Stem Cells, part 1

December 7, 2004 | 294 comments
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Until recently I had the good fortune to be a member of Matt Evans’ Elder’s Quorum class. Matt asked me a question once that I couldn’t answer, and still can’t. I’m hoping T&S can help (and I hope Matt doesn’t mind!)

Here’s the story. Matt told me he had a friend who had mentioned the Church’s official stand on stem cell research:

“While the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have not taken a position at this time on the newly emerging field of stem cell research, it merits cautious scrutiny. The proclaimed potential to provide cures or treatments for many serious diseases needs careful and continuing study by conscientious, qualified investigators. As with any emerging new technology, there are concerns that must be addressed. Scientific and religious viewpoints both demand that strict moral and ethical guidelines be followed.”

In other words, the Church is basically neutral. The friend noted that stem cell research is potentially one of the most difficult and important moral issues of our time. If the prophet can’t give us more certain guidance on an issue like this, then what exactly is his calling?

I couldn’t come up with a good answer to that question then, and I still can’t. As I recall my best shot was that perhaps God expected us, as part of “being anxiously engaged in a good cause”, to partially define our own moral code. But that doesn’t really answer the question. Does anyone have a better answer? Note that the question is not whether stem cell research is good or bad; it’s what the purpose of the prophet is regarding a difficult moral issue.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, here’s a quick primer on stem cells. A stem cell is an undifferentiated cell; in other words, it is the most basic kind of cell and has the theoretical ability to turn into any type of cell in the body — a nerve cell, a heart muscle cell, bone, and so on. In theory, a doctor could use stem cells to grow a custom kidney for transplant. Stem cells may be able to cure diabetes, spinal cord injuries, and any number of degenerative diseases including muscular dystrophy and Parkinsons. So far so good. The moral issue is that the best source for stem cells is a fertilized egg. The egg is allowed to divide briefly and then its cells, which at this point are stem cells, are harvested. As a consequence gathering embryonic stem cells is uncomfortably close to — some would say identical to — abortion. There are other sources of stem cells which don’t have the same moral difficulties, but it is not clear that stem cells from those sources are as versatile. The issue is further muddied by the fact that, at least initially, researchers want to take stem cells primarily from “extra” fertilized eggs that are generated as a result of assisted fertilization. Usually during an assisted fertilization, several eggs are fertilized but not all of them are implanted. The rest are frozen, and are usually never used, and over time degenerate. Supporters of stem cell research argue that using these cells for a beneficial purpose is better than just allowing them to die. Detractors say that there’s a big difference between keeping an egg frozen and intentionally destroying it.

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294 Responses to Stem Cells, part 1

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  7. danithew on December 7, 2004 at 9:35 pm

    In my opinion, when the Church expresses neutrality on the matter of stem cells, its basically saying “go ahead” (and do stem-cell research).

  8. XON on December 7, 2004 at 10:01 pm

    Glen,

    Not that it’s any particular contribution to the thread, but I appreciate your question. I’ve been wrestling with this very same issue recently. I’m looking forward to the comments.

  9. Ed Enochs on December 7, 2004 at 10:02 pm

    Thanks for bringing up the stem cell issue. Evangelicals believe that the acceptance of death of human life in babies born or unborn, opens the door to the arbitrary taking of any human life. From then on, it’s purely arbitrary.
    Evangelicals believe that all human beings are created in the very image of God and of equal value and inherent dignity. We believe all human life is sacred and that life begins at the very moment of conception.

    We believe in the preservation of all human life and are vigorously pro life and oppose abortion and stem cell research that involves procedures terminate the life of living embryos. We oppose the destruction of a human embryo. As Evangelical leader Gary Bauer recently said,

    “But if embryonic tissue at this earliest stage is permissible fodder for laboratory experimentation, then why not embryonic tissue derived from tissue a week later, or two week later, or six weeks later? Human life is either sacred from conception to its natural end or it’s not.

  10. Ed Enochs on December 7, 2004 at 10:13 pm

    another good quote on stem cell research:

    “Human beings may not be manufactured, engineered, or destroyed; we may not experiment on or otherwise use the vulnerable without their consent; we may not set aside the essential structures of the created physical and social order; we may not casually alter or enhance the nature of the person (and other forms of life); we may not restrict the legitimate benefits of innovations to the privileged but instead must serve the common good; and the biotech community may not make decisions without the participation and consent of society.In turn, we will pledge to protect biotech efforts from the attacks of those who do not understand them, and will do everything we can to nurture a culture in which innovations will honor human dignity.”

    David P. Gushee, Professor of Moral Philosophy Union University, Jackson, Tennessee.

  11. J. Stapley on December 7, 2004 at 10:26 pm

    Ed:

    By this logic one cannot support IVF because the pregnancy cannot be justified by the 5 to 20 embryos that are subsequently frozen and doomed to death…right?

  12. J. Stapley on December 7, 2004 at 10:35 pm

    I had a fascinating conversation with a good catholic friend about this when President Bush create the current Federal funding rules. The Prophet is clear in is council: stem cell technology “merits cautious scrutiny.�. If only all scientific theories or novel technologies (say like evolution) could have been blessed with a similar pronouncement, imagine all the vitriol that could have been prevented.

    I am sympathetic to the slippery slope arguments (especially because they carry over into cloning and ultimately eugenics). But the uniqueness of the Mormon position comes from the Mormon rejection of creation ex nihilo. As this isn’t the creation of a spirit and there is a huge ambiguity as to when spirits come to the body, there is room for “cautious scrutiny�.

  13. Jason on December 7, 2004 at 10:39 pm

    As a missionary, I had the opportunity to serve as a branch president in one location. Having access to the some of the literature that discusses the procedures and churches viewpoint on different things. I remember reading the part on abortion.

    <PARAPHRASING FROM MEMORY>
    Abortion is a decision left up to the individual(s) but keep in mind that (Some D&C scripture quoted) that we are commanded to not committ murder not anything like unto it. And it went on to talk about the different things to consider such as how the pregnancy came about, the health of the mother and other such things.
    </PARAPHRASING FROM MEMORY>

    Abortion is obviously wrong when applied only as a convenient choice, but what about a woman who is raped or faces death due to a pregnancy. The “… nor anything like unto it” was drawing an obvious correlation but did not draw a hard and fast. line. Obviously, the church promotes life … we are also taught sacrifice and selflessness. Our greatest example gave His life for us. However, that is all based on our ability to choose to give of our selves. The problem with the stem cells and abortion is that the unborn child cannot decide and communicate whether or not he/she wants to give of him/herself. BUT … there’s a lot of potential for good there as well (promoting life).

    Again … there are (as I understand at only a superficial level) a variety of ‘stem cells’ … those harvested from umbilical cords (adult/mature stem cells ??), as well as those that would come from embryos (immature stem cells ??)

    Anyway, there’s my $0.02

    Cheers,

    Jason

  14. danithew on December 7, 2004 at 10:43 pm

    I don’t feel the same way about human life “at conception” as I do about human life at later stages of development (even in the womb). If the destruction of some fertilized eggs will contribute greatly towards cures for Alzheimers, diabetes, spina-cord injuries and other terrible human maladies then I’m eager to see that research performed.

  15. Matt Evans on December 7, 2004 at 10:49 pm

    Hi Glen, it’s nice to have you at Times & Seasons. I still think that the stem-cell statement by the “First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles” is so shoddy that I refuse to believe it was written by college graduates, let alone inspired prophets.

    First of all, immediately before they (I don’t know who the “they” is that wrote the statement; I’ll proceed with the assumption that it was a couple of volunteer interns from the church’s communications office) state the apostle’s position on stem-cell research — that it “merits cautious scrutiny” — they say the apostles take no position on stem-cell research. ??!!

    Second, the statement says that religious viewpoints demand that ethical guidelines be followed. Yes, and water is wet. But the interns apparently didn’t realize that everyone agrees that ethical guidelines must be followed. That point is not in dispute — not a single participant in the public debate about stem-cells has been urging scientists to discard their ethical guidelines. The question being debated is whether it is ethical to destroy human embryos for scientific research. Apparently the interns didn’t understand the question.

    As long-time participants at T&S know, I think stem-cell research is immoral because I believe human embryos are human beings, and look exactly how human beings are supposed to look at that stage of development. I believe Jesus’s body was Jesus’s body from the time God’s spirit overshadowed Mary and she was with child, long before he was born. Whether or not Jesus’ spirit was inside the tabernacle from the moment of divine involvement when he was a single-celled embryo, that body was Jesus’s body. It was a unique, male (sex, like all other biological traits, is set at fertilization) human organism that was part mortal and part immortal. In other words, it was Jesus. His human organism self-developed, needing no organization from any mortal being. Like every other healthy human organism, at any stage of development, all it needed to thrive was nourishment and a suitable environment. His body managed it’s own maintenance from the day of fertilization until it was hung on the cross. All other human beings do the same thing, and I think it is gravely immoral to destroy human beings of any kind.

    Alternatively, even if someone feels we do not know that all independent human organisms are human beings, in the absence of knowledge, we must act as though they might be full human beings until we know they are not. We don’t shoot first, then find out if the thing rustling in the bushes was a deer or our hunting partner. We mustn’t kill what is disputed to be a human being until we know it is not. Never in the history of the planet have those who have argued that a disputed class (women, infants, blacks, Jews, Indians, aborigines, handicapped, etc.) are indeed human beings in the full sense been wrong. To the contrary, in every historical example of contested humanity, those arguing for full humanity have been right. Recognizing that their side has been wrong 100% of the time should, hopefully, give pause to those asserting that human embryos may be human organisms, but not human beings in the full moral sense.

  16. Matt Evans on December 7, 2004 at 10:56 pm

    Oh, I should add this quote from a Deseret News profile of the Huntsmans:

    The Huntsmans and their scientists also contacted leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in an effort to educate them about stem cell and other genetic-related research, in hopes, sources said, that the church would not oppose such research. LDS leaders ultimately issued a statement saying the church takes no stand on stem cell research but continues to monitor such work.

    Few things have made my stomach churn like learning that wealthy church donors lobby church leaders to keep the church out of their pet projects.

  17. J. Stapley on December 7, 2004 at 11:00 pm

    Matt: Two questions: 1) What is your take on IVF (a la #5) and 2) if an embryo is destroyed, do you believe that the spirit destined for that body goes to spirit prison or awaits in the presence of God for another body?

  18. Ed Enochs on December 7, 2004 at 11:00 pm

    By this logic one cannot support IVF because the pregnancy cannot be justified by the 5 to 20 embryos that are subsequently frozen and doomed to death…right? J. Stapley

    I would have to say that if any fully fertilized human embryos have been put to death in an IVF procedure, then I am against it. The same arguments would apply yes.

  19. danithew on December 7, 2004 at 11:01 pm

    Matt Evans,

    Don’t you see the problem with using Jesus as a specific example? I was tempted to bring something up in response to Ed Enoch’s comment but didn’t out of respect and reverence. But I’ll say it now in a response to what you’re saying.

    If (and I believe in this) Jesus can be sacrificed in a tortuous manner by unethical people for the sins of the whole world, at the age of 33 (according to God’s will) — then how much more ok should it be that some fertilized eggs are destroyed by ethical people to benefit (basically) all of mankind? We’re talking about extending lives and dramatically increasing the quality of life of people who are suffering from terrible diseases and dramatic injuries.

    I know that the fertilized eggs aren’t capable of expressing and volunteering submission or consent to these procedures. If necessary, we can build lasting monuments to the slain zygotes to remember and honor their memory.

  20. Matt Evans on December 7, 2004 at 11:03 pm

    J. Stapley,

    Yes, I oppose creating more embryos by IVF than one is willing to implant. That is the policy of the German government (which, for obvious reasons, views with suspicion all claims that disputed classes of human organisms are not fully human) and think we should adopt it here.

  21. J. Stapley on December 7, 2004 at 11:04 pm

    I know that the fertilized eggs aren’t capable of expressing and volunteering submission or consent to these procedures.

    But Jesus did, so I don’t think we can compare them.

  22. Eric R. on December 7, 2004 at 11:05 pm

    I never thought the role of a prophet was to give us guidance on these kinds of issues at all. This is the case because, when it comes to issues such as stem-cell research, I don’t think god really cares.

    Our purpose on earth is to learn to become like Christ, to become humble and unselfish, to be obedient to Him, to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit, etc. We can fulfill that purpose and conduct stem-cell research. We can fulfill that purpose and not conduct stem-cell research. It doesn’t matter.

    Part of my grounds for such an outlook is based in the church’s own position on abortion. I don’t have a copy of the Handbook of Instructions with me, but I remember something about the church permitting abortion on cases of incest, health issues and even rape. This is strikingly different from the official Catholic position and says something about the nature of abortion from the LDS perspective.

    I think this means that abortion is not necessarily sinful in itself, for if it were, it would be unconditionally wrong. I think that we believe abortion is wrong because it reflects a severe degree of selfishness in the couple choosing to do it. It means that they have not taken the powers of procreation seriously and would rather put an end another’s potential life than have to deal with the consequences.

    The question then, is whether stem-cell research is compatible with a broken heart and contrite spirit. It is the motive that counts. Considering, it is appropriate that the church take a no-position on stem cell research.

  23. J. Stapley on December 7, 2004 at 11:08 pm

    Matt, what about question #2?

  24. Matt Evans on December 7, 2004 at 11:10 pm

    Hi Danithew,

    I don’t accept the strong utilitarian ethic, and would not accept scientific remedies even if the “only” lives we had to sacrifice were those of criminals or handicapped. And even if someone believes we should perform lethal research on human beings against their consent, so long as there are promising potential benefits, we should first rewrite the laws that prohibit such research. Right now those laws are still on the books. My guess is that support for them is very strong.

    Regarding Jesus, he wasn’t “sacrificed,” he offered himself a ransom. He consented, and that makes all the difference.

  25. Matt Evans on December 7, 2004 at 11:16 pm

    J. Stapley,

    The only answer I can really give is “I don’t know and we don’t know.” The Handbook of Instructions says that the spirit enters the body before birth, but that the specific time has not been revealed. My guess, however, is that the spirit is with the body from the time the body is made alive as a distinct human organism (single-cell embryo), and that there is always a “ghost in the machine.” The machine cannot function on either end of life — beginning or end — without a spirit to animate it. If this is right, then those who die before they’re born presumably go to the spirit world.

  26. danithew on December 7, 2004 at 11:18 pm

    Matt E.,

    We clearly have a major difference in our perspectives. I don’t feel that a very-recently-fertilized egg necessarily has the same rights or should be granted exactly the same consideration as a human being. In a very short period of time (perhaps months or even weeks) my opinion might differ on that question. But because of the way I perceive that moment of existence, I don’t equate the destruction of the embryo with murder. It’s not a matter that should be taken lightly but for the right reasons and at the very very earliest stage of development,I believe an embryo can be sacrificed for something like stem-cell research.

  27. Ed Enochs on December 7, 2004 at 11:24 pm

    If a fertilized embryo is indeed a human being and I believe that it is, for me,most Conservative Evangelicals and Roman Catholics the issue is settled: it is never right to murder. If a fertilized embryo is the beginning of a human being (at his or her most beginning stages) I would agree with Roman Catholic ethicists that the soul and spirit is implanted in us and we bear the very image of God.

    It does not matter to me if embryonic stem cell research can help medicine find cures for spinal cord injuries, parkinson’s and etc., I find the whole thing barbaric and a misuse of technology similar to that of the Nazi’s who justifed all kinds of experiments on the elderly, Jewish people and those who are emotionally and mentally challenged.

    We do not have the right to play God and arbitrarily kill people to further science. These arguments seem more like pragmatism or Utilitarianism, (the ends justify the means or the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people) a la John Stuart Mill or Jeremy Bethem than any sembelance of Christian theology.

    Most Christian theologians would adamently disagree with those of you that believe life does not begin at conception and that there is any reason whatsoever to murder a person.

  28. J. Stapley on December 7, 2004 at 11:29 pm

    If this is right, then those who die before they’re born presumably go to the spirit world.

    I completely respect this and if it is true, then your position is the only correct one. As you say, there is no revelation on the topic (though prophets have had various opinions since Brigham). As you can imagine, while I recognize the possibility, I don’t pledge my belief (yet). On a lighter note, the only scripture I can think of that relates is when Jesus Speaks to Nephi (right? I’m to lazy to look it up) the night(?) before he is born (I recognize that this is not applicable).

  29. David King Landrith on December 7, 2004 at 11:29 pm

    Does the church have an official position on IUDs? These, of course, block implantation of the blastocyst in the endometrium. Perhaps I’m missing something, but I don’t see any difference between harvesting unused IVF blastocyst and using an IUD.

  30. Rosalynde on December 7, 2004 at 11:31 pm

    Matt, it seems to me that you refuse to accept the provenance of the statement not necessarily because of its quality (which I can’t judge) but because it doesn’t support your view. If the statement unequivocally supported your view, but did so by means of shoddy logic, would you dispute its provenance as vigorously?

    Still, you make strong arguments, particularly your historical argument about classes of organisms being accepted as fully human. But I disagree when you argue that the as-yet-unimplanted “human organism self-developed, needing no organization from any mortal being.” The zygote is not of itself a complete and self-developing organism; that is, left in its current state it would *not* develop into a human being, because implantation must occur for that to happen.

  31. Matt Evans on December 7, 2004 at 11:33 pm

    Hi Danithew,

    The challenge for the position you laid out becomes trying to identify what it is that gives human organisms their moral worth, and gives it to each of them equally. If we use an attribute that we gain by degree, like intelligence or consciousness, then it’s hard to explain why those with greater intelligence or consciousness aren’t more equal than those with less. If there’s a threshold intelligence, above which all human organisms are morally equal, this position, besides not being very logical (thresholds are unnatural), raises the problem of trying to figure out if the threshold is so high that even infants or toddlers aren’t human beings, or if it’s so low that even cocker spaniels are human beings. There aren’t many qualities a human newborn has to a greater degree than mature animals of other species, except for the most obvious — a human newborn is a human organism with limitless potential, just like a human embryo.

  32. danithew on December 7, 2004 at 11:36 pm

    Ed and Matt,

    The whole reason this argument won’t go anywhere is that the two of you (and many others) consider the destruction of a very-recently-fertilized egg to be equivalent to murder. I don’t. You call this embryo a human being. I don’t. Not at that stage.

    That is why you (Ed and Matt) are able to compare stem-cell research to Nazi atrocities or live experiments on criminals and the handicapped. To me, that comparison is absurd.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. Because the basis of our approach is completely different.

  33. Ed Enochs on December 7, 2004 at 11:43 pm

    I believe we all must do further research on the subject. I live in California where our Terminator govenor just helped pass a law permitting state money to be used on stem cell research. I believe it is of paramount importance we be right on this issue and be horough on the reasons why we are for or against stem cell research.

    I do not want to be an obstructionist to scientific advancements and progress if the terminating of human life is not involved. But if it is, I have a moral obligation before God to stand up for the unborn.

  34. Matt Evans on December 7, 2004 at 11:44 pm

    Rosalynde,

    You may be right that I find the reasoning behind the statement particularly absurd because I disagree with its conclusion. But if anyone would like to defend the statement’s reasoning on its own merits, I’ll debate that proposition, too. I think it is terribly unsound.

    As for your question about self-developing organisms, a human embryo does need to attach to the womb in order to find nourishment, but that is true at all stages of development. The self-development of every organism will stop when it is unable to find nourishment.

  35. Ed Enochs on December 7, 2004 at 11:45 pm

    I am out of here for the evening guys have a good night. Thanks for discussing the issue with me and God bless.

