst which consist of many cells from several divisions and are both more developed than the embryos used for stem cell harvesting and are also at the stage at which 'morning after' drugs work, not by killing the blastocyst but by preventing even the 25% that would have implanted from doing so. when we try to conceive naturally (or just don't us birth control, we are creating huge numbers of human beings in a reckless process of reproduction when we know that most of those who are created will not get to live. Creating stem cells to heal someone who is already viable and enjoying life with friends and feelings and memories and a survival instinct to fear death seems far more defensible than having our species create huge numbers of "human lives" destined for sudden extinction in the vain attempt to reproduce. But then that is about the stem cell issue not the abortion issue so I will try to get back on the trolly.

Determining when "human life" deserves protection as a person and when it is a tissue with no more importance than what gets sucked out during a liposuction, is not easy. The fact that we do not develop all of the properties which make us human at the same time muddies the water further. The brain structures needed to form permanent long-term memories is not fully formed before about age 2 or later which explains the old mystery of infantile amnesia. While we can not remember being conscious before 2, even the most adamant pro-choice advocate would not recommend legalized infanticide. But surely, you can see where many people would require something more than a primitive spinal chord and a neural bulb at one end to be considered a human with the right to life and liberty (though requirements for government committee members might not be that stringent). Rats have nervous systems so complex as to look like super-string theorists compared to a fetus and yet you don't even need a license to kill a rat so long as you don't do anything weird like slowly stretching him out on a mini rack. (Please don't do that. Nothing of a scientific nature can be learned from a rat inquisition.)

Finally, ("Thank God he is almost finished!" says some wanker in the back. "Can it"! says I.) If the first division is the start of human life then the division which leads to the gamete would be just as likely a choice which brings us back to the "every sperm is sacred" hypothesis. Whether it is conception, miotic or mitotic division, womb implantation or what have you, it always seems like it is a case of humans putting an artificial boundary where no natural one exists between blob of goo and human being. While some artificial line must be drawn, it does not seem reasonable to put the margin of error so far to one extreme that an unthinking, unfeeling ball of tissue gets priority over a real thinking, feeling person whom it will be dependant upon to become a person.

But then with chemical abortions being made possible through the black market and newly discovered combinations of chemicals (in the present, with more no doubt to follow) making their way into the human knowledge base, the only question in the future will be whether abortions are performed under the relative safety of medical consultation or via web sites with no counseling. Or we could just censor the Internet and wage another drug war. Maybe it will work this time.

At Mon May 23, 09:18:00 PM 2005, Blogger Robert said...

Whoa…holy can-o-worms Batman!

I’ve not been brave enough to bring up abortion, although I pretty well stirred the pot with Terri Schiavo. It’s really hard to avoid an arbitrary line of demarcation between person and pre-person. I think that the ‘viability’ of an otherwise ‘healthy’ fetus is probably the best compromise. Sure I’ll never be pregnant, but I’ve lived through three pregnancies…plus one miscarriage. The first couple months seems like plenty of time to decide whether to carry it to term or not. However, it’s rather dicey to coerce a female to allow a fetus/child to ‘demand’ life-support, without giving mom the option of declining before complete gestation.

At Mon May 23, 10:52:00 PM 2005, Blogger Apesnake said...

Soon there will be artificial wombs, we will all be grown in cyber-pea-pods and virtual reality will teach us all about history and such by letting us live a virtual life before we come out of the pod fully formed. We will all be sterile and none of this will matter. Come to think of it, maybe this life right now is a podification process. That sort of makes sense because I sometimes get dry skin. It could be that my pod is leaking and I am drying out. Good God! SOMEONE HYDRATE MY POD BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!!!

This may be why it is safe for me to deal with the abortion issue. For anyone to get upset they would need to take my opinions seriously. Somehow I don't think there is a lot of danger in that


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