  36. J. Stapley on December 7, 2004 at 11:52 pm

    If Matt’s assertion is true (that the spirit destined for a terminated embryo passes on to spirit prison), there is a huge body of folk doctrine that is overturned (e.g., the woman who has a testimony that her last baby was the spirit that she had been trying to give a body for the last three failed pregnancies)

  37. Matt Evans on December 7, 2004 at 11:54 pm

    And there goes Saturday’s Warrior, sniff sniff. : )

    More seriously, because sex, like all other genetic traits, is set at fertilization, in most cases a woman wouldn’t have four consecutive pregnancies of the same gender. My guess is that we’d find that many of the women who’ve had the impression that the same spirit has been trying to inhabit four different bodies was trying to inhabit bodies of different sexes, something that doesn’t make sense if gender is eternal. (Now gender constructionists will start asserting these folk-lore testimonies contain more truth than the Proclamation!)

  38. Clark on December 7, 2004 at 11:59 pm

    I think Matt’s position is difficult to line up with Church policy. I recall that during the stem cell debate Orin Hatch (who I normally don’t care for) was widely seen as providing a “third way” between the life begins and conception and the “it doesn’t matter” groups. See, for instance, this article in Slate. I’m extremely sure the brethren were familiar with all of this when they made the statement. The Slate article was one of the first to bring this up, but it got a lot of play over the following month, even if Bush didn’t follow what I perceive to be the Mormon view.

    Of course this all may be moot soon, as I mentioned in my blog.

  39. Portia on December 8, 2004 at 12:02 am

    Matt Evans and Ed Enoch seem to have a great deal in common on this issue. Mr. Evans seems to want very, very badly for the LDS Church to adopt the Evangelical view of conception, although there is little or nothing in our theology to support this, and the General Authorities have pointedly declined to do so.

    Perhaps Mr. Evans is in the wrong church? There’s no need to wrest LDS theology to reach his preferred outcome; there are already plenty of churches out there where it seems he would feel right at home.

  40. Kaimi on December 8, 2004 at 12:07 am

    Matt,

    1. I don’t know how literal you are in stating that you believe the stem-cell statement was not inspired. As I recall, you’ve criticized others, in the past, for refusal to accept (for example) church statements on same-sex marriage. Are you now engaging in a little bit of picking and choosing of your own?

    2. Doesn’t a “sperm+egg=person” formulation result in the vast, vast majority of people being auto-directed to the spirit world? I’m no medical expert, but my impression is that something like two-thirds of fertilized eggs never implant properly, for one reason or another, and simply show up as a “heavy period.” Do you know if that’s true?

  41. Ady Hahn on December 8, 2004 at 12:12 am

    As a biologist, the ethics of embryonic stem cell research has been a troubling issue for me. I don’t think IVF can be compared to destroying embryos to harvest stem cells because in IVF some embryos wil “take” and others will not and are naturally aborted by the body. Storage of the embryos allows for use later and although they may die after a time, they are not actively destroyed.

    For me the main issue is when is an embryo human? According to LDS doctrine, every living thing has a spirit, so it stands to reason that embryos, even at the earliest stage have spirits. But is the spirit of an embryo the same as the spirit of a fully developed baby? I don’t know. An embryo has a full set of human chromosomes, one half from each parent, so the spirit must be distinct from the parents and it is human by definition (i.e. it is not feline or bovine, etc).

    I feel it is better to err on the side of caution. As of now, no treatment with embryonic stem cells have shown promise in curing diseases. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, meaning they can become any type of cell depending on how they are “programmed.” But we don’t know how to program them yet, so they tend to grow uncontrollably into tumors and not form the specific cell types needed for treatments. Also, there’s the problem of histoincompatability, where the donor cells trigger an immune response in the recipient because of the genetic variation between the donor cells and the recipients.

    Adult stem cells and embilical cord cells, on the other hand, don’t have these problems because the donor cells come from the recipient, and scientists have already figured out how to “program” the cells. Of course, adult and embilical cord stem cells are limited in the range of tissues they can form. A recent news report from South Korea claimed that a paralyzed woman was able to walk after being treated with embilical cord stem cells. I haven’t read the original report, but if true, it’s amazing.

    I think that embryonic stem cell research should be put on hold ( except for research on the currently available cell lines) since adult and embilical cord stem cells show more promise in treatments and don’t have the ethical concerns that embryonic stem cells have. I certainly don’t agree with California’s proposition that makes the taxpayers fund “pie in the sky” for select biotech companies.

  42. J. Stapley on December 8, 2004 at 12:18 am

    NEJM: “Only 50 to 60 percent of all conceptions advance beyond 20 weeks of gestation. Of the pregnancies that are lost, 75 percent represent a failure of implantation and are therefore not clinically recognized as pregnancies.�

  43. J. Stapley on December 8, 2004 at 12:18 am

    Again, some days my links work and others they don’t:

    http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/extract/345/19/1400

  44. Clark on December 8, 2004 at 12:20 am

    The other difficulty I have with Matt’s view is that it seems to suggest that when technology is available we have to ensure that no fertilized egg is even naturally absorbed, for the same reason that we have an ethical obligation to treat babies that come down with natural life threatening diseases. So while I certainly understand Ady’s comments, I think that if we take the “life begins at conception” view seriously that natural abortion or absorption doesn’t resolve the issue.

  45. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 12:24 am

    Hi Clark,

    I think Ann Coulter had the funniest statement about the Mormons who supported embryo-destructive stem-cell research: “Well, the pro-choicers were right about one thing. If old white men pro-lifers found a reason to want the “baby” to be “tissue,” they won’t call it a baby.” The “Mormon” position, at least as articulated by the five male Mormon Senators, is that it’s only a baby from the moment it imposes hardships on a woman. (Implantation.)

    Orrin Hatch says he prayed to learn that life begins in the womb, not the petry dish, but that line won’t withstand future technology, as we find ways to nourish and grow human beings outside the womb. Hopefully he won’t insist that humans who were harvested from their parents before they were even fertilized, and never put back inside a woman, aren’t actually human beings. The Deseret News article I linked to above said that Huntsman and his scientists persuaded Hatch to adopt his view, and I read that Bennett came to the position he did because one of his children had used IVF.

    Hi Portia,

    I do want the apostles to pray for revelation on this issue, it’s too important for them to just shrug their shoulders or leave it to volunteer interns to write. There’s actually a great deal of scriptural support for life beginning in the womb, even though the church says there’s no specific revelation on when the spirit enters the body. But if God reveals that the spirit enters the body at day 8, or day 108, and that human organisms before that point aren’t important, then I’ll change my mind. I got to my current belief by following the revealed truths to what I believe are their logical conclusions, and am always happy to debate this logic with those who think revealed truths point elsewhere.

  46. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 12:43 am

    Hi Kaimi and J. Stapley,

    I think accepting the possibility that the majority of God’s children aren’t born in this stage of mortality is much like accepting the idea the majority of God’s children don’t learn of his plan for them. (And even within the traditional paradigm, a huge number of God’s children who are born live very, very short lives. We already recognize that God’s purposes can be achieved despite very short mortal lives, so this doesn’t seem that hard to me.)

    Kaimi,

    I don’t believe this statement could possibly be inspired. It is embarrassingly bad. If anyone wants to defend the reasoning behind the statement, I’ll “explore” it with them. And Kaimi, please tell me I’ve never based an argument on a church statement this mindless. Most importantly, the statement itself says the apostles have not taken a position on the issue.

    Hi Clark,

    I agree that technology continues to allow us (and morally obligate us) to care for human beings at earlier and earlier stages of their development. My hope is that fear of this obligation won’t cloud our judgment in determining whether they are, in fact, human beings. I think that a large part of the reason some whites refused to admit that blacks were their equals was because that fact would impose new obligations on them. Because whites couldn’t imagine loving blacks as themselves, they convinced themselves that blacks weren’t their “neighbors.” That gets Jesus’ teaching backwards.

  47. Adam Greenwood on December 8, 2004 at 12:52 am

    The argument that Church neutrality is the same as Church approval is just plain silly.
    I’ve had to beat it down so many times that I finally just put it into a post:
    http://www.timesandseasons.org/archives/000737.html

  48. Gordon Smith on December 8, 2004 at 12:52 am

    Portia,

    Obviously, Matt can defend himself, but I could not allow your comment to pass without a mild rebuke. You are welcome to disagree with Matt and to disagree vehemently. You are not welcome to suggest that he doesn’t belong in the Church.

  49. Gordon Smith on December 8, 2004 at 12:59 am

    Glen,

    This is an interesting topic, and Matt has made it even more interesting. I hear a lot about stem cells, being here at the University of Wisconsin, where they were first cultured. Unfortunately, the Wikpedia article you link above omits that part of the history. I have tended to side with the five Senators, not with Matt, though I will admit that my thoughts on this issue are about as clear as the Church’s position.

  50. Adam Greenwood on December 8, 2004 at 1:09 am

    I admire Matt Evans’ moral passion. Surely his belief that the human embryo is a human being is less speculative than the belief that destroying human embryos will ineluctably cure a host of diseases. Thanks, Ady Hahn, for pointing that out.

    Debating the use of “stem cells” is disingenuous. Stem cell research wouldn’t be a problem if they didn’t kill human embryos to harvest them.

  51. Adam Greenwood on December 8, 2004 at 1:10 am

    I’m not accusing anyone here of being disingenuous, by they way. No one here invented the term.

  52. Charlene on December 8, 2004 at 1:30 am

    Hi–I’m a long time lurker but today two topics here have compelled me to comment.

    Ed and Matt’s position IS in harmony with Church teachings–at least those of 20+ years ago. In the early 70’s Pres. Kimball said “Abortion, the taking of life, is one of the most grievous of sins. We have repeatedly affirmed the position of the Church in unalterably opposing all abortions” In 1979 the Church’s policy was no abortions except when “the life of the mother was at serious risk.” It wasn’t until 1992 that the Church handbook added the exceptions of rape, incest or physical deformity.

    Twenty years ago, when dh and I got engaged at BYU our Stake leaders required all engaged couples to take a marriage/temple preparation seminar. The segment on intimacy/family planning was taught by an MD who was a councilor to the Stake President. He said that the church’s policy was that we could consider using any form of contraceptive with the exception of the IUD, because, as has been pointed out, the IUD does not prevent conception, merely implantation.

    A year or so later I learned that the same is true of the newer low-dose oral contraceptives–that they do not prevent conception, merely implantation. I asked my (LDS) dr. if this were true and when he said yes, I said “Then I don’t want to use The Pill, because it is destroying embryos.” He mumbled something about I shouldn’t worry too much about that. Obviously HIS conscience wasn’t bothered.

    I’ve often wondered if the widespread use of low-dose oral contraceptives and IVF’s has led to this change in policy. The fact is, though, at one time the Church taught a reverence for the embryo. Why the change? Why the more relaxed opinion on abortions in general? Are today’s leaders more enlightened than they were 20-30 years ago? Has there been some new revelation on the nature of the unborn? Has God corrected our leaders’ once misguided view of the embryo? I can find no writings to explain this change. Until it is better explained, like Matt, I will err on the side of caution. I appreciate Matt and Ed’s passionate defense of the unborn.

  53. Adam Greenwood on December 8, 2004 at 1:34 am

    Consider also, Charlene, that as a culture becomes more coarse and the saints more accustomed to a sin, the moral witness the Church can provide against it grows more muddy too.

  54. Clark on December 8, 2004 at 2:00 am

    Whoops, I put the wrong link in. The link about how embryonic stem cells may be moot is here.

    Adam, I think saying that those who think that a human being requires a soul is merely becoming more accustomed to a sin is rather difficult to accept. I think, whether you and Matt agree, that the issue of soulness is rather important. I recognize many either don’t think the soul necessary or else feel it is attached at conception. I don’t agree with either. Further I think the soul is *me* and thus while the cells might be mine if I was assigned to that body, they aren’t me until I enter them. Thus not only is the issue of the soul important so is the issue of the descent of the soul.

    The problem I have with the “life begins at conception” is the issue of cloning. Clearly if I clone my body (assuming future ability) that body is not a unique life because it lacks my soul. The clone is really just on par with culturing some of my cells in a petri dish. Yet the position of the “life begins at conception” people is that if I clone a fertilized egg, that I’ve created unique human beings. This seems to fly at odds with the concept of a spirit and soul in LDS thought.

  55. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 2:12 am

    Hi Clark,

    I think cloning presents the same issues as twinning. Twinning is when part of one organism splits to become an independent organism with identical genes, and cloning is basically the same thing, but separated by time. I assume that a new spirit animates the new organism in both cases.

    Given that the church says the spirit enters the body before birth, but that no revelation says the specific time when that happens, what do you make of the argument in the last paragraph of my Comment 9? (I’ll accept for the time being that ensoulment is necessary for full human worth.)

  56. Portia on December 8, 2004 at 2:48 am

    Gordon Smith: I am not suggesting that Matt Evans does not belong in the Church.

    I am very much suggesting that the tenets of fundamentalist sectarianism that he asserts don’t belong in the Church.

    There are plenty of other places he can find a full measure of the philosophies of men mingled with scripture; no need to insist on recreating it here.

  57. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 3:01 am

    Hi Portia,

    Until God reveals the answers to these questions, we have no choice but to take the truths that have been revealed and apply them as best we can. Once God reveals the truth, I assure you my approach will be very different. When we have a revelation, the leaders of the church will be informing Huntsman and his scientists on this issue, and not the other way around. Until that day, I’ll continue to explain why I believe all human organisms are and should be treated as full human beings.

  58. Nate Oman on December 8, 2004 at 8:37 am

    I would question the assumption that the role of prophets is to recieve revelation to resolve complex ethical questions. I can’t think of any passage of the scriptures in which the prophets recieved a revelation to solve some complex ethical quandry. Indeed, it seems to me that in the scriptures the prophets tend to manifest a distinct LACK of ethical sophistication. My point is not that they are ethically obtuse. Rather, my point is that they are not ethicists in the sense of providing detailed ethical guidance on comlex or otherwise exotic ethical questions. Rather, their ethical messages and revelations tend to be very simple: cease to sin, repent, stop whoring and murdering, stop grinding the faces of the poor, etc. etc. Complex revelations tend to not have ethical content, but rather eschatalogical, soterilogical, or theological content.

    I am not certain that God has an opinion on stem cell research. I am not sure that there is a uniquely correct answer that needs to be revealed. It may be that eternal and revealed morality is no more fine grained than something like “don’t take innocent life,” “be kind to your neighbor,” etc. Beyond that, we are invited to make our own best judgments. My point is not that we shouldn’t engage in ethical deliberation about these issues. Nor is my point that acting ethically in this situation is unimportant.

    My only point is that I see little reason to suppose that prophets should be regarded as inspired ethicists-in-chief.

  59. Rosalynde Welch on December 8, 2004 at 8:56 am

    Matt– It looks like this thread has died down (and blessedly so, most probably.) But I wanted to make a few more comments in response to your #28. At implantation, the blastocyst receives more than mere nutrition and shelter: although the mechanism is poorly understood, the cells in the blastocyst that come into direct contact with the endometrium differentiate into the placenta, and in doing so receive some information from the endometrium that transmits an axis of directionality to the blastocyst. This directionality allows the physical structures of the embryo to begin development, an event that without an axis of directionality could never successfully occur. Thus the unimplanted blastocyst is not a self-complete and self-organizd organism; it requires further organizational information to be able to begin developing the structures of the human body.

    That said, I think that framing the argument around the question of when life begins is a fruitless enterprise, and an unhelpful one, for several reasons. First, it’s unclear what sort of information could constitute a definitive answer (other than revealed information, which seems not to be forthcoming). Second, the kinds of answers that are generated are profoundly unsatisfying, both because of their essential arbitrariness and because of the logical absurdities to which they lead (ie that IUDs are murder, and so forth.) Furthermore, the Church’s position is reduced to absurdity if one approaches the problem by means of the questions of when life begins in the embryo and what legal and moral rights it merits: the exceptions for rape, incest and perhaps even life of the mother are indefensible if the fetus represents the full moral equivalent of a human being.

    Instead, it seems that the church’s position is based not on the question of when life begins in the womb but rather on the question of what accountability the parents (particularly the mother) bears for the pregnancy, which is in line with the fundamental LDS tenet of inalienable agency and accountability. When the mother is (partially) responsible for the choice to engage in sexual relations, she is accountable for the resulting pregnancy (though not for the child itself, since she may give it up for adoption); when she is not responsible for the choice to have sex, as in the cases of rape or incest, then she is not responsible for the pregnancy. This approach takes the moral responsibility and development of the parent as its focus, not the status and rights of the zygote/blastocyst/embryo/fetus.

  60. Russell Arben Fox on December 8, 2004 at 8:59 am

    Excellent comment, Nate; I couldn’t agree more, especially your observation about the prophetic “lack of ethical sophistication.” While the point can easily be overemphasized, there is a very real sense in which the prophetic is not “ethical,” or rather, not engaged in the drawing of ethical distinctions within this (fallen) world. The prophetic is a call out of the world, a reminder of what lays beyond the world, whereas ethics are “worldy” in a very literal sense. This isn’t to say that prophets are or should be “against ethics” (though that Heideggerian reading of things is nonetheless plausible); only that we shouldn’t presume that prophetic counsel will remove the ethical and political problems of the world from our lives. Some such problems (like abortion) are quite easily situated in relation to prophetic counsel; others (like stem cell research) are less so. Matt is doing the best he can to come up with an “ethical situating” of the stem cell problem in relation to what the prophets have said, and his is the right example. But absent specific revelation (which we probably shouldn’t count on forthcoming), such diverse situating is really the most any of us can do.

  61. Rosalynde Welch on December 8, 2004 at 9:00 am

    Oh, and I wanted to comment on Glen’s original question. That the prophets have not commented definitively on the matter leads me to believe that it is not, in fact, a moral issue. And while I have no problem with the idea that the prophet and apostles are influenced by generational and social preferences, and that they must get their information from some (necessarily motivated) source, your suggestion, Matt, that they have essentially been bought off by the Huntsmans, seems to represent one of the most profound attacks on latter-day revelation I have ever seen on T&S.

  62. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 9:09 am

    Nate, I agree with the ethics point, there are lots of thorny bioethical issues on which God does not offer much guidance. My original question to Glen, and the one we debated on LDS-Law at the time, was a little different than is posted here. Unlike most bioethical issues, like organ sales or cosmetic genetic enhancement, the crux of this debate hinges on an important ontological question: are human embryos human beings? Are human embryos our neighbor? Though the lawyer asked Christ, “And who is my neighbor?” disingenuously, people are genuinely asking the question now because they want to do right by Christ. And though in many circumstances we can be over-inclusive as a precautionary measure, in this case it’s possible (in theory) that being over-inclusivene will cause unnecessary disease and suffering.

    We need some Alma 40 or D&C 138 style revelations. The current statement was obviously written by someone suffering from a “stupor of thought” (D&C 9:7-9).

  63. Jason on December 8, 2004 at 9:17 am

    Now … I’m new here and all … and probably should lurk more before posting … especially twice on one topic … but, what the heck:

    While the church may have an ambiguous statement, that does not mean it’s wrong, uninspired or written by 3rd graders. Even if it was written by 3rd graders, apparently the prophet and/or The Twelve approved it. And they would/will support our decisions if we go about making them correctly.

    I (as admitted previously), only understand the stem cell issue superficially. But I do know enough to understand that the word ‘Stem Cell’ has been charged up by the media to mean ‘unborn embryos’. Or at least that’s what I get from the way it’s tossed around. No surprise here that something like this would get simplified/generalized.

    What decisions I can make on my own, I will make in a manner that I (based on my own study/education/research and prayer … if I am smart enough to remember to do that as well :/) feel is correct. If it is a broad political matter that the church has not taken a stance (or even a lean) on … then again, I will seek out my own answer and support the political effort in that regard. For example … I remember giving consent on the umbilical cord from one of our children being contributed to such an effort. It was my choice to do that and I felt that it was OK. I am an Organ Donor as well … well not while I am alive, but I think you know what I mean. Now were we asked to contribute the makings of an embryo for such a thing … I’d be more hesitant and on the spot would have to say no/I need to think about it.

    I don’t believe every answer needs to be spoon-fed to us. We have to work for a number of them … both individually and sometimes collectively. And even the prophet needs to educate himself before making decisions and especially church policies and statements …. especially on things like this. In short, I agree with Nate Oman:

    I see little reason to suppose that prophets should be regarded as inspired ethicists-in-chief.

  64. Scott on December 8, 2004 at 9:20 am

    (sex, like all other genetic traits, is set at fertilization)

    Matt’s science is lacking, which makes it easier to hold such a dogmatic position. While genetic sex is set at fertilization, phenotypical sex is not. Testicular feminization syndrome is a XY genotype with normal female external genitalia, and looks for all the world as a female. Many other syndromes are more ambiguious.

    Ady thinks that working with current lines should go forward- but that won’t work for the same histocopatibility issue that he raises earlier in his post- most current lines are mixed with mouse cells. We need more research, to develop pure cell lines.
    I don’t think that the Lord has any problem with researchers trying to make people’s lives better.

  65. diogenes on December 8, 2004 at 9:23 am

    I think that framing the argument around the question of when life begins is a fruitless enterprise, and an unhelpful one, for several reasons.

    This seems to me exactly right. Much of the argument that Matt makes in this thread seems drawn from the position other so-called “pro-life” religious groups, and altogether extraneous to the Restored Gospel. We discourage abortion as a misuse of procreative responsibility. If the woman is a victim of incest or rape, and so had no real choice in begining the pregnancy, terminating the pregnancy may be permissible; also if it endangers her life or health, jeopardizing her other responsibilities in mortality, terminating the pregnancy may be permissible. We reject abortion for other, selfish, reasons. We have no particular need to get mired down in mystical speculations over when life or “ensoulment” begins. The decision of our leaders to avoid such arguments over stem cell research seems to me eminently sensible and — Matt’s objections to the contrary — inspired.

  66. Nate Oman on December 8, 2004 at 9:33 am

    Matt: A neat answer about the ontological status of the embryo would not solve the issue unless you assumed that taking human life was categorically wrong in all cases. I see no reason to suppose that this is the case. In other words, an answer to your ontological question doesn’t dispense with the ethical arguments, it simply demands that they take place using one set of vocabulary rather than another.

    My ethical objection to your approach (as opposed to my theological objection to your understanding of prophecy) is that I don’t think that the concept that you want to decide the issue — “human life” — has sufficient content to decide the issue. A stem cell is clearly a human life in the sense that it is a genetically human cell that it is alive. No one disputes this. Accordingly, I am assuming that by “human life” you do NOT mean something that is genetically human and is also alive. Rather, I take it that you mean something like “a status that is entitled to a level of moral respect such that it should not be used for genetic research.” This, however, is simply to restate your conclusion. In short, the whole mode of analysis seems circular to me.

  67. Ady Hahn on December 8, 2004 at 10:01 am

    Scott,

    The current stem cell lines are not contaminated with mouse cells, as John Kerry claimed in one of the debates. They were purposefully combined with mouse cells because as of now that is the only way that we can clone human cells. I support continued research with these cell lines so that scientists can figure out how to control their growth and “program” these cells before they start mass manipulation of human embryos and essentially make them “disposable.” I think this will be a problem in California, with women offered money to donate their eggs so that millions of embryos can be made, manipulated, and then discarded as the scientists try figure things out. It’s better to figure out the rules first on these primary stem cell lines in my opinion.

    BTW, I’m a she, not a he. :-)

  68. danithew on December 8, 2004 at 10:09 am

    I read well-reasoned comments from Rosalynde Welch and Nate Oman and suddenly feel a bit self-conscious about my argumentative too-blunt style in my comments earlier. Thanks guys for expressing your thoughts.

  69. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 10:15 am

    Rosalynde (Comment 53),

    Thanks for taking the time to respond. Cell differentiation begins prior to implantation. The cells, which are all identical copies of the original at this stage, somehow differentiate into ectoderm (what becomes the brain, nervous system, and skin), endoderm (stomach and intestines) and mesoderm (muscles and most internal organs), while still in the blastocyst stage. Cell differentiation will continue long after implantation, but the organizing force responsible for differentiation is present prior to physical contact with the mother.

    The question of when life begins may be fruitless, but I hope you agree that it’s critically important. Because we’re commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves, it’s essential to know who your neighbors are. And because the deliberate killing of human beings is a grave sin, we should know which entities we must respect and protect. The only way to know the boundaries of our neighborhood, so to speak, is to learn when a life, which we know can end, begins. In other words, at what point did Matt Evans, the organism typing this comment, become Matt Evans, the neighbor others must love as themselves?

    Our duties surrounding parenthood are inextricably linked to the moral status of the developing human organism. Women don’t have parental duties toward their eggs, they have parental duties toward their children. We can’t speak of parenthood without first knowing who is a parent (and by extension, what is a child.

  70. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 10:15 am

    Nate and Russell (Comments 52 and 54),

    Doesn’t the fact that the apostles answer questions about ethical issues suggest they disagree about the reality or contours of the constraint you’ve outlined? Given that the reason they have a public audience is due to their prophetic role, it would be unseemly of them to publicly state their personal, uninspired opinions, especially to do so collectively. They’re only a collective voice because of their prophetic mandate.

  71. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 10:22 am

    Rosalynde (Comment 55),

    My disappointment doesn’t lie with the apostles (if the Deseret News account is accurate) as much as with Huntsman, who apparently sought to pre-emptively protect his turf by going to the brethren with his scientists before the apostles could interfere with his projects. According the article, the church didn’t approach Huntsman for expert testimony, hoping to study the issue in their own minds. That would seem perfectly appropriate. Instead, Huntsman was lobbying Orrin Hatch and the other Mormon politicians to support the research, and used the same approach toward the church leaders. Seeing Huntsman treat the apostles as power brokers to be lobbied and persuaded made me queasy. Hopefully the Deseret News got the story wrong.

    Hopefully you see that I haven’t attacked modern revelation. To the contrary, I believe the current statement is so boneheaded that I can know it wasn’t written by an appostle because none of them are boneheaded. It seems to me that only someone without respect for the apostles’ capacities (and I’m not saying you’re one of them) could suggest one of them wrote this. (Notice too that it’s written in third person, unlike D&C 138, OD-2, the Proclamation on the Family, etc. It’s even written from the perspective of the communications department.) And as most everyone here seems determined to ignore, the church’s statement specifically says the apostles have not taken a position.

  72. Max Lybbert on December 8, 2004 at 10:25 am

    It sounds to me like syem cell research, per se, isn’t bad (anymore than alcohol production is). The “strict scrutiny” is a question of where the stem cells come from (umbilical cords? adult stem cells? aborted fetuses?). I would suggest that the statement isn’t any more specific because (1) this isn’t the kind of question we have a prophet for, and (2) the moral questions can all be answered with what we already have.

  73. Kristine on December 8, 2004 at 10:27 am

    Matt, will it be OK with you if I make the same argument about the Proclamation on the Family? It’s so logically inconsistent, vague, and couched in conservative PR boilerplate vocabulary that it couldn’t possibly have been drafted by the apostles, even though they approved it for publication?

    I didn’t think so.

  74. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 10:31 am

    Scott (Comment 58),

    Our genetic traits, like gender, are determined at fertilization; it is the expression of our genes that is effected by other genes and by our environment. I’m not sure how genetic disorders or environmental factors are relevant to the issue of our genetic identity being set at fertilization.

  75. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 10:39 am

    Nate (Comment 60),

    The ontological status of the human being defines the class of entities we must love as ourselves. Knowing the status of the human organism on it’s first day of existence would allow us to know that embryo-destructive research is immoral, absent a specific revelation telling us to treat this class of his children differently (as God sometimes did, especially in the Old Testament).

  76. jpatch on December 8, 2004 at 10:40 am

    I getting in here late, and the comments are running away on me, so I’ll just leave this drive-by comment.

    The plasticity of early development (pre-implantation) has led me to leaving the door open for embryonic stem cell research. Before implantation, twining occurs, but so can the opposite–resulting in chimera. Now admittedly this is also before the blastocyst stage but consider this:

    There is a report commented on here(www.corante.com/loom/archives/the_morula_solution.php) that stem cells may be able to be derived from the morula stage. A cell can be removed without destroying the whole thing. The remainder of the morula could then develop into an embryo which leads to this thought experiment:

    “Let’s say you object to stem cell research because each blastocyst is a unique human being with a unique genome and the capacity for life. Destroying one is therefore murder. Would this “morula method” be acceptable to you? It seems like it has the benefits of adult stem cell research (no controversry over destroying embryos) and the benefits of embryonic stem cell research (the possibility of discovering therapies that can’t be derived from adult stem cells). Or does any tinkering with embryos set off alarms?”

  77. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 10:47 am

    Hi Max (Comment 66),

    You’re right, there’s nothing objectionable to stem cell research per se. In fact, the best results developed so far have all come from adult-cell research, which no one objects to. It is the destruction of the human embryo — independent human organisms with infinite potential — that many people find repulsive.

  78. Nate Oman on December 8, 2004 at 10:49 am

    Matt: You define ontological status in terms of a moral obligation. It seems to me that the quest for an “ontological” answer to the question is nothing more than a circular restating of the problem. Examples of arguments that seem non-circular to me are things like functional accounts of particular ethical rules (e.g. it avoids the slippery slope), counselling caution in the face of uncertainty, virtue centered arguments (e.g. stem-cell research leads to a callous attitude toward scientific inquiry, etc.). However, it seems to me that an argument like “we ought not to do stem cell research because a stem cell is entitled to our moral respect because it is a human life” is ultimately little more than the claim “we ought not to do stem cell research because a stem cell is entitled to our moral respect because it is entitled to our moral respect.” IOW, the concept of “life” provides no analytic traction.

  79. Kaimi on December 8, 2004 at 10:50 am

    Matt,

    Your argument seems to be

    “Revelation that I agree with must come from God. Revelation that I don’t agree with must be wrong, therefore it can’t be actual revelation.”

    I’ll agree with Rosalynde that this may be the biggest single attack on modern revelation and prophetic authority by a T & S permablogger, in this blog’s history. Others have critiqued various statements, including the Proclamation on the Family and the recent SSM statement. But I don’t think any of the critics have gone so far as to label official, prophetic statements “boneheaded.”

  80. Nate Oman on December 8, 2004 at 10:51 am

    “Revelation that I agree with must come from God. Revelation that I don’t agree with must be wrong, therefore it can’t be actual revelation.�

    As Aaron B. and I have repeatedly argued, most of us use something like this criteria most of the time.

  81. jpatch on December 8, 2004 at 10:55 am

    Matt,

    Without analyzing the implications, I think Scott’s point is that development of male gender (female is default in humans) is the result of a series of domino events. A gene on the Y chromosome gets it going. But if that gene fails or, the dominoes are interrupted, female development results.

  82. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 10:55 am

    Hi Kristine (Comment 67),

    You are free to say that the Proclamation on the Family is internally and logically inconsistent. I disagree with that point and would be happy to weigh the merits of that proposition in thread on the topic. The stem cell statement is patently unsound — I don’t believe anyone will try to argue that it’s internally consistent.

    More importantly, the Proclamation was written in the first person plural, signed by all 15 apostles, and read by the president of the church over the pulpit. And of course the First Presidency and Quorum of the apostles have not taken a position on stem cell research, so you’re not comparing equivalent statements.

  83. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 11:19 am

    Hi Jared (Comment 70),

    I’ll start by answering your final question — the only reason people object to embryo-destructive research is because it destroys human embryos. Were scientists able to innocuously remove a stem cell without harming the embryo, I don’t believe anyone would complain. Hopefully that possibility will come to fruition, it’s the best of both worlds. (As is adult stem cell research, which has so far shown more promise than embryonic research.)

    As for plasticity, I don’t believe it ends with implantation. I remember reading of a person who was a chimera from two fetuses that merged in the second trimester. He had several organs (I think his skin was one) that had belonged to his twin. Other people have been found to have the small dead body of their twin inside them.

    I don’t believe this plasticity helps us know when the spirit enters the body. I don’t believe that spirits could merge, so my guess would be that one person dies when the chimera is formed. One organizing force incorporates the material of the other body into theirs. Siamese twins present the possibility that a chimera is actually two spirits (assuming that Siamese twins are two spirits, as I imagine most people do).

    The possibility of twinning doesn’t seem to preclude our having spirits from the beginning, either. Earthworms can be divided into two distinct organisms, but I don’t think this means that earthworms aren’t independent organisms, nor that this proves earthworms don’t have worm-spirits. If a part of some children occasionally divided into an genetically identical human organism, we would think it very peculiar that someone could auto-clone, but I don’t think we would therefore assume that this potential for twinning shows that young children are not inhabited by a spirit.

  84. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 11:26 am

    Hi Nate (Comment 72),

    I’m not defining ontological status by the obligation, I’m stating that our obligation depends on the ontological status. We must show love and respect for all human organisms if all human organisms are our neighbors (children of God). At some point, a human organism becomes our neighbor, a child of God. That question isn’t circular, it’s a question we must answer if we take the second commandment seriously.

  85. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 11:45 am

    Hi Kaimi and Nate (Comments 73 and 74),

    I don’t accept and reject revelations because I like them or not, I weigh them based on the legitimacy and authority the prophets put on them. If the apostles had written the statement (put it in the first person plural), spoken the words themselves, or presented it to the church, those would be valuable cues. Because none of those have been done, it’s untenable to call the statement prophetic revelation. Even if it were revelation, it’s meaningless: have the apostles taken a position on stem cell research? (Because I don’t believe God’s revelations are meaningless, I don’t believe God revealed this.)

    When I said the statement is boneheaded I wasn’t maligning a prophet because it’s not a prophetic statement. Prophets don’t deliver their prophetic statements through spokesmen. Only a person who thinks the apostles are pretty dumb could think they wrote this. Because I think the apostles are exceptionally bright, I have strong reason to believe they didn’t write it. This is especially true since it’s written in the third person and hasn’t been spoken by an apostle.

  86. Kaimi on December 8, 2004 at 11:47 am

    Matt:

    “Prophets don’t deliver their prophetic statements through spokesmen.”

    Kaimi:

    But see, e.g., Moses and Aaron, Elisha and his servant, etc.

  87. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 11:53 am

    Hi Jared (Comment 75),

    You know more about this than I do, but my point to Scott was that the expression of all our genetic traits is a result of, to borrow your language, domino events. The body’s development is contingent upon many things happening in proper sequence, and the process can be disrupted or thwarted in many ways. The possibility that our genes may be disordered, or be effected by other genes or by the enivornment, doesn’t change the fact that our genetic traits are set at fertilization.

  88. Ed Enochs on December 8, 2004 at 11:59 am

    Dear LDS Friends,

    I would like to respond to Portia who argues to take a conservative view on stem cell research is to be “fundamentalist and sectarian” Now, these kind of ad hominen attacks are totally unnecessary since there are many conservative intellectuals in this country that are anything but “fundamentalists” and hold an non stem cell research position if human life is destroyed. The postion I hold is held by most Catholic and Evangelical scholars today and is within the mainstream of intellectual discourse across the country today. So important and weighty is the argument, president Bush, a Yale and Harvard grad with the best and brightest advisors at his disposal, is arguing for it today.

    I think most of the discussion here is very valuable and conmendable, but I would like to posulate that ad hominen attacks get us no where, but only serve to polarize.

  89. Scott on December 8, 2004 at 12:02 pm

    So what type of spirit does the XY female have- a male (based on genotype) or a female? Without genetic typing you cannot tell them apart. The XY female thinks she is a female.

  90. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 12:10 pm

    Hi Kaimi (Comment 80),

    OK, I back down from saying prophets never delegate the delivery of prophetic statements outside the priesthood heirarchy. (Aaron doesn’t qualify, but I think Elisha’s servant does, even though he wasn’t spokesman.)

    But given your comments on other issues, I can’t imagine that the stem cell statement satisfies your threshold for prophecy or prophetic statements, either. Your threshold is usually stiffer than mine. If you’re trying to argue from what you believe to be my lower threshold, I’ve explained why the statement fails my standard. If you think my threshold is unreasonable or that I employ it arbitrarily, please explain why.

  91. Kaimi on December 8, 2004 at 12:11 pm

    Ed,

    I think that most of the commenters here find the statements of our own church leaders on this topic to be the most persuasive kinds of arguments. Not that argument by another religious tradition or of any particular political group are without value, but one of the benefits of a religion that believes in continuing revelation is the possibility of getting answers from the Lord.

  92. Glen Henshaw on December 8, 2004 at 12:12 pm

    “So what type of spirit does the XY female have- a male (based on genotype) or a female? Without genetic typing you cannot tell them apart. The XY female thinks she is a female.”

    That’s an excellent question, and it has obvious implications regarding homosexuality as well — is an XY female who is attracted to females spiritually lesbian or not?

    Genetic errors in gender determination are a serious challenge to our doctrine that gender is eternal. Maybe that’s a topic for another thread…

  93. Kristine on December 8, 2004 at 12:13 pm

    Matt, you’re flailing. Just admit that you have a political view that differs from the official church position. Many of us here will defend your right to hold such a position and still consider yourself faithful.

  94. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 12:24 pm

    Hi Scott (Comment 83),

    If the genes come together wrong, or if their exression is frustrated, then the person’s body may be abnormal. I don’t know how God works in these situations. (Actually, I don’t know most of this. I’m just reasoning from what we’ve been given, and trying to disentangle the misperceptions and poor logic we bring to the table.)

  95. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 12:28 pm

    Hi Kristine (Comment 87),

    There IS no official church position on embryo-destructive research for me to disagree with. “The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have not taken a position on stem cell research at this time.”

  96. Frank McIntyre on December 8, 2004 at 12:33 pm

    Matt: There IS no official church position on embryo-destructive research for me to disagree with. “The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have not taken a position on stem cell research at this time.�

    I am a little confused, then, about what the argument is about and why you had so much to say about the Church communications department and Huntsman. Are you saying you disagree with the Church staying neutral? Would that not be disagreeing with the Church’s position?

  97. Kristine on December 8, 2004 at 12:33 pm

    And you disagree with their neutrality, right?

  98. Ed Enochs on December 8, 2004 at 12:38 pm

    I also believe there is a sequential fallacy or oversight transpiring here with those in favor of using fertilized embryos for stem cell research. If the fertilized embryo in not in fact a human being, what is it then? As King David said in the Psalms,

    ” For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:13-16).

    Human life has to start at some point. If it does not start at conception as my devout Evangelical brethren and the Roman Catholic Church maintains, then when does human life begin? At the second day after fertilization. the third month? If there is a potentiality that the embryonic cell after fertilization is indeed a human being then we must stand for the life of the unborn without exception. I see a lot of pragmatic and postmodern embued relativistic arguments being postulated here. I believe those of us who maintain our respective faith tradtions must foster a culture that values life irrespective of the cultural backlash or consequences. We must stand for the life of the unborn. God requires this much of us, as it says in Sacred Scripture;

    “Deliver those who are drawn toward death, And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Surely we did not know this,”
    Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds? (Proverbs 24:11-12).

  99. Glen Henshaw on December 8, 2004 at 12:51 pm

    Ed writes:
    “Human life has to start at some point. If it does not start at conception as my devout Evangelical brethren and the Roman Catholic Church maintains, then when does human life begin? At the second day after fertilization. the third month?”

    That’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? I honestly have to answer that I don’t know when life begins, but deciding that it begins at conception seems to me to be almost as arbitrary as deciding it begins sometime after that.

    A single fertilized egg does have the ability to become human under the right conditions, but so do an unfertilized egg and a sperm in the same vicinity. So should we then be against birth control as well? And if we’re against birth control, it isn’t that much of a stretch to say that abstinance also eliminates the possibility of a human life, and therefore we should be against abstinance as well, which is clearly absurd.

    Also, a single fertilized egg, when not exposed to the right conditions, does *not* have the potential to become a human life. So maybe then it’s only human if it’s implanted. That doesn’t feel exactly right either, somehow. In addition, as was pointed out earlier, something approaching 50% of all fertilized eggs are spontaneously aborted. So thinking that life begins at conception leads one to believe that 50% of all of God’s spirit children never actually make it to earth. I guess one could argue that but it doesn’t seem right to me either.

    The point is that the argument that life *has* to begin at conception because it’s absurd to put another more arbitrary date on it has serious weaknesses, as do all arguments trying to place the beginning of life at any other specific point. I suspect this is a question for which we will never get a fully satisfactory answer, and in fact maybe the question itself is meaningless. Maybe life doesn’t ever “begin” at any specific point, perhaps somehow the beginning of life is a gradual process without any specific beginning — or any specific end.

  100. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 12:52 pm

    Hi Frank and Kristine (Comments 90 and 91),

    I think you’re right. Because I think that we can only know which entities are children of God if it’s revealed, and believe only apostles are entitled to such universally applicable revelation, I do want the apostles to study the issue, seek God’s will, and take a position. That means that I don’t want them to be neutral forever, which I suppose does mean that I disagree with their current position of neutrality. There is no middle ground here (either we’re destroying human beings or we’re preventing valuable research) so neutrality feels inappropriate here. It is just such circumstances when, it seems to me, we should be grateful to have modern prophets who can find out who are the children of God, without forcing us to rely exclusively on old texts, like the rest of the world does. Most importantly, because the church says there’s no specific revelation on when the spirit enters the body, I don’t think it’s proper to destroy embryos until we at least know that embryos are not full children of God.

    I should add that though reason has led me to believe that all human organisms are human beings, my desire is for the leaders to ask God for what the boundary is, and not to place it where I think it is. I don’t care what I think, I want to know what IS a human being.

  101. CB on December 8, 2004 at 1:05 pm

    Matt,

    I guess I don’t understand why it is hard for you to accept an official position of neutrality. Wars happen all the time, God’s children die in horrible ways, but usually, beyond decrying war in general, the church doesn’t take sides.

  102. Ed Enochs on December 8, 2004 at 1:11 pm

    Kaimi,

    Also, there are many BYU professors such as Stephen Robinson and Robert Milet that see much value in the scholarly research of other faith traditions such as the Evangelicals. Many LDS scholars do not believe the Evangelical church apostazied away from the faith to such an extent that they do not use their research.

    BYU and other LDS scholars today generally will use the scholarship of other faiths and even secular scientific data if can be proven accurate.

    In the same way BYU language professors will use Evangelical or secular linguisitc studies to help teach and learn their languages more accurately, there are over 60 million Evangelicals in America, with medical schools and advanced research that I believe even the LDS church will reflect on regarding this stem cell research.

    Regarding the influence of outside sources in making LDS policy, I do not think there is any question that the LDS church sees the importance of what people outside their faith believes.

    The revelation in 1890 on marriage and the revelation in 1978 that African Americans can now receive the priesthood in the LDS church
    came after there was outside reservations about it.

    The issue of stem cell research is being led by many Evangelicals across the Country. Tennesee Senator and Dr. William Frist (B.A. Princeton, M.D. Harvard Medical School), the Senate Majority leader is a devout Evangelical Christian, as is newly elected Oklahoma Republican Senator Dr. Tom Colburn both highly trained Medical practicioners who oppose embryonic stem cell research if the life of a unborn baby is involved.

    All I am saying is that there are millions of well educated Evangelicals across the country who are leading the fight against the terminating of human life in stem cell research procedures. There is no question in my mind that the LDS church leaders respect our opnion greatly on this issue.

  103. clark on December 8, 2004 at 1:12 pm

    Wow. Dozens of posts. Allow me to go back to #49. Matt said that cloning is the same as twinning (the natural process of developing twins from a single cell). He argues that a spirit will be given. Recognize what Matt’s position logically entails though. If I clone myself then I bring down a spirit and that spirit enters my duplicate body with my memories, habits and so forth. Are you really willing to take that position?

    The problem is that Matt has made this an issue of human life and not human being. If I take some cells of my hand they are human and they are alive and thus by Matt’s argument are human life. That just doesn’t make any sense to me. I think Matt has confused the issue of something that is mine (i.e. my body) with the issue of what I am. While that confusion can make sense in certain religions where the soul is created at conception, it simply is impossible to link up with LDS theology where while the body is mine it isn’t me and I’m not even spatially there until my spirit enters my body. So to say that the issue of when the spirit enters the body doesn’t matter in LDS theology simply flabergasts me.

    I think the comment Ed made in the prior post (#92) illustrates the problem. If a fertilized egg isn’t a human being, what is it? It is a human life – a part or potential future part of a human being. But it is not the human being and to kill it is not to kill the human being any more than to kill a skin cell is to kill the human being. The human being must be more.

  104. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 1:21 pm

    Hi Glen (Comment 93),

    A human embryo is fully human, it never becomes “more human” than it is when it’s a single-celled organism. Scientists don’t debate that individual human organisms — our bodies — begin at fertilization. All of the leading embryology textbooks say the same thing.

    Embryologists demarcate fertilization because that’s when a distinct human organism is created. An organism has specific characteristics which eggs and sperm do not have (including the capacity to reproduce). An egg and a sperm have the potential to form an organism that has the potential to mature. An embryo is an organism with limitless potential.

    It’s true that a single-celled embryo will not continue to develop if it’s not exposed to the right conditions, but that’s true for every organism at every stage. At every point of life, our development depends on a suitable environment. If a human organism is placed at the bottom of a lake, on the moon, or in a room without oxygen or food, it will die. This fact does not have any bearing on whether the organism is a full human being. Human beings at their early and final stages of life are less adaptable to their environment, but all of us are still 100% dependent upon a suitable environment. The percent of the universe with a suitable environment for any of us rounds to zero.

    Anyway, because of the scientific consensus on when our lives begin as human organisms, the question being debated is whether all independent human organisms are human beings and, if only some human organisms are human beings, what it is that divides the classes.

  105. Bryce I on December 8, 2004 at 1:23 pm

    Glen —

    I almost wrote your exact post, but bit my tongue, as I haven’t been involved in this thread. Well put.

    I would add that another possible implication of the life-begins-at-conception viewpoint is that it would impose an obligation on us to monitor carefully when a conception event might have occured, and take appropriate precautions. Should we not take the same heroic measures to protect a very early stage pregnancy that we do for a late-stage pregancy?

    As has been noted, many women miscarry and never even realize it. Given our belief in the potential eternal nature of the family, it seems that we are failing miserably in our obligations to our families if a large percentage of them do not even have names.

  106. clark on December 8, 2004 at 1:23 pm

    Ed, the big difference in the “when life begins” argument is that Mormons believe in a pre-existence which significantly affects the debate in ways that Evangelicals beliefs don’t fit, due to their believing that souls are created around the same time that life begings. The very way you frame it as when life begins is somewhat difficult for Mormosn since for us life didn’t begin. It always was.

  107. clark on December 8, 2004 at 1:24 pm

    A human embryo is fully human, it never becomes “more human� than it is when it’s a single-celled organism.

    This belays an understanding of what “human” means that I’m not sure I agree with. So perhaps we ought to ask, what do you mean by human and was I human in the pre-existence?

  108. Kaimi on December 8, 2004 at 1:25 pm

    Bryce writes:

    “As has been noted, many women miscarry and never even realize it. Given our belief in the potential eternal nature of the family, it seems that we are failing miserably in our obligations to our families if a large percentage of them do not even have names. ”

    Bryce,

    I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to getting to the Celestial Kingdom and finally getting to meet the 47 children that I never knew I had!

    :)

  109. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 1:25 pm

    Hi CB (Comment 95),

    The difference in the present debate is that we’re debating an ontological fact, not a value proposition. We all know how we’ve been commanded to treat our neighbors, but we don’t know who our neighbors are. Only God can tell us whether nascent human lives are his children. That is a dilemma for which a church with living prophets is uniquely prepared.

  110. Bryce I on December 8, 2004 at 1:30 pm

    Matt —

    I appreciate your desire for a well-defined boundary. I think a part of the problem is that no matter what boundary may get set, it won’t be well-defined for every case. The act of drawing a line itself creates the opportunity for ambiguity and confusion. And the existence of a well-defined boundary invites us to push right up against that line.

    As it is, with no clearly defined line, we are forced to give the issue wide berth, erring always (hopefully) on the side of caution. It requires us to be more careful than we might otherwise be. We all have a sense of how things work far away from the line. As we draw closer, however, we must tread more carefully. Hence the need for “cautious scrutiny”

  111. Glen Henshaw on December 8, 2004 at 1:37 pm

    Matt writes:
    “Embryologists demarcate fertilization because that’s when a distinct human organism is created. An organism has specific characteristics which eggs and sperm do not have (including the capacity to reproduce). An egg and a sperm have the potential to form an organism that has the potential to mature. An embryo is an organism with limitless potential.”

    Yes, I don’t debate that that’s what embryologists teach, but I still think it’s a more-or-less arbitrary distinction. Why is one cell (the sperm) being inside the other (the egg) significantly different from those cells being side-by-side? I just don’t see it. I think we just decide to draw the line there because there’s a discrete event, fertilization, that happens at that time, and the discreteness seems to make it easy to draw a distinction. BUt I’m not sure the discrete event has the significance a lot of people assign to it. *Why* is a fertilized egg human while an unfertilized egg and a sperm that’s about to fertilize it isn’t?

  112. danithew on December 8, 2004 at 1:40 pm

    I wonder if process should play any role in this question. For example, if a egg is fertilized normally by a man and a woman procreating, and the fertilized egg is then removed from the woman’s body and destroyed for the sake of an experiment … that strikes me as quite different (and less morally ok) than if anonymous donors provide sperm and eggs and the eggs are then fertilized in a laboratory and then they are destroyed for the same type of experiment.

    Am I wrong? Should type of process play any role at all in this matter?

    There’s some absurdity in this question I realize … but absurdity reigns on this thread. :)

    Maybe I can ask one more question that I’ve pondered, though only in brief moments during the past couple of weeks. Does comparable size have anything to do with morality? This thread might have some bearing on that question, though I didn’t originally think of it in this context.

    This is a gross example but I thought I’d just throw it out there: If I crush an ant beneath my shoe, hardly anyone is going to object or think much of it. I don’t think evangelical Christians wouldn’t think much of it (Jainists would). If I were to do the same thing with a kitten … obviously I’d be (deservedly so) a target for broad human scorn and hatred.

    I’m just wondering if relative size then would play any role in consideration on this question. A human embryo at the instant of conception/fertilization or moments thereafter … can its comparably insignificant size and lack of development play a role at all in determining whether it could be sacrificed for stem-cell research?

    Sorry for the gross example of the kitten … but it strikes me that in morality issues, relative size does seem to make a major difference for most of us. And since I’m probably living in a Far Side cartoon right now, some cosmic giant is probably on the verge of squashing us all, even as I ask this question.

  113. Adam Greenwood on December 8, 2004 at 1:45 pm

    Kristine et al.,
    To the extent Matt’s saying the Church was wrong to be neutral, then he is disagreeing with the Church. But his taking a position on stem cells while the Church remains neutral isn’t disagreeing with the Church. The Church takes no position precisely so people like Matt can.

    Also, I’d be interested in what you find internally contradictory about the Proclamation on the Family? The stem cell press release seems a much better candidate for ‘internal contradiction’ to me (though I think an argument can be made that it isn’t) because it starts in effect with “we take not position on stem cell research” and then appears to add “stem cell research, done with caution, is a good idea.”

  114. Kristine on December 8, 2004 at 1:48 pm

    Hah, Adam, you can’t provoke me into extensive public analysis of the Proclamation that easily. It was a semi-hypothetical.

  115. Adam Greenwood on December 8, 2004 at 1:58 pm

    Mr. Henshaw,
    The problem is that a line must be drawn somewhere. Better to choose a discrete event than to grab a number out of the air. Especially if the discrete event really does have significance. Biologically my existence as an entity began when the embryo formed, not before and not after.

  116. Glen Henshaw on December 8, 2004 at 2:05 pm

    Adam writes:
    “Mr. Henshaw”

    Oh, it’s Glen please.

    “The problem is that a line must be drawn somewhere.”

    Not to be pedantic, but why? THe Church’s stand on abortion is, more or less, we take each case individually. There are certain acts that are clearly wrong at any time, but others that require prayer and fasting. Why is this different?

    “Biologically my existence as an entity began when the embryo formed, not before and not after.”

    Again, you have to back that up. It seems to me that this is an idea that has become true through repetition.

  117. Clark on December 8, 2004 at 2:08 pm

    Adam, your comment assumes your conclusions when you say “my existence as an entity began when the embryo formed…” Of course if your spirit wasn’t in the embryo then you do not yet have a biological existence and thus your existence as a biological entity has not yet begun.

    This is the problem that I think some simply want to assume an answer to. At what point do my cells cease to be “parts” and become “essentially” me? That seems to be the key question. Saying that this happens at conception is easy, but it seems quite unlikely, in LDS theology, to be true.

    That doesn’t imply that embryos are valueless. Far from it. But their value is entailed by their being mine and not by their being me.

  118. Last_lemming on December 8, 2004 at 2:12 pm

    I’ve only scanned the comments so far, but it doesn’t appear that anybody has considered the possibility that the brethren simply disagree on this one and are just issuing mushy statements until the impasse is broken. There is certainly precedent for this. It is pretty well established, for example, that some apostles were ready to lift the priesthood ban earlier than others. Maybe the Lord is withholding a revelation until all the apostles are ready to accept it, or maybe he is not withholding it but some are failing to recognize it. Now for the speculation on whose on which side…

    For the record, I support stem cell research on embryos created for IVF that would otherwise be discarded.

  119. Adam Greenwood on December 8, 2004 at 2:16 pm

    Of course a line must be drawn somewhere. We don’t think killing our children to harvest their organs is a matter that should be left to fasting and prayer after they are born. Also, in those cases where the line must be drawn on the individual level, a line must still be drawn. Presumably there is still some point at which the answer to fasting and prayer will be different.

  120. Kaimi on December 8, 2004 at 2:16 pm

    Adam,

    When did Eve’s existence as an entity begin? When Adam’s (not yours, the other Adam’s) rib was formed?

  121. Bryce I on December 8, 2004 at 2:18 pm

    Last_lemming —

    There are other reasons for holding off on a statement. One is that once a statement is made, you’re more or less committed to it in the short term. Given that the Church does not officially take a life-begins-at-conception stance, issuing a statement on various issues related to stem-cell research commits it to making statements on every development that occurs relating to stem-cell research (unless the statement is categorically in favor of or against such research, which seems not to be the position of the Church). Rather than get caught up in that game, it makes sense for the leadership to issue a “wait-and-see'” statement, until the issues are well understood and the pace of change has settled down somewhat.

  122. Adam Greenwood on December 8, 2004 at 2:27 pm

    Exactly my point, Kaimi. I did not exist as sperm or egg in my parent’s organs, and (if you accept that story) Eve did not exist as rib.

  123. Clark on December 8, 2004 at 6:56 pm

    Once again, didn’t we all exist prior to all these discussions? I think those arguing for life beginning at conception have to explain what humanness is, what a human being and when our existence began. As I said, I think saying existence begins at conception is impossible to reconcile to the belief in a pre-existence.

  124. Ed Enochs on December 8, 2004 at 7:04 pm

    Evangelicals believe in a conception of divine foreknowledge that has God knowing who will come into being before the foundation of the World. But we do not believe that a person actually exists until the fertilization of the egg wherein God imparts the soul and spirit of a person and he or she becomes a living being.

  125. Adam Greenwood on December 8, 2004 at 7:38 pm

    Our spirits existed before, Clark, but our doctrine is clear that we are spirit-mortal cyborgs, so to speak. In other words, our bodies just aren’t a waldo that we put on and off, they are intrinsically us. I think the way we’re talking about embryos and bodies kinda slides into the waldo view.

    Also, I don’t see how the view that mortal existence begins at conception is incompatible with the pre-existence.

  126. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 9:26 pm

    Hi Clark (Comment 97),

    I don’t know if you understood my previous comment. No one believes clones will have the memories or habits of their creators. A clone is a single-celled embryo made by injectivng a full set of DNA into an egg without any DNA. It’s like an identical twin — it’s a distinctive organism but genetically identical.

    This doesn’t mean that all of your cells or your hand is a human life, only human organisms are human lives. Cells from your hand are alive, but they are part of the biological organism we know and love as Clark Goble. (As for your saying that it matters to LDS theology when the spirit enters the body, I agree. My point was that it’s possible that God wants us to respect all human organisms, even those that don’t yet house souls. He hasn’t told us, so we don’t know.)

  127. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 9:32 pm

    Hi Bryce (Comment 99),

    We must condition our behavior to respect all human beings, and not condition our definition of human beings based on our behavior. There are many historical examples where recognizing a new class of human beings was burdensome, and led many people to resist recognizing them as human. But no matter how ornerous the imposition, their humanity does not (and did not) depend on our behavior or the convenience of admitting their humanity. We have to be careful not to let our self-interest cloud our judgment.

  128. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 9:44 pm

    Hi Clark (Comment 101),

    A human is the common name for an independent organism that’s a member of the species homo sapiens. That’s the sense in which a human embryo is as fully human as you or I are. Human embryos look exactly like all human organisms look like at that stage of development.

  129. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 9:44 pm

    Hi Bryce (Comment 104),

    I don’t see why you think knowing the boundary of what constitutes a human being would be cause more ambiguit than we have now. If all human organisms are human beings, that would be a bright line boundary that would help us act appropriately.

    I don’t see the positive effects of the ambiguous definition that you do. If people erred on the side of caution, Mormons wouldn’t support embryo-destructive research because we know the spirit enters the body before birth, but not when. That means it’s possible that human embryos have spirits. But rather err on the side of caution, which we should do until we know that embryos do not have spirits, many Mormons are using the ambiguity to push for their personal preference. There’s simply no way to “cautiously” destroy a human embryo.

  130. Bryce I on December 8, 2004 at 9:50 pm

    Matt Evans —

    I don’t deny what you are saying in #121. My point in #99 is partly to say that the technology to detect early pregnancies easily at home has been around for a couple of decades now. If that technology has the potential to save a human life, why don’t we do it? More to the point, why haven’t we been counseled to do it? Why have we not been told to chart cycles and take pregnancy tests to be completely aware of when a pregnancy may have been initiated? I’m not saying that some couples don’t do this already — they clearly do. However, in a theology where life begins at conception, we should all be doing this, and we as a people clearly don’t.

    Also, unless I am mistaken, early-term miscarriages are not recorded on the records of the Church. How are we to reconcile our knowledge of how the records kept on earth and in heaven are kept with our current practice? (OK, I’ve got some answers for this one, but it’s an interesting little question, don’tcha think?)

  131. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 10:01 pm

    Hi Glen (Comment 105),

    The line marking our start as a distinct human organism isn’t arbitrary. Fertilization is when our bodies start. An egg and a sperm aren’t the same thing as an embryo. Take a horse egg with sperm cells around it. If one of those sperm cells unites with the egg, it will form a thoroughbred chestnut mare. Another sperm will create a thoroughbred stallion. Another sperm will create a long-eared mule. And so on. Upon fertilization, the embryo is a thoroughbred mare, or a stallion, or a long-eared mule. That’s why embryologists say that our life begins at fertilization. The first, single cell is the first time we are who we are.

  132. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 10:05 pm

    Hi Danithew (Comment 106),

    I don’t believe size has any bearing on moral worth. Yao Ming is has no more moral value than Dr. Ruth, and I have no more moral worth as a 170 pound adult than I did as a 7 pound baby. In the same way, I don’t believe I had any less value when I was only a single-cell embryo on my first day of life.

  133. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 10:20 pm

    Hi Bryce (Comment 124),

    One important reason we don’t do those things is because we don’t know that human embryos are human beings, and it’s not clear to me that we would be obligated to do those things even if we did know that embryos are human beings. I don’t think we’re morally obligated to interfere with nature’s course, as many others do. Morality, to my view, doesn’t demand that we take extraordinary measures to keep a person from dying a natural death. And that goes for human embryos, too.

  134. Bryce I on December 8, 2004 at 10:47 pm

    Matt Evans —

    You said, “One important reason we don’t do those things is because we don’t know that human embryos are human beings.” This is a part of my point — our collective failure to act, and the silence of the Brethren on this issue indicates to me that we know that up to some point after conception, human embryos are not human beings. (Note that this argument rests on some assumptions about prophetic revelation that I’m not going to get into here).

    I’m not actually arguing that we should be doing crazy things to support non-viable pregnancies. I’m saying that if embryos at any stage are human beings that we should accord them with some degree of recognition — mere acknowledgement of their existence would do. The fact that we don’t also speaks volumes to me.

    This doesn’t mean that I’m right to not know when my wife may be carrying a non-implanted fertilized egg. Maybe I should keep track of these things.

  135. Bryce I on December 8, 2004 at 10:54 pm

    To address Glen’s initial question: “what the purpose of the prophet is regarding a difficult moral issue”

    I’ve mentioned this idea previously in this thread, and I’ve become more convinced of its value: it doesn’t make sense for the prophet to come out with a definitive statement on this particular difficult moral issue yet, because the issue is still fairly ill-defined. Since the church’s position is likely not to be categorically either for or against embryonic stem-cell research, any official statement will involve drawing a line somewhere.

    One problem with making a statement at the current time is that any line that gets drawn now will likely need further clarification many times over as different issues arise in the ongoing debate, so that the prophet would be in the position of having to repeatedly issue statements regarding specific situations. Such a situation is clearly undesirable.

    I personally have no doubt that the prophet is able to provide inspired guidance on any particular situation. The trick is to be able to provide inspired guidance in the form of a general principle. The discussion is not at the point where such formulations of principle are possible.

  136. Clark on December 8, 2004 at 11:01 pm

    Adam and Matt, if your distinguish between human being and human organism, I don’t have much trouble. Also with the latter comments Matt and I appear to have more common ground that I thought. The issue is whether destroying human organisms is wrong and Matt agreed that hadn’t been revealed. The argument thus appears to be an “assume the worst” sort of argument.

    The reason I think many might disagree, is multifold.

    First, while I agree that the brethren’s lack of an answer might not imply that it is OK, the fact that we would be talking about murder strongly suggests that God would give some guidance to his people who are trying faithfully to follow him. I just have a hard time thinking that I may accidentally directly be murdering my spiritual brethren and sisters and God doesn’t at least prompt me on it, let alone say something to the prophet. He’ll prompt them about the evils of coffee and make in mandatory but not bring up a little thing like murder?

    It just is very hard for many of us to accept that God is like that.

    The second reason is that so few fertilized eggs make it to birth that it seems a horribly inefficient way to do things if they have this inherent value. i.e. by making life like this God simply shows that he doesn’t value them. That’s not to say that perhaps God and people aren’t playing by different rules. But that line of thinking needs some defense.

    The third reason is tied to the second. If so many embryos never make to even the third trimester naturally, God must provide a way for the spirits. Thus my destruction of an unembodied embryo doesn’t hurt the spirit. Given that, how is it wrong? If one buys this (and I suspect Adam and Matt won’t) then it seems the burden of proof is on those arguing destruction of embryos is wrong when it appears it doesn’t hurt anyone. (We can’t say it hurts by not providing a body for a spirit otherwise we end up saying we ought to be having as much unprotected sex as possible)

  137. Clark on December 8, 2004 at 11:05 pm

    Oh, I forgot my other argument. The reason I brought up a full clone wasn’t because I didn’t recognize current cloning doesn’t merely start with a single cell. I was assuming future technology, which was the context I originally brought it up in. The point is that if we make a duplicate of a human body, is it a human being?

    Mormons, I think, would tend to say not unless there is a spirit in it. Yet if there is a spirit in it then that spirit would have my memories, habits and so forth which doesn’t seem right.

    If we buy that, then the same thing applies earlier on in the pregnancy, back as far as we care to go. It is an argument against cloning of cells being inherently wrong because a spirit is inherently assigned to it. At best, as I see it, we are left with a situation where until I embody the embryo it is just product, akin (to use Adam’s example) a mechanical hand awaiting placement to replace mine.

  138. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 11:23 pm

    Bryce (Comment 129),

    What do you think is difficult about saying whether a human embryo is or is not a human being? Why would that question require constant tinkering? Or be a general principle? The reason that this debate is different than other bioethical issues is, as I’ve stated before, because it hinges on an ontological question. If human embryos aren’t human beings, the ethical controversy surrounding stem cell research goes away.

  139. Matt Evans on December 8, 2004 at 11:42 pm

    Hi Clark (Comment 130),

    My position doesn’t rely on “assume the worst,” that’s merely an “even if” part of my reasoning. The reason I think human embryos are human beings is because of the studying I’ve done, the scientific evidence I’ve read, and the fact that I believe all human beings are equal before God.

    I don’t think we can read too much into God’s or the prophet’s silence on the status of the human embryo. But that is the reason I want the prophets to address the question — are human embryos children of God or not? It’s not unlike the issue the church faced when trying to figure out which Brazilian members could hold the priesthood. Is this guy allowed to have the priesthood or not?

    Given the huge numbers of born babies that don’t reach adulthood, especially in past generations, it doesn’t seem that odd to me that perhaps most of humanity only briefly experiences this stage of mortality. And as I said above, accepting that only a portion of humanity reaches adulthood is easier when we remember the small fraction of humanity that hears the gospel message. The gospel teaches that our perceived reality is only the tip of the iceberg.

  140. Charlene on December 8, 2004 at 11:49 pm

    95 I guess I don’t understand why it is hard for you to accept an official position of neutrality…

    Because one of the roles of a prophet is to be a watchman on the tower, a source of truth, a voice of warning. I know I’m really showing my age here, but I remember Pres. Kimball’s vehement denunciations of abortion. He was the watchman, sounding the alarm long before it became the political hot-potato du jour. He told the world that ” We have repeatedly affirmed the position of the Church in unalterably opposing ALL abortions” (emph mine) and called abortions a “damnable sin”. If there is such a close tie between murder and abortion (see the quote below), and prophets have clearly decried both, why then is our leader’s position so murky on the issue of fetal stem cell research?

    115 Given that the Church does not officially take a life-begins-at-conception stance…

    But you see, at one time the church DID take a “life-begins-at-conception-stance”. Pres. Kimball taught: “There is such a close relationship between the taking of a life and the taking of an embryonic child, between murder and abortion that we would hope that mortal men would not presume to take the frightening responsibility. . . .” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball Salt Lake City, Utah: 1982, p. 188.) Before 1989, the church taught that us of the IUD was wrong because it harmed the fertilized egg–the embryo. Today that stance has clearly changed. Why? Perhaps if we understood the change in the church’s position, we might better understand the thinking behind their stand on Fetal Stem Cell research.

  141. Rosalynde on December 8, 2004 at 11:52 pm

    I have not been following these comments at all, but here’s another idea about when life begins. (Although, as I stated once far above, I think that’s a poor way to approach the matter.) What if each individual spirit has some choice in the matter of when he or she “enters” the embryo? People who have attended deaths often have the sense that there is some act of will on the part of the dying person to allow or forestall the moment of death. Could it be the same way with birth? Could there be some volition on the part of each spirit in deciding when to merge with the body?

  142. Matt Evans on December 9, 2004 at 12:17 am

    Oh, I meant to point out that the church doesn’t have a “neutral” stance on stem cell research. The church says it has not taken a position at this time, which is not the same as being neutral. It’s like the difference in pre-election polls between “indifferent” and “undecided.” The statement’s language clearly suggests that the apostles expect to take a position as they learn more or as they receive divine guidance.

  143. Matt Evans on December 9, 2004 at 12:20 am

    Rosalynde (Comment 135),

    The answer is that we don’t know, but if you’re idea were right, it would seem to cut against stem-cell research because of the possibility that a spirit has already entered their body. (We don’t shoot into bushes when we don’t know that there’s not a person in there.)

  144. Ed Enochs on December 9, 2004 at 12:25 am

    in carefully reflecting upon the great dialog here on stem cell research my mind is drawn to the age old argument that has transpired in historic Christianity (Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism: Evangelicalism being a sub species of the Protestant expression of Christianity proposed by Martin Luther and John Calvin initially) overTraducianism vs. generationalism

    Traducianism (tradux, a shoot or sprout, and more specifically a vine branch made to take root so as to propagate the vine), in general the doctrine that, in the process of generation, the human spiritual soul is transmitted to the offspring by the parents. When a distinction is made between the terms Traducianism and Generationism, the former denotes the materialistic doctrine of the transmission of the soul by the organic process of generation, while the latter applies to the doctrine according to which the soul of the offspring originates from the parental soul in some mysterious way analogous to that in which the organism originates from the parent’s organism.

    Traducianism is opposed to Creationism or the doctrine that every soul is created by God. Both, however, against Emanationism and Evolutionism (q.v.) admit that the first human soul originated by creation. They differ only as to the mode of origin of subsequent souls.

    In the early centuries of the Christian Church, the Fathers who touch upon this question defend the immediate creation of the soul. Tertullian, Apollinaris, and a few other heretics advocate Traducianism, but the testimony of Saint Jerome (Epist. cxxvi, 1) that “the majority of Oriental writers think that, as the body is born of the body, so the soul is born of the soul” seems exaggerated, as no other writer of prominence is found to advocate Generationism as certain. Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Macarius, Rufinus, Nemesius, although their views on this point are not always clear, seem to prefer Generationism. After the rise of Pelagianism, some Fathers hesitate between Generationism and Creationism, thinking that the former offers a better, if not the only, explanation of the transmission of original sin. Among them Saint Augustine is the most important. Creationism is held as certain by the Scholastics, with the exception of Hugh of Saint Victor and Alexander of Hales, who propose it merely as more probable. In recent times Generationism has been rejected by all Catholic theologians. Exceptions are Froschammer who defends Generationism and gives to the generation of the soul from the parents the name of secondary creation; Klee and Ubaghs who leave the question undecided; Hermes who favours Generationism; Gravina who advocates it — and Rosmini who asserts that the sensitive soul is generated by the parents, and becomes spiritual when God illuminates it and manifests to it the idea of being which is the foundation of the whole intellectual life.

    From the philosophical point of view, the reasons alleged in favour of Generationism have little or no value. The parents are really generators of their offspring even if the soul comes from God, for the generative process is the condition of the union of body and soul which constitutes the human being. A murderer really kills a man, although he does not destroy his soul. Nor is man inferior to animals because they generate complete living organisms, since the difference between man and animals comes from the superiority of the human soul and from its spiritual nature which requires that it should be created by God. On the other hand the reasons against Generationism are cogent. The organic process of generation cannot give rise to a spiritual substance, and to. say that the soul is transmitted in the corporeal semen is to make it intrinsically dependent on matter. The process of spiritual generation is impossible. since the soul is immaterial and indivisible, no spiritual germ can be detached from the Parental soul (cf. St. Thomas, “Contra gent.” II, c 86; “Sum. theol.” I:90:2, I:98:2, etc.). As to the power of creation, it is the prerogative of God alone (see CREATION, VI).

    Theologically, corporeal Traducianism is heretical because it goes directly against the spirituality of the soul. As to Generationism, it is certainly opposed to the general attitude of the Church. Froschammer’s book, “Ueber den Ursprung der menschlichen Seelen”, was condemned in 1857, and Ubaghs’s opinion expressed in his “Anthropologiae philosophicae elementa” was reproved in a letter of Cardinal Patrizi written by authority of Pius IX to the Archbishop of Mechlin (2 March, 1866). Moreover, Anastasius II in a letter to the bishops of Gaul (498) condemns Generationism (Thiel, “Epistolae Romanorum Pontificum”, 634 sqq.). In the Symbol to be subscribed to by Bishop Peter of Antioch (1053), Leo IX declares the soul to be “not a part of God, but created from nothing” (Denzinger, 348). Among the errors which the Armenians must reject, Benedict XII mentions the doctrine that the soul originates from the soul of the father (Denzinger, 533). Hence, although there are no strict definitions condemning Generationism as heretical, it is certainly opposed to the doctrine of the Church, and could not be held without temerity.

  145. Ed Enochs on December 9, 2004 at 10:45 am

    In further discussion on the issue of stem cell research and the question of when does life begin. As Evangelical theologian and Philosopher Dr. Gordon Clark (Ph.D. University of Penn.) Many Evangelicals argue for traducianism which teaches that man is a that man is a species, and the idea [or definition] of a species implies the propagation of the entire individual out of it.” This was what was meant a page ago in the reference to a covering tent in Plato’s Parmenides. That the human race is a species, Shedd defends by the use of the term man in Genesis 1:26-27. Note that God said, “Let us make man in our image, and let them have dominion…male and female created he them.” Man or Adam did not become a proper masculine noun until Genesis 2:19. Note too that Genesis 46:26 speaks of “the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins.” Shedd also quotes a half a dozen verses from the New Testament. When Eve was taken from Adam’s side, there is no mention of the creation of a second soul. Eve totally came out of Adam (1 Corinthians 11:8). This supports the view that any child of Adam and Eve was born totally a member of the species. The entire person, not just his body, is propagated.

    That the propagation of the race is only corporeal, and not spiritual or mental also, that only the child’s body and not his soul comes from the parents seems to be denied in John 3:6: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.” The Greek verb—occurring twice in this verse, and five times in the context—is gennao, beget. It is the same verb that one finds in Matthew 1:1-16. In John 3:6 Christ is speaking to Nicodemus, and “that which is born of flesh” is Nicodemus’ unregenerated soul rather than his physical body. The verb indicates that Nicodemus received his unregenerated soul from his parents. This prevents the interpretation that sarx (flesh) means simply man’s corporeal nature. Nor does the Nicodemus usage stand alone. Matthew 24:22 may look as if only the body were meant, but the shortening of the evil days preserved life and soul too. Luke 3:6, “And all flesh shall see God,” cannot possibly refer to a physical body. Nor must sarx always refer to a sinful soul: To return to John again, 1:14 says that the Word was made flesh (sarx). Consider: The Word did not merely take to himself a physical body; he also took a reasonable or rational soul. He got them both through Mary. Similarly, sarx in John 17:2 does not mean the body, certainly not the body alone, but rather Jesus gives eternal life to souls. Sarx sometimes means man’s depraved nature, but this only enforces the point that it means the soul. A body cannot sin. Therefore the soul of Nicodemus came from his parents.

  146. Jonathan Green on December 9, 2004 at 11:12 am

    Ed, please clearly identify your sources (Encyclopedia of Catholicism and Trinity Review) and link to them (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15014a.htm, http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=56 ), rather than quoting them at length with your name attached to them. When my students try that kind of thing, they get a zero for the assignment and no relief when they go complain to the department head.

  147. Ed Enochs on December 9, 2004 at 11:26 am

    Most definitely. I am getting used to the format here. the two above references are from:

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15014a.htm

    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=56

    Sorry about that. I just wanted to give the Catholic view and the Protestanrt views on the origin of the soul.

  148. Charles on December 9, 2004 at 11:29 am

    I’ve been trying to keep up on the discussion but there seem to be more responses than I have time to review. I’ll try not to re-hash anything to badly.

    The key factor in Stem Cell research is that it is easier to do research with the Stem cells then other cells readily available without moral ambiguity or controversy. Similar results are being discovered when using non Stem cells but researchers continue to want access to Stem Cells because their properties would make it easier to perform the same research. This is all a very basic understanding that I have of the situation and is in my opinion not a valid argument for the researchers.

    The real question of moral ambiguity and controversy derives from the fact that no one has been able to place a definitive mark on when a person is a person. If we trace back genetic growth the actual flash point of when a person can be considered a person, we invite a myriad of consequences into the equation, abortion being one of the most direct.

    My concern is not to debate when this flash point occurs but rather to examine the common sense in the decision making process. If we cannot at least agree on when life becomes life, I would hope we could at least recognize how valuable and precious life is. I would also point out that in cases where something as irreversible as death is, it is better to err on the side of caution. If we cannot agree when that flash point is we can agree that it has the potential to be life and should be protected.

  149. Ed Enochs on December 9, 2004 at 11:57 am

    That’s all I am trying to say to Charles well put.

  150. danithew on December 9, 2004 at 12:09 pm

    My understanding is that at the moment of conception or in the moments right after conception (however its best to put this) the embryo is the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

    Just for fun let’s pretend we have 10 embryos here:

    ……….

    So we have ten embryos that were created in a lab. Maybe in a test tube or in a petri dish. They are nameless and are hardly even developed. And if we destroy these embryos for the sake of stem-cell research, we might develop a means to help fully-developed human beings to walk again, to think properly again, etc.

    Why in the world would we hesitate to do this? I suppose to some, killing these ten embryos would be a massacre — something much worse than the fight between basketball players and fans at a Pistons game at some point recently.

    But in my mind, this action is about as violent as walking across a lawn or stepping on a couple of ants. The difference being that it coud significantly help so many people who are genuinely suffering.

  151. Adam Greenwood on December 9, 2004 at 12:31 pm

    That’s really foul, Danithew. It makes no difference to you if the embryos are human beings with souls, because they’re tiny and their organs aren’t differentiated? See a wildly premature baby in a hospital, brain badly underdeveloped and sick unto death, and see if you have these kinds of murderous thoughts, no matter how much advantage you see in it.

  152. Adam Greenwood on December 9, 2004 at 12:35 pm

    Clark,
    There are too kinds of arguments from ignorance here.

    Matt Evans says that, if we are unsure whether we’re acting to kill a person or not, we should not kill.

    You say that, if God has left us unsure on the morality of something, we should assume its moral (because otherwise God would not leave us unsure). Matt Evans argument is far more plausible. Here and elsewhere, you’ve never explained why you think God would never leave a matter of major importance to us to figure out.

  153. danithew on December 9, 2004 at 12:37 pm

    Adam, I don’t feel that way about babies. Or even embryos that have been developing for any significant period of time.

  154. danithew on December 9, 2004 at 12:43 pm

    Maybe I’m too eager. And the whole ant comparison is calloused. I admit it.

    At the same time, I do think there is quite a difference between killing a creature in its earliest embryonic state and killing the same creature when its larger or has “differentiated organs.”

  155. Adam Greenwood on December 9, 2004 at 12:44 pm

    If you think that undeveloped embryos don’t have spirits and therefore aren’t human beings, then I’m upset but I don’t think you’re a monster. But tell me that you don’t care if the embryo is a human being, because you can barely see it and it doesn’t have organs yet, and I feel sick.

  156. Glen Henshaw on December 9, 2004 at 12:44 pm

    Adam writes:
    “You’ve never explained why you think God would never leave a matter of major importance to us to figure out.”

    But that’s sort of the point of the thread, isn’t it? God *has* left us to figure this out, at least so far. What you’ve done is to take the most conservative reasonable position possible out of a respect for life. I respect that position and understand why someone would take it, and in fact am tempted to take it myself. But it’s still a position that *you* have taken, not God, and you can’t argue against someone else’s position on the basis that God didn’t reveal it.

  157. Scott on December 9, 2004 at 12:45 pm

    Adam:
    It is quaint that you picture an embryo as just a minature baby with moving appendages and all, but the fact is that it is a bunch of cells. nuceli surrounded by cytoplasm, so no, I don’t think danithew’s comment is off the mark.

  158. Adam Greenwood on December 9, 2004 at 12:47 pm

    You’ve got it backwards, Glen Henshaw. I’m arguing that God’s silence means the question is open to us to figure out using means other than revelation. Clark argues that God’s silence means that embryo’s aren’t human.

  159. Adam Greenwood on December 9, 2004 at 12:48 pm

    You, Scott, are also a bunch of cells, nuclei surrounded by cytoplasm.

  160. danithew on December 9, 2004 at 12:52 pm

    You know Adam, when I hear the way you put it, I do feel bad. I certainly don’t want to be murderous. And despite the way I worded things earlier (sorry for my carelessness) I’m not supporting casual recreational killing of embryos (at any stage). I remember watching a BYU professor dissect a live rat and hearing him brag that he had done it thousands of times and it bothered me. I couldn’t figure out why he wouldn’t videotape a dissection and save some rat lives. So hopefully I’m not really a vicious person.

    My point of belief is simply that an embryo, a human embryo, at its earliest stage of existence could be sacrificed to preserve and greatly increase the quality of life for seriously disabled and diseased human beings who are already walking around. And it’s not the kind of thing I’d lose sleep over.

  161. Ed Enochs on December 9, 2004 at 1:01 pm

    danithew,

    I am very disheartened to read your comments. I hope you really do not believe that killing a child in the womb in his or her initial development is like stepping on ants.

    That kind of talk is what fires up the mighty force of Evangelical Christianity in this country that is leading the fight for the unborn, winning the Republicans elections and little by little eroding abortion rights to hopefully one day Roe vs. Wade will be over turned, abortion illegal and the rights of the unborn protected again by law.

    Many can be undecided and ambigious on the issue of when does live begin but we are not. We will stand for the unborn no matter what the cost.

  162. Adam Greenwood on December 9, 2004 at 1:12 pm

    If that’s true, Danithew, and you really don’t care whether the embryo has a soul or not, then I see no reason why you wouldn’t kill the preemy without losing sleep over it if you thought people would benefit. Or me, for that matter.

  163. danithew on December 9, 2004 at 1:14 pm

    Part of this Ed, goes to process. If the embryo is actually in the womb, I feel differently about it than I do about a fertilized embryo in a petri dish or a test tube (an embryo that never was in the womb to begin with).

    And I don’t consider that an embryo at its earliest stage is the same as a “child” or a “baby.”

    And yet I am feeling bad about this argument. I feel I’ve been unduly harsh in my language and was overeager to embrace a rather cruel analogy. It’s probably a very very bad idea to compare human beings, at any stage, to ants. So I was foolish to write about things in that way.

  164. danithew on December 9, 2004 at 1:17 pm

    Ed,

    You should probably know that normally I’m often fairly conservative and I actually voted for Bush. But I also can be very pragmatic on certain issues. And that’s what you’re witnessing.

  165. Chris on December 9, 2004 at 1:30 pm

    What a wonderful discussion. Please forgive me for interrupting but I’m curious to hear what anyone has to say concerning IVF and how it may relate to the topic. In the possible context of embryos being humans, should husband and wife whose only option to reproduce be under condemnation for utilizing IVF? Normally aren’t quite a few embryos destroyed in the IVF process? If the Prophet took a stand that was in harmony with Mr. Evan’s conclusions, then surely those members who’ve utilized IVF technology be responsible for the deaths of quite a few humans (embryos). Would they be murders? Would their sin be augmented if they donated the unused embryos for research versus discarding the remainder? Is it even possible for IVF patients to donate the unused embryos under current legislation? Again, please forgive the interruption and thanks for the terrific blog.

    Chris

  166. Adam Greenwood on December 9, 2004 at 1:34 pm

    I am very uneasy about IVF for the reasons you identify, though the moral distinction between letting someone die and causing it makes donating your embryos to a lab worse than creating them and putting them in a freezer.

    On the other hand, I don’t think its murder, mostly. Murder requires knowing that one’s victim is human. As long as parents think their embryos aren’t human, its not murder, though it approaches it the more the parents feel that their embryos probably are.

  167. J. Stapley on December 9, 2004 at 1:40 pm

    So I get busy for a day and voila, 100 comments appear. I have been thinking about this so I thought I would throw this out:

    1) Willful destruction a mortal-spirit human symbiote (and sending the spirit to spirit prison) is murder.

    As has been discussed, the Mormon concept of pre-mortal existence differentiates our dialectic from that of the traditional Christian. We must then look for ways to determine within our own tradition on ways to determine the point at which destruction = spirit prison. Instead of looking at the beginning, why don’t we look later in life.

    I do not know what the church policy on still birth is, but I know that we are not doing sealings in the temple for auto-abortions. From this perspective, what is sealed as a family constitutes those organisms that were destined for spirit prison.

    This also would validate the Mormon position that, while repugnant and sinful (most of the time), abortion is not murder.

  168. Glen Henshaw on December 9, 2004 at 1:50 pm

    I’m also uncomfortable with IVF, for the reasons you state and for several others as well. I couldn’t justify spending that much money just to get a child with my own genetic makeup when there are so many children already here who need parents and I could adopt one of them instead. Whether or not the child was biologically mine seems unimportant, especially when you consider the eternal implications of being sealed.

  169. Ed Enochs on December 9, 2004 at 1:54 pm

    Thus, the entirety of this stem cell research and the use of fertilized embryos rests on when does life begin.

    Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Evangelicals believe that life begins and conception and hence any termination of the life of a fertilized embryo is tantamount to murder irrespective if aborting and hence a premature baby at 6 or 8 months has more sympathy from some than terming a fertilized embryo (which is still a child in my mind) at a few seconds or days.

    From what I gather from you LDS friends, your church leadership is undecided and has not come down with an official opinion on the matter. But I would like to offer this logical syllogism, in the tradition of Blaise Pascal I will call; “Ed’s Wager” and goes like this:

    Glossary of terms: (from dictionary.com)

    Wager: T o risk or stake (an amount or a possession) on an uncertain outcome.

    Infinite: Having no boundaries or limits, eternal.

    Murder: The unlawful killing of one human by another.

    Syllogism:

    Logic. A form of deductive reasoning consisting of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion; for example, All humans are mortal, the major premise, I am a human, the minor premise, therefore, I am mortal, the conclusion.
    Reasoning from the general to the specific; deduction.
    A subtle or specious piece of reasoning.

    Ed’s Wager:

    1. If life begins at conception, then the destruction of any child, irrespective of his or her stage of development whether or not that is in a petri dish at one day or two weeks is murder.

    2. If you wager that the fertilized embryo is indeed a human being and seek to perserve his or her life, you honor God, who has decreed in the Law (Exodus 20) “Thou Shall not murder” and hence you have gained infinitely.

    3. However, if you wager that the fertilized embryo is not in fact a human being and you condone the destruction of the fertilized embryo and you are wrong and a murder has occurred then you incur the displeasure and wrath of God for breaking His moral prohibition on murder, hence you lose infinitely.

    4. If you wage that the fertilized embryo is not in fact a human being and you are correct you have lost nothing and perhaps gain because of the potential of the stem cell research helping medicine.

    5. If one is uncertain on just when life begins, it is better to stand against the destruction of fertilized embryo than to support the procedure because you may be wrong and hence bear the consequences of # 4.

    Note:

    It seems illogical to me that a person could believe that a fetus in the womb at two months or thee is in fact a human being and not at three seconds or two days. There seems to be an over site of chronological regress here. Human beings start growing some place. All of us were at one time one second old and were human beings in the sight of God. What is the difference in us being one second old or three minutes old in our mother’s womb and the fertilized embryo in the petri dish at the same chronological juncture?

  170. danithew on December 9, 2004 at 1:57 pm

    I think getting caught up in the issue of whether an embryo has a soul or not is a mistake. Personally, I think just about everything has a soul (rocks, trees, animals, humans … and yes, embryos). Maybe that’s more Shinto than Mormon. But I’m not so sure about that.

    Some people seem to be concluding that if you kill a body embodied by a spirit that you’ve committed murder. I’m not sure I accept that. I suppose that is often true but I don’t think always.

    I guess for me its more an issue of development than of ensoulment. Just a thought.

  171. J. Stapley on December 9, 2004 at 2:08 pm

    danithew� �I suppose that is often true but I don’t think always.�

    True, war and capitol punishment are often debated as exceptions (though many will say that it is still murder).

    However, would you not agree that intentionally sending a spirit to spirit prison is morally wrong? Everything besides humans (plants, animals, etc.) don’t carry the same prohibition. Though I’m not sure plants and animals have spirits in the way we do, but that is a discussion for a different thread.

  172. Christina on December 9, 2004 at 2:11 pm

    Thanks Adam and Glen. You are both uncomfortable with IVF, so now I wonder how the Brethren feel about it. The only information I could find, I am not privy to Book 1 of the Handbook, came from an internet search on the subject. Apparently on page 75 of Book 1, reads, “In vitro fertilization using semen other than that of the husband or an egg (from anyone) other than the wife is discouraged. However, this is a personal matter that ultimately must be left to the judgment of the husband and wife.” Pretty vague

    Christina (same person as post 159, just noticed there may be at least another Chris on this blog)

  173. danithew on December 9, 2004 at 2:13 pm

    Intentionally sending a spirit to “spirit prison” (I’m not overly fond of that term) is not always wrong.

  174. J. Stapley on December 9, 2004 at 2:15 pm

    “…is not always wrong.”

    When, my I ask, is it?

    I know “spirit prison” is goofy. Any recommendation for another appellation?…paradise/hell, purgatory?

  175. danithew on December 9, 2004 at 2:26 pm

    J. Stapley,

    You’re asking when it is ok to intentionally send a soul to spirit prison (I’ll continue to use this term because we know what it means — I’m just not crazy about it is all I meant to say).

    I think that also could be a discussion for another thread but I think, in a regulated and ethical fashion, sending some embryo souls to spirit prison would be justifiable.

  176. J. Stapley on December 9, 2004 at 2:36 pm

    …in a regulated and ethical fashion, sending some embryo souls to spirit prison would be justifiable.

    First let me say that I don’t believe that destroying embryos is sending spirits to spirit prison, but if it was, I cannot see how it could be justified – hence I think it is important.

    If you have already explained this (I have read most of the thread) just point me in the right direction. If not, please elucidate how it would be justified. Moreover, would the same be true for newborns?

  177. danithew on December 9, 2004 at 2:37 pm

    Besides ensoulment or potential ensoulment, the other reason that people have used for not destroying an embryo is because it is human. If something is human then automatically it should not be destroyed? I don’t think humanity by itself is characteristic that should deter the destruction of the embryo.

    Again, to me, it’s much less about soul or humanness and more about overall stage of development. If the embryo has developed and has limbs or “differentiated organs” (thanks Adam, I like that term) then I’m much more hesitant about its destruction. If it does not have limbs or differentiated organs (at the earliest stage of development) — then for certain very specific altruistic scientific reasons I’m ok with the embryo being destroyed.

  178. Ed Enochs on December 9, 2004 at 3:01 pm

    danithew,

    You said, “I don’t think humanity by itself is characteristic that should deter the destruction of the embryo.”

    “Again, to me, it’s much less about soul or humanness and more about overall stage of development. If the embryo has developed and has limbs or “differentiated organsâ€? (thanks Adam, I like that term) then I’m much more hesitant about its destruction. If it does not have limbs or differentiated organs (at the earliest stage of development) – then for certain very specific altruistic scientific reasons I’m ok with the embryo being destroyed. ”

    I am very uncomfortable and concerned with your thesis. It is very indistinguisable with that of people who believe the mentally or physically challenged are less than human. The arguments you are making are the same ones made in Europe and Euthanasia about the quality of life of a person and their pragmatic functionality within a given society being the determining factor if they should be deemed worthy to live.

    Essentially you are saying it is ok to murder people and that you get to decide when a person should be able to live or not.

    What about people who are born without limbs are they any less than human then you?

    What if a person is born deaf, mute and blind, do they pass your test of being worthy to live?

    There is no difference with a person being one day old in their mother’s womb and 9 months. All human beings are precious in the sight of God and worthy of protection since they cannot protect themselves. I do not believe it is left to you to decide when a human being deserves to be considered for protection.

  179. Kristine on December 9, 2004 at 3:18 pm

    Christina, the passage you cite is, in fact, the only thing in the handbook on IVF. So, the policy on IVF is a non-policy, and it seems pretty clear that Matt and Adam’s discomfort is wholly their own, and not shared by the brethren. In fact, IVF is a common technique, and many Mormons who feel a strong desire to obey the commandment to “be fruitful” could not do so without this technology. Seems like IVF is something to be glad about.

  180. danithew on December 9, 2004 at 3:19 pm

    Ed, it’s alright. We’re going to disagree. I don’t think a one-day old “person” is the same as a nine-month old person. You do.

    It’s taken a lot of writing on this thread for me to develop my thoughts more fully on this matter but I’m satisfied now with my position on the matter.

    In his essay “Politics and the English Language” George Orwell gave the following rules for good writing:

    1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
    2. Never us a long word where a short one will do.
    3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
    4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
    5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
    6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

    I’ve probably broken all these rules but I want to apologize for the instances where I broke the sixth and said things that were “outright barbarous.”

    Here’s a link to the essay if anyone is interested:

    http://www.resort.com/~prime8/Orwell/patee.html

  181. Adam Greenwood on December 9, 2004 at 3:21 pm

    Danithew,
    I think I’m going to have to drop out of this discussion. For the reasons pointed out by Ed Enochs and J. Stapley, you’re advocating views that pass the limit for what I’m willing to calmly discuss. You seem to be saying that complexity is the important moral criterion, not humanity, and I can’t stomach that.

  182. danithew on December 9, 2004 at 3:27 pm

    Adam, complexity in a sense to me is what makes a human being human. Maybe that also helps to explain my position a little more.

  183. Kaimi on December 9, 2004 at 3:29 pm

    Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with danithew’s position specifically, it seems that he’s engaging in the trade-offs that create hard ethical questions, and his position is a utilitarian position, while some of the commenters seem to be strong Kantians.

    It’s a version of the old, “is it allowed to kill one person to save three people” kind of question. The Kantian says that it’s not. The utilitarian says that it is.

    Danithew’s formulation isn’t the only possible utilitarian analysis, but it’s one reasonable one. We don’t know if these embryos are going to develop; we do know that the living adult person needs their cells to survive; we make the utilitarian judgment call. Again, it’s not the only possible utilitarian formulation, but it’s one logically consistent one.

    And it’s not surprising that the two sides are at an impasse — Kantian views are fundamentally incompatible with utilitarian views.

  184. Kristine on December 9, 2004 at 3:33 pm

    danithew, I’ve always thought everyone who writes anything in English should read that essay at least once a year. Thanks for the link!

  185. danithew on December 9, 2004 at 3:35 pm

    Kristine, I love that essay. Kaimi, thanks for the elegant summation. I’d be interested in hearing other utilitarian formations (I’m sure I could be more refined in my overall thinking) but I’m sure I’m not the only one too weary to continue much on this thread.

  186. Ed Enochs on December 9, 2004 at 3:45 pm

    “Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”

    Deuteronomy 30:19

    For me all that matters is what God thinks and I believe God would have us peserve life rather than destroy.

  187. Clark on December 9, 2004 at 3:57 pm

    Ed, the issue isn’t just life but a living soul who has been granted the breath of life (Gen 2:7). Using Dt 30:19 to speak to life in general seems quite acontextual.

    I’d add to J Stapley that the Church’s treatment of the stillborn is rather significant in all this.

    Adam: Clark argues that God’s silence means that embryo’s aren’t human.

    I didn’t say that. I said that it indicates God isn’t concerned if we destroy them. By your definition I think them human. I just don’t think they are a human being. i.e. a living soul. And I say that because of faith that God would not let so many faithful Mormons murder ignorantly along with the other arguments by silence. Argument by silence are somewhat weak arguments, of course, but I think in this case they are far stronger than the opposite view.

  188. J. Stapley on December 9, 2004 at 4:26 pm

    Clark: Thanks for the call out to #161 – I would love to hear what the church position is.

    As a non sequitur – do Catholics and Evengelicals believe that the ~60% or so conceptions that auto-abort go to hell (their obviously not saved or baptized)?

  189. Adam Greenwood on December 9, 2004 at 6:19 pm
  190. danithew on December 9, 2004 at 7:02 pm

    Adam,

    That’s an interesting article. I’m not sure it would ultimately support either your opinions or mine. What it does show is just how desperate people with spinal cords are for some kind of relief and improvement in their condition. One of the main examples provided by that article is of a man who is pro-life and from Texas but he still shows up for a treatment of aborted baby cells. Sounds like someone who is desperately in need of help and treatment. Here’s the excerpt I’m talking about:

    Among them is Van Golden, a Christian, anti-abortion Texan who has sold his house so that he can travel to communist, atheist China and have Huang inject a million cells from the nasal area of a foetus into his spine. According to Golden’s doctors, his spine was damaged beyond repair in a car crash last Christmas. The damage to his nervous system was so bad that he has been in a wheelchair and racked by spasms ever since. But Golden refused to give up, even if it meant having to compromise his values. “This is the only place that offered us any hope,” he says. “Everyone else offered only to help make me sufficient in that chair. But the chair is not my destiny. It is not ordained.”

  191. danithew on December 9, 2004 at 7:03 pm

    Scuse me. I meant to write “just how desperate people with spinal cord injuries are” (not merely desperate because they have spinal cords). :)

  192. Matt Evans on December 9, 2004 at 8:49 pm

    I missed out on much of the discussion, but have some thoughts to add.

    To me, IVF isn’t inherently troublesome, it’s only the creation of more embryos than one is willing to implant that bothers me. Because of its respect for the embryo, Germany requires parents to create no more embryos than they will use.

    Danithew (and other utilitarians),

    The problem with your position is that it’s not covered by the traditional “sacrifice one life, save three” formulation. Embryos aren’t being destroyed to save lives, they’re being destroyed for scientific research. No one knows if that research will bear fruit, and no one knows that adult stem cells won’t be equally effective.

    The most important problem raised by the beginning of life issue, which so far no one who subscribes to it has offered, is when, if not fertilization, does a human organism become a human being, yet still account for the moral equality of man. If an embryonic human being has less moral worth than you do, it seems impossible to avoid the implication that humans that are more like embryos than you are are morally less than you are. In other words, a significant question to consider when weighing the grievousness of a murder would be to determine the victim’s intelligence, size, development, and their number of functioning limbs. True utilitarians like Peter Singer think this is absolutely correct — that of course it’s worse to kill a talented adult than a diapered toddler.

    I’ll wait for your response before pushing your logic further.

  193. Matt Evans on December 9, 2004 at 9:00 pm

    Several people have wondered about the church’s position on temple sealings. The Handbook says this on the entry for Stillborn Children:

    Stillborn Children (Children Who Die before Birth)

    Grieving parents whose child dies before birth should be given emotional and spiritual support. Temple ordinances are not performed for stillborn children. However, this does not deny the possibility that a stillborn child may be part of the family in the eternities. Parents are encouraged to trust the Lord to resolve such cases in the way He knows is best. The family may record the name of a stillborn child on the family group record followed by the word stillborn in parentheses. Memorial or graveside services may be held as determined by the parents.

    It is a fact that a child has life before birth. However, there is no direct revelation on when the spirt enters the body.

    The statement makes clear that they do not want their current policy of not performing temple ordinances for children who die before birth to be interpreted as precluding the possibility that the deceased child was a child in the full sense.

  194. J. Stapley on December 9, 2004 at 9:07 pm

    �Memorial or graveside services may be held as determined by the parents.�

    I wonder how many have been “sealed up” until the resurrection?

  195. J. Stapley on December 9, 2004 at 9:15 pm

    After rereading that bit on stillborn babies (thanks Matt), one is almost lead to believe that the parents attitude determines whether that spirit moves on to spirit prison or gets another shot. Quite fascinating!

    If that is true, it would throw an interesting light onto the debate.

  196. danithew on December 9, 2004 at 9:54 pm

    If an embryonic human being has less moral worth than you do, it seems impossible to avoid the implication that humans that are more like embryos than you are are morally less than you are.

    I can avoid that implication. I really can. It’s easy.

    I’m willing to take a utilitarian attitude towards creatures that are microscopic or almost microscopic in comparison to me. Those who don’t like what I’m saying keep trying to shift the argument towards talking about preemies or babies or a child or mentally disabled people or people who lack limbs or people who are paralyzed. I don’t take the logic to that kind of an extreme. I’m not Peter Singer. And if being a “real utilitarian” means that you have to be like Peter Singer then I’m happy to drop that label. For one thing, I really really like to eat meat.

    One of the factors that I’ve tried to make clear is that I would want these experiments to be done with embryos that are newly fertilized eggs or very nearly newly fertilized eggs. Hopefully this experiment involves a microscope and a really itty-bitty-bitty knife (high pitched voice). Adam Greenwood talked about complexity. In my opinion an embryo probably becomes complex fairly quickly — at which point I’m not interested in the experiment taking place anymore. It’s a narrow window that science can ethically destroy an embryo for the purpose of stem-cell research. I don’t know how much time scientists are waiting (after the egg is fertilized) before conducting these kinds of experiments, but I’m kind of hoping its just a few weeks at most. If the embryo starts getting much larger than a period at the end of a sentence or develops human features then my feelings about the matter start to change rapidly.

    Maybe scientists don’t know for sure if the experiments will really lead to a cure. But if the scientists are reasonably sure that they are heading down a productive route towards a cure, then I think they should exhaust that possibility. If at any point they are playing games or not really doing good research, then I would hope the experiments would stop. Remember, I’m not supporting the destruction of embryos for amusement or recreation but because there is hope that research could lead to cures for serious injuries and diseases.

  197. Jonathan Green on December 9, 2004 at 10:53 pm

    Adam, I’ve read all the arguments, and I don’t think anything is going to convince me that one-, two-, or 32-cell zygotes should be treated just like really, really tiny preemies. For me, babies are babies and deserve superhuman amounts of care and attention, while globules are not and don’t. With most of our children, once the “settlement OK!” flag goes up, there has been a month that ends in a heavy period before any claims get staked for good. (The other one was a sooner; what can I say?) It’s even a little bit sad when it happens. But have I ever had the feeling that some member of our family came and went like a meteor in the night? No way.

    The problem is that prematurely interrupted pregnancies lie on a sliding scale that reaches all the way from inconsequential to tragic and abominable. I respect your position and commend you for it, but the loss of small clumps of cells doesn’t trouble me, whether by spontaneous miscarriage or by IUD or by stem cell research. I pretty much agree with what Danithew just said.

    On the other hand, while the early stages of pregnancy don’t strike me as terribly inspiring, the whole process fills me with awe. If one points to a globule and says, “It’s human!” I’ll just shrug my shoulders and let my jaw go slack. But if someone were to say that the creation of life is a miraculous process that should not be tampered with by mere mortals, and especially should not be interrupted to satisfy mere scientific curiosity, well, then I’d have to think a long time about it.

  198. Clark on December 9, 2004 at 11:34 pm

    J. Stapley suggested that the position on stillborns suggests that the parent’s attitude determines things. I don’t think that is probably what is meant. I suspect it is more in reference to truly distraught women and means of comforting them.

  199. J. Stapley on December 9, 2004 at 11:42 pm

    Clark: Of course, I think that you are correct, but I couldn’t help poking at the ambivalency.

  200. Matt Evans on December 9, 2004 at 11:51 pm

    Hi Danithew (Comment 190),

    Because human embryos self-develop into creatures capable of writing Shakespeare, I don’t think it’s correct to say human embryos aren’t “complex.” Imagine the complexity of engineering a device the size of a period that builds itself into a machine capable of building bridges and rockets (or even animals capable of digging dens and damming rivers).

    The reason other commenters and I are pushing your definition with questions about preemies and the disabled is because you’ve argued that moral worth is a matter of degree, not kind. I raised this point with you back in comment 25, but I don’t know that you responded to it. Rather than rewrite it, I’ll just paste it in here:

    The challenge for the position you laid out becomes trying to identify what it is that gives human organisms their moral worth, and gives it to each of them equally. If we use an attribute that we gain by degree, like intelligence or consciousness, then it’s hard to explain why those with greater intelligence or consciousness aren’t more equal than those with less. If there’s a threshold intelligence, above which all human organisms are morally equal, this position, besides not being very logical (thresholds are unnatural), raises the problem of trying to figure out if the threshold is so high that even infants or toddlers aren’t human beings, or if it’s so low that even cocker spaniels are human beings. There aren’t many qualities a human newborn has to a greater degree than mature animals of other species, except for the most obvious – a human newborn is a human organism with limitless potential, just like a human embryo.

  201. Clark on December 10, 2004 at 12:03 am

    Because human embryos self-develop into creatures capable of writing Shakespeare,

    Not to be pedantic, but they don’t so self-develop unless you are a thorough-going naturalist. Otherwise there is that all so crucial step of the breath of life…

    Exactly what a human organism without a spirit would be, I can’t say, but I suspect it would be akin to a person with severe brain damage, and thus quite unable to perform as we consider a human being to be able to perform.

  202. Matt Evans on December 10, 2004 at 12:10 am

    Hi Jonathan (Comment 191),

    It’s important that we not determine the question of the embryos status by referencing our impressions on the matter (“loss of small clumps of cells doesn’t trouble me”). Our assumptions about the moral worth of different entities is largely a function of our culture, so it is not surprising that most people raised in a culture that teaches that human embryos are small little cells aren’t troubled when they’re lost. This has been true in every instance of disputed humanity. William Lloyd Garrison, the passionate abolitionist, was regularly taunted with jeers about human equality. His opponents in peanut-gallery debates would say that Garrison thought a black girl was as valuable as a white girl and, everyone knowing that was patently absurd, win the debate. At the time, people genuinely weren’t troubled at the death of a black child. They weren’t trying to be calloused; they really didn’t believe anyone could think that black children were human beings in the same way their children were. Unfortunately, that same debate has played out in much the same way for too many classes of people. (Women, Indians, Jews, gypsies, and the handicapped, to name five.)

    We must be very cautious about basing a judgment against a disputed class of humanity on our feelings about the class. Our feelings are likely a source of the problem.

    I would also be interested in your response to my blockquote in comment 194.

  203. Matt Evans on December 10, 2004 at 12:14 am

    Hi Clark (Comment 195),

    But if we assume that even the most mentally deficient people have spirits, doesn’t that show that the presence of a spirit doesn’t ensure mental capacity? In other words, is the fact that human embryos have no observable mental ability reason to believe they don’t have spirits?

  204. David King Landrith on December 10, 2004 at 12:15 am

    Matt Evans Because human embryos self-develop into creatures capable of writing Shakespeare

    I don’t know that embryos do self-develop. Specifically, the blastocyst cannot do anything until it implants in the endometrium. You identify the distinction between the pre-implantation the post-implatation blastocyst above. But it seems that the statement I cite above ignores the important question is whether implantation triggers viability or assists it.

    At any rate, perhaps stem cell research is part of the divine plan. Who’s to say that stem cells aren’t an essential ingredient in the perfected body. Maybe the resurrection will consist of re-animating corpses with stem cells. Will tissue extracted from abortions be the raw material that fuels the millennium?

    On an entirely separate note, I’m always surprised when Mormons express a kind of regret or even frustration that the church doesn’t provide a guideline in some area (be it with stem cells or regarding something as trivial as colas). Mormonism, as a religion, simply isn’t very strict. Aside from some a few fairly basic things (essentially: being chaste, heterosexual, tithe paying home/visiting teachers who avoid alcohol and coffee), there simply aren’t a lot of rules.

  205. Adam Greenwood on December 10, 2004 at 12:23 am

    The only cut-off line I see here in ensoulment. Complexity doesn’t do it because complexity isn’t some kind of binary quality, in which a thing is either simple or complex, and that’s it. There are degrees of “complexity” which, as Matt Evans points out, means that some more complex people are worth more than others. There is no such thing as moral equality. And certainly things other than people can be extremely complex. So it’s no longer true that only Man is just lower than the Angels.

  206. Clark on December 10, 2004 at 12:33 am

    Matt, regarding my comment about mental deficiency, I was going on the assumption that some mental deficiency is because the brain/spirit interface isn’t working and so thinking doesn’t proceed normally.

    I’d note, for the record, that I keep being honestly confused by your comments as if I take them seriously I wonder what use exactly you think the spirit is for a human being. i.e. what does a spirit do?

    I recognize your argument is that mental illness doesn’t establish much, and I’d agree. I was more questioning what a body without a spirit would be like – which was the thrust of my clone argument as well.

  207. danithew on December 10, 2004 at 12:45 am

    Matt, I’ve stated what I think pretty clearly about thresholds (as you put it). If you want to insist on equating embryos with newborns or cocker spaniels with humans, that’s your choice. If you read what I wrote carefully, there’s no possibility you could think that’s my approach or my reasoning.

    I don’t think I’ve discussed the principle of comparative intelligence all that much, if at all, as a factor in determining whether one creature has greater moral value than another creature. I talked about development and by development I meant physiological development. Jonathan Green understood what I was talking about when he mentions one-celled, two-celled or 32-celled zygotes. The use of the word complexity to me was just another way of saying the same thing. A one-celled or two-celled creature is not as physiologically complex as a human baby or human adult.

    I don’t think intelligence or talent or best imaginable potential should be weighed much in determining the value of embryos. That kind of imaginary thinking leads to gross exaggeration of the worth of the embryo. Better to focus decision-making on the present reality than an imaginable outcome.

  208. Matt Evans on December 10, 2004 at 1:18 am

    Hi David King Landrith (Comment 198),

    Embryos self-develop in the same way all organisms self-develop. They unfold and build themselves with materials they take from their environment. Like all other organisms, embryos need nourishment, and under present technology the only way embryos can receive nourishment is through a woman’s womb.

  209. Matt Evans on December 10, 2004 at 1:22 am

    Hi Clark (Comment 200),

    I think a body without a spirit is a dead body. That’s why I believe living human embryos have spirits. The spirit is the force that governs the building of the body.

  210. Matt Evans on December 10, 2004 at 1:38 am

    Hi Danithew (Comment 201),

    Thanks for answering my questions. I hope you didn’t think I was being obnoxious; all of my questions have been sincere.

    If human embryos have less moral worth than newborns because they are less physiologically complex, doesn’t that mean that newborns have less moral worth than teens because they are less physiologically complex? (Several physiological systems, including the brain and nervous system, reproductive system, digestive system, and sight organs, aren’t nearly as developed or complex as they are in post-pubescents. )

    And to add another twist and ask a second question, why doesn’t a more physiologically complex cocker spaniel have greater moral worth than a less physiologically complex human newborn?

  211. Clark on December 10, 2004 at 2:07 am

    Force that governs the building of the body? I don’t understand what you mean. Exactly what part of the building of the body that can’t be explained by chemistry and DNA?

  212. greenfrog on December 10, 2004 at 2:15 am

    A series of responses to a number of Matt Evans’ Herculean corpus on this thread:

    Matt Evans #63

    The question of when life begins may be fruitless, but I hope you agree that it’s critically important. Because we’re commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves, it’s essential to know who your neighbors are.

    You make versions of this point in several places, but each time, I’m confused by it. As I understand your point, it is essential not because we must know who our neighbors are, but rather who they aren’t — we must know to whom (or, in this case, to what) we can do whatever we want, free of ethical constraints. As I understand this point, it is that it’s ok to do whatever you want to your non-neighbors. To my mind, this implies that there is a negative answer to the question “who is your neighbor?â€? I don’t think that the parable of the good Samaritan (from which I understand this articulation to be drawn) justifies a conclusion of “not-neighborâ€? under any circumstance. Indeed, IIRC, Jesus never suggests the identity of a “not-neighbor.â€?

    The only way to know the boundaries of our neighborhood, so to speak, is to learn when a life, which we know can end, begins.

    Why do you believe this distinction to be valuable, if not to permit you to act without compunction with regard to those you’ve classed as “not neighbor”s?

    Our duties surrounding parenthood are inextricably linked to the moral status of the developing human organism. Women don’t have parental duties toward their eggs, they have parental duties toward their children.

    On what doctrinal basis do you reach this conclusion? Is there a scriptural or other authoritative basis upon which we rely for the conclusion that women are not responsible for their unfertilized eggs? Or that men are not responsible for their egg-less sperm? Is an unfertilized egg a moral failure? This seems to me to be a priori reasoning, not the sort of ethical extension of currently understood doctrine it is advertised to be.

    We can’t speak of parenthood without first knowing who is a parent (and by extension, what is a child.

    I would modify the statement slightly: We don’t speak of parenthood without first deciding who is a parent (and by extension) what is a child. But deciding doesn’t equal knowing. You seem to presuppose knowledge, but do not footnote your sources for such conclusions. It seems to me, rather, that we make those decisions based on subjective values, which may be influenced by, but are clearly not entirely dependent upon, objective facts.

  213. greenfrog on December 10, 2004 at 2:25 am

    Biology

    Why should we think that a stem cell taken from a mass of embryonic cells and implanted in an Alzheimer’s patient’s brain where it grows and develops is somehow “dead�? Does it not live?

    Matt Evans #94

    …There is no middle ground here (either we’re destroying human beings or we’re preventing valuable research) so neutrality feels inappropriate here.

    There is no middle ground unless, of course, there is. Do you mean that you can think of no middle ground? Or that you dislike all the intermediate positions in preference for your preferred one? There is only a dichotomy if you start from a premise that yields a dichotomy.

    …I don’t think it’s proper to destroy embryos until we at least know that embryos are not full children of God…

    Since the stem cells continue living in many of the circumstances postulated for their future use, it appears that you distinguish between the stem cells that are caused, by the chemical reactions around them, to develop and differentiate into more complexly organized entities, and those stem cells that are caused, by the chemical reactions around them, to develop into replacement neurons for Alzheimers’ patients. Why?

    Will your thinking change once technology is sufficiently well developed to take a stem cell from an adult human and cause it to develop into an embryo? Or would that make things worse? (FWIW, while what I’ve outlined is not possible with present technology, it seems rather obviously likely a bit further down the paths we’re currently walking.) What position would the Church leaders then be forced to take, especially if they were to have previously adopted the set of principles you’ve espoused here?

    Generally, you’ve argued that a fertilized egg should be privileged because of its potential. Once technology extends the same potential to all cells, would you afford all of those cells the same privilege?

    Regarding the significance of an embryo, iIt seems passingly strange to me to suppose that my spirit should be understood to have meaningfully been embodied in a blastocyte of a few thousand cells. No one has any illusions, right, that if my brain and brain stem were reduced to a few thousand cells, even if kept alive by the right mix of nutrients, fluids and conditions, that they wouldn’t be the greenfrog posting here with (hopefully) a few billion brain cells?

    For those who would prefer to posit an earlier embodiment, what do you suppose your spirit to be? If it is embodied in an embryo of a million or so cells, it surely cannot be an entity capable of self-awareness and moral agency. So what less than that is it supposed to be?

    And, while it may seem a bit far afield of this discussion, it is far from inconceivable that we will shortly (100 years? less?) have the capability of “improving� the genome of non-human species to attain conditions that we would be willing to recognize as sentience, even if we currently refuse to acknowledge less degrees of those characteristics in the non-human species around us. Accepting, for the sake of argument, that bonobos are not currently moral agents, what additional factors would we agree to be required before we would accept them as moral agents?

    Matt Evans #125
    The line marking our start as a distinct human organism isn’t arbitrary. Fertilization is when our bodies start. An egg and a sperm aren’t the same thing as an embryo.

    Other than your word for it, why should I agree with your assertion? I say that a viable egg and a viable sperm in proximity are the same thing as an embryo. On what basis do you claim me to be wrong?

    Take a horse egg with sperm cells around it. If one of those sperm cells unites with the egg, it will form a thoroughbred chestnut mare. Another sperm will create a thoroughbred stallion. Another sperm will create a long-eared mule. And so on. Upon fertilization, the embryo is a thoroughbred mare, or a stallion, or a long-eared mule. That’s why embryologists say that our life begins at fertilization. The first, single cell is the first time we are who we are.

    All of “who we are� was present in the specific egg and the specific sperm before they united. Is it the randomness of the product of such random unions that you wish to avoid considering?

  214. greenfrog on December 10, 2004 at 2:32 am

    Acting upon silence – the negative inference

    Adam Greenwood #146

    There are too kinds of arguments from ignorance here.

    Matt Evans says that, if we are unsure whether we’re acting to kill a person or not, we should not kill.

    You say that, if God has left us unsure on the morality of something, we should assume its moral (because otherwise God would not leave us unsure). Matt Evans argument is far more plausible. Here and elsewhere, you’ve never explained why you think God would never leave a matter of major importance to us to figure out.

    It seems to me that God frequently leaves matters of major importance to us to figure out. Why should we suppose that morality is co-terminous with the outer edges of already-given commandments? What of “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves�? If the Lord concludes that it is not meet that we be commanded in all things, shouldn’t we conclude that we are obligated to endeavor as Matt is doing: trying to discern right and wrong for ourselves?

    If we are really moral agents, and I believe we are, then the argument from ignorance should never be sufficient – no matter which side it is offered to support.

    Matt Evans #186

    Danithew (and other utilitarians),
    The problem with your position is that it’s not covered by the traditional “sacrifice one life, save three� formulation. Embryos aren’t being destroyed to save lives, they’re being destroyed for scientific research. No one knows if that research will bear fruit, and no one knows that adult stem cells won’t be equally effective.

    So the calculus is more difficult and includes probabilities. Have your views been mischaracterized as Kantian? Would you accept destruction of viable embryos (or even the artificial curtailment of lives of non-viable embryos) if you were assured that the action would simply improve the life of an existing person? Is there any Kantian reason to suppose that extending three lives by 10 years each is worth the sacrifice of an embryo that otherwise would be expected to live 70 years?

    The most important problem raised by the beginning of life issue, which so far no one who subscribes to it has offered, is when, if not fertilization, does a human organism become a human being, yet still account for the moral equality of man. If an embryonic human being has less moral worth than you do, it seems impossible to avoid the implication that humans that are more like embryos than you are are morally less than you are. In other words, a significant question to consider when weighing the grievousness of a murder would be to determine the victim’s intelligence, size, development, and their number of functioning limbs. True utilitarians like Peter Singer think this is absolutely correct – that of course it’s worse to kill a talented adult than a diapered toddler.

    Your point is that equal treatment should depend upon a single criterion. But whether the criterion chosen is birth, an unbirthed fetus, an embryo, a blastocyte, or the viable egg and the viable sperm in sufficient proximity to complete the process — if it weren’t for the damned condom — doesn’t the selection of that criterion always become arbitrary? We’ve decided that anything of a different species is not a neighbor, so we can deem it property, kill it and eat it at our pleasure without compunction. What justification for that line? Well, God ordered sacrifice. But did God order sacrifice of sentient beings? Or do we argue from silence?

    Ought we not always seek greater light and knowledge? It seems to me that of all faiths out there, we should be the most hesitant to draw conclusions from silence, particularly as we teach our children to recite a credo regarding the many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of heaven yet to be revealed. Is it not possible that some of those things, once revealed, will make our current understandings seem barbaric?

  215. Jeremy on December 10, 2004 at 2:33 am

    I’m of the opinion that sooner or later every thread benefits from a repitition of that beloved Hugh B. Brown quote: “Do not have the temerity to dogmatize about issues on which the Lord has seen fit to remain silent.”

    I think this disagreement is fueled in part by differing tolerences for shades of gray. Forgive the meandering analogy (I’m in the middle of grading 120 final exams), but…

    At one pole, there are those who see their mortal probation as a scan-tron exam, a series of clear questions with unambiguously correct answers; naturally, since they’re looking for the one right answer to each question, they don’t want to hear that there aren’t clear-cut answers to some of the questions. At the other extreme are those who see life as a series of rather open-ended essay questions, more subjective or situational in nature; for them the path they take to their conclusion might be as important as the conclusion itself.

    Most of us fall somewhere between these two extremes. I personally feel that our probation concerns how we reconcile these sorts of things: perfect gospel applied to an imperfect world, clear-cut commandments vs. fuzzy-edged realities–even a ward or mission area that runs smoothly in the manual but is an intractable (no pun intended) mess in the real world. I suppose I lean somewhat towards the essay-answer side, so I don’t have a problem with an ambiguous or even conflicted statement from the First Presidency about stem cells. In fact, I find it faith-promoting to hear the brethren say, in so many words, “Yeah, that’s a tough one, huh? We’re still thinking about it. We’ll let you know if we come up with anything.”

    Frankly, I think the ambiguity of the statement reflects the ambiguity of the question. Are things really so pixelated that one moment it isn’t a person and the next it is? How long does “ensoulment take”? A couple of seconds? Isn’t it conceivable that the premortal dovetails with the mortal (like the mortal seems to with the postmortal in so many cases, regardless of what clock time the doc puts on the death certificate)?

    The phrase “err on the side of caution” has come up a few times, but that takes us nowhere: who’s to say what side caution is on in this case? On the one hand, embryos are at risk of destruction; on the other hand, a large enough portion of the scientific community has expressed optimism about stem cell research that it would be reckless to dismiss outright its potential for saving lives. I can conceive of God being angry about the destruction of embryos, but I can just as easily picture God being outraged that we didn’t cure cancer or diabetes when we had the chance.

    Perhaps my biggest concern is when our determination to separate the gray into black and white distracts us from attending to situations in which are obligation is clear-cut. An article in the NYT today reports that over a billion children–the majority of the children in the world–live in extreme poverty; 26000 children die every day of preventable causes. The cost of relieving global poverty is estimated at a mere $40 -$70 billion (a drop in the economic bucket, frankly), but somehow we can’t come up with it. Now, I don’t mean to imply that anyone here, on either side of the issue, is doing less than anybody else to address this problem — in fact I feel that many in my own political camp have their priorities screwed up in terms of what’s at the top of the to-do list. All I’m saying is it seems clear that on some issues our mandate from above is perfectly unambiguous are we’re still slow to action.

    Finally (wow, sorry for the soap-box ramble), I want to also express concern about Matt’s tone — the primary class I taught last week to my 10-yea-olds included the part where Moroni frets about getting mocked for his lousy writing. Unpaid interns in the communications department?! Boneheaded?! Why can’t you just respectfully disagree, for goodness sakes?

  216. Matt Evans on December 10, 2004 at 2:36 am

    Hi Clark (Comment 205),

    I think all of the complexity surrounding life, even those processes where we’ve identified intermediate causes, like chemistry and DNA, are guided by the spirit. But to specifically address your question, embryologists are currently stymied by cell differentiation. In the first series of cell divisions, the original embryo divides itself into smaller cells (the mass of the embryo won’t grow until it attaches to the womb and receives nourishment) that are all identical. Around the fourth day, I believe, the cells differentiate into ectoderm (what will become the brain, nervous system, and skin), endoderm (stomach and intestines) and mesoderm (muscles and most internal organs). Scientists can’t figure out how the cells know which of them are to turn into which part — their DNA and coding are identical. But something beyond that identical coding guides them to function as a system, and not merely as a collection of identical cells. I believe it the spirit governs the system, and the processes of life.

  217. greenfrog on December 10, 2004 at 2:37 am

    Matt Evans # 196

    It’s important that we not determine the question of the embryos status by referencing our impressions on the matter (“loss of small clumps of cells doesn’t trouble me”). Our assumptions about the moral worth of different entities is largely a function of our culture, so it is not surprising that most people raised in a culture that teaches that human embryos are small little cells aren’t troubled when they’re lost.

    So should we want God to draw us a line to define “not-neighbors� to alleviate our moral responsibility to make that decision for ourselves as we look hungrily toward your cocker spaniel?

    This has been true in every instance of disputed humanity.

    No, it hasn’t. There are a number of responsible, thinking people who would tell you that any meaningful definition of “humanity� includes other sentient species that humans still eat for dinner. Much of your argument seems intended to permit that continued rejection of humanity, so long as they aren’t classified as “neighbors� under the Samaritan’s rubric.

    Watch:

    William Lloyd Garrison, the passionate abolitionist, was regularly taunted with jeers about human equality.

    Dian Fossey, the passionate primatologist, was regularly taunted with jeers about gorilla and chimpanzee equality to humans.

    His opponents in peanut-gallery debates would say that Garrison thought a black girl was as valuable as a white girl and, everyone knowing that was patently absurd, win the debate.

    Her opponents in peant-gallery debates would say that Fossey thought a gorilla cub was as valuable as a human child and, everyone knowing that was patently absurd, win the debate.

    At the time, people genuinely weren’t troubled at the death of a black child.

    At the time, people genuinely weren’t troubled at the death of a gorilla cub.

    They weren’t trying to be calloused; they really didn’t believe anyone could think that black children were human beings in the same way their children were.

    They weren’t trying to be calloused; they really didn’t believe anyone could think that gorilla cubs were meaningfully human in the same way that Homo sapiens children were.

    Unfortunately, that same debate has played out in much the same way for too many classes of people. (Women, Indians, Jews, gypsies, and the handicapped, to name five.)

    Unfortunately, that same debate has played out in much the same way for too many classes of people. (Chimps, bonobos, cetaceans, women, Indians, Jews, gypsies, and the handicapped, to name eight.)

    We must be very cautious about basing an judgment against a disputed class of humanity on our feelings about the class. Our feelings are likely a source of the problem.

    We must be very cautious about basing a judgment against a disputed class of humanity on our feelings about the class. Our feelings are likely a source of the problem.

    I would also be interested in your response to my blockquote in comment 194.

    Guess what I’m interested in.

  218. Clark on December 10, 2004 at 3:07 am

    Greenfrog raises an excellent point. While he clearly has tongue in cheek, many animal rights groups also use very similar logic to Matt.

    I’ll complement Matt though, he’s beliefs are far more consistent than I expected them to be. He took consistent positions on spirits, IVF, and a lot of other things that clearly are controversial – far more controversial than his views on fetuses – and appears to stick with it. I think though that while we can’t convince Matt, that all these examples and questions would tend to make someone without any real opinion on the matter question Matt’s position.

    But really it comes down, not to Kant vs. Utilitarianism, but to where the burden of proof ends up. I think there are so many flags that ought to be raised that aren’t, that I think the burden is on Matt. And Matt can’t meet that burden. I don’t see any real evidence for believing a spirit is in a single cell. Of course Matt clearly thinks, because of the danger, that the burden is on those who say there isn’t a spirit. The cost of being wrong is so high that it is us, not he that have to explain things. And that is understandable and perhaps convincing to a lot of people.

    It just seems so inefficient for so many spirits to die before birth that I’m not sure I can buy it. It is as if 0.0001% of people make it to the age of accountability. (I’ve no idea what the actual figure of fertilized eggs make it to 8 – but I’m quite sure it is very small) I just can’t reconcile that with the plan of salvation as I understand it.

    So with that I’ll drop out, as I think we’ve all said nearly all that can be said at this point.

  219. Clark on December 10, 2004 at 3:09 am

    BTW – regarding the question of moral worth, I’d say that the moral worth of a body to a spirit is akin to the moral worth of organs. i.e. I think the argument regarding moral worth confuses parts with wholes. But that takes us back to the discussion we don’t agree upon, so it’s not that fruitful to head down that line.

  220. Matt Evans on December 10, 2004 at 3:44 am

    Hi Greenfrog (Comment 206),

    Welcome to my herculean corpus! I’m glad you bothered to read it. Turning to your comments:

    1. Examples of “not-neighbors” are white blood cells and carrot sprouts. They aren’t human beings and we don’t have to love them as ourselves. We don’t have the same ethical obligations to them as we do to children of God. For this reason it’s important to know if human embryos are children of God or simply cells like white blood cells.

    2. As for my assertion that women don’t have parental duties for their eggs, I admit that this is not church doctrine. But do you believe anyone has parental duties to their eggs or sperm? As far as I know, no one believes this.

    3. I think you’re right that deciding is a more accurate word in that context than knowing.

  221. Matt Evans on December 10, 2004 at 3:45 am

    Hi Greenfrog (Comment 207),

    1. A stem cell placed in an Alzheimer’s patient would still be alive. The problem is that the human organism from which it was harvested had to be killed in order to extract it.

    2. There’s no middle ground on the status of children of God. Everything in this world can be divided into two camps: things that are children of God (our equals), and things that aren’t. We can make finer gradations among things that aren’t children of God (dogs have more moral worth than defective hot dog packaging), but the world can still be divided into those binary groups.

    3. I think you’re confusing stem cells with embryos. Embryos are organisms capable of reproduction; stem cells aren’t. There’s no conceivable technology that will make all cells embryos or organisms. Cloning allows scientists to take the DNA from a cell and inject it into an egg, then add chemicals to make an embryo, but this doesn’t mean that the egg or the cell from which the DNA was culled were human organisms.

    4. I don’t understand your paragraphs about your hypothetical brainstem having only a few thousand cells. Please clarify.

    5. Who we are is not present in the egg and sperm separately. It is the combining of the two cells that creates a living organism. Before the horse egg and sperm unite, there is no thoroughbred and no mule. The horse or the mule that will exist after fertilization does not exist before the cells unite.

  222. Matt Evans on December 10, 2004 at 3:45 am

    Hi Greenfrog (Comment 208),

    1. I don’t believe we have to be commanded in all things. That’s why I’m showing that we should respect all human organisms even though God hasn’t commanded us to do so.

    2. I’m neither a strict Kantian nor utilitarian. I think wars are sometimes worth waging even if we know we’ll kill innocents in the process. We have very strict laws governing scientific research outlawing the sort of utilitarianism people are urging on this thread. Should people want to move in that direction, we should debate and change those laws so that our processes are transparent.

    3. The best criterion that anyone’s found to determine what entities are children of God is “human being.”

  223. Matt Evans on December 10, 2004 at 3:46 am

    Hi Jeremy,

    Thank you for taking a break from your exams to comment. I think the best way to respond to your post is with a thought experiment.

    Imagine the year is 1575, and you’re debating with a friend whether Africans and new world Indians are human beings or animals. Let’s say your friend isn’t really that interested in the debate, but when you persist, he complains that “there aren’t clear-cut answers” to these questions, and asserts that Indians and Africans are probably in some middle ground between men and beast; maybe Indians and Africans have half of a soul. You press the issue — you’re convinced Indians and Africans are children of God — but your friend can’t understand why you preoccupy yourself with unsolvable riddles. Why worry about all of Africans lying in chains on the bottom of your ship, when there are hungry children — real people — back in Spain?

    I don’t expect you to respond, my intent is just to offer a perspective that helps explain why I think this struggle is so important.

  224. Matt Evans on December 10, 2004 at 3:54 am

    Hi Greenfrog (Comment 211),

    There are no responsible, thinking people who think chickens or cows are human beings. Someone (not even Peter Singer believes this, but there’s probably someone, somewhere) might believe chickens have the same moral value as human beings, but they don’t think they are human beings.

    That goes for gorillas, and all other animals, too. Animal rights activist don’t claim any of them are human.

    Because of the gospel, we know that we have special responsibilities to God’s children, so it’s important to find out who his children are. We know that gorillas, chickens and trees are not God’s children. Their moral value does not equal ours. For us, the question is whether something is a human being, not whether someone who doesn’t accept the gospel thinks plants or beasts are as valuable as human beings. I would be interested in any cases where respectable people are arguing that a disputed class is human.

    Those arguing for a disputed class of humanity have never been wrong.

  225. Matt Evans on December 10, 2004 at 4:40 am

    Hi Clark (Comment 212),

    First of all, thank you for complimenting me on my consistency. I’ve worked a long time to understand how to fit the pieces together.

    For Mormons, I think you’re right that the main issue is ensoulment. In many ways my argument is more effective in secular settings because the spirit isn’t mentioned. To a secularist, a person is no more than their body, which begins at fertilization. So secularists have to pin human worth on a trait that varies by degree (thereby denying equality of moral worth) or recognize that the thing that gives us our special value is the infinite potential we have as members in this incredible species (and that potential exists from the time of fertilization). So they have to choose life at conception, or human equality. Sadly, I think more of them sacrifice their belief in our equal moral worth.

    Anyway, I do want to point out that the percentage you estimate living to age eight is probably not right. Someone earlier posted a source that estimated 50-60% of embryos don’t make it to the end of the second trimester. But the mortality rate after the second trimester is really low, probably less than 2%. Infant mortality rates are around .5 to 5%, depending on the country, and maybe five percent die globally between 1 and 8? (I don’t have my Statistical Abstract handy.) Multiplying those numbers together shows that around 36-45% of spirits would make it to the age of accountability in this stage of mortality. That rate is undoubtedly far greater than the percentage of accountable people who hear the plan of salvation.

    I hope you saw my response about animal rights activists in comment 218.

  226. John Mansfield on December 10, 2004 at 6:47 am

    For those with a mild interest in embryology, my wife shared a while back something one of her professors said in a cell biology class: “Some people say the most important event in life is when you meet the person you’re going to marry, but really the the most important event in your life is gastrolation.” That’s the process that changes embryos from a solid ball of cells into a tube; i.e. a creature with a gut.

    There was an NPR report this morning on a treatment for ALS. It involves transplanting olfactory nerve cells into the brain. The best source for those cells seems to be aborted second-trimester fetuses. The report said there are ethical issues involved, but (this may suprise some) all involved came to the conclusion that what they are doing is the right thing to do.

    A profitable use of second-trimester fetuses is a natural progression from stem cell use, technically speaking. Those pluripotent stem cells (omnipotent really, but then we’re talking about people, so that quality can’t be established) aren’t meant to stay undifferentiated in the treatments they’re proposed for. It is hoped that they will grow into the kind of cell needed for the job at hand. So, if you know what kind of cell you want, it may work even better to use cells of the right kind at a latter stage of embryo development, and there is nothing better for cultivating an embryo than a womb.

  227. John Mansfield on December 10, 2004 at 7:28 am

    Brother Glen, the title “Stem Cells, part 1″ is very suspenseful. Also, the unidentified professor quoted at second hand in the last post was Cynthia Wolberger of Johns Hopkins.

    I haven’t come to any more advanced thoughts on the prophetic question than yours. The possibilities seem to be that 1) possibly lightening suffering or preserving developing lives are not issues of concern to deity, or 2) we are being required to develop moral judgement.

    Both options seem possible given God’s other operations. God does allow suffering and seemingly pointless death in abundance. There have also been matters like ward web sites or proxy baptism where the saints moved forward individually and mostly appropriately, then were given direction to cease their labors and resume them in a particular fashion.

  228. Kaimi on December 10, 2004 at 8:25 am

    Matt,

    Not to articulate Danithew’s position for him — he seems to be doing pretty well — but isn’t one argument for his position the likelihood of ensoulment? It might make sense to believe that ensoulment simply can’t happen for a 1-cell, 2-cell, or 32-cell clump. One conceptually coherent position might be that, unless / until a brain develops, there can be no ensoulment.

  229. Matt Evans on December 10, 2004 at 8:57 am

    Hi Kaimi (Comment 222),

    I see no reason to believe a soul couldn’t inhabit a living embryo. It makes more sense to me to see the spirit as the ghost in the machine that makes development possible from the body’s first moment.

  230. Jeremy on December 10, 2004 at 9:10 am

    Imagine the year is 1575, and you’re debating with a friend whether Africans and new world Indians are human beings or animals.

    The difference being, of course, that the Brethren have admitted that stem cell research is a gray area, and instead of accepting that, you inist on binarism.

  231. John Mansfield on December 10, 2004 at 10:19 am

    Don’t underestimate the single cell. There’s a world of complexity at that level.

    An entertaining perspective comes from Lynn Margulis, a U. Mass. expert in cell evolution, that the true diversity of living things is the world’s microbes. She said once, “People think the Earth is going to die and they have to save it. That’s ridiculous. If you rid the Earth of flowering plants, people would die, period. But the Earth was without flowering plants for most of its history.”

    The equivalence sometimes made between identity and genetic coding is interesting. The structures within our cells are beneficial stowaways and have become part of our genome. They were once as separate from the rest of our genome as the bacteria in our gut. Does a viral insertion of DNA change our identity if the cells survive it? Consider also illnesses due to genes. Do we think that a person has a genetic disease, or do we think that a person is genetically diseased? When our genetic imperfections are eliminated in the resurrection, do we become new individuals? Maybe so; the old heaven and earth will be done away with.

  232. David King Landrith on December 10, 2004 at 10:52 am

    Jeremy: (comment #209) An article in the NYT today reports that over a billion children–the majority of the children in the world–live in extreme poverty; 26000 children die every day of preventable causes.

    Someone should call social services on their parents. They clearly live in families that are willing to put the safety of their children at risk.

  233. Jeremy on December 10, 2004 at 11:48 am

    DKL (#226): is that supposed to be funny or serious?

    Of course, I’m not sure which intention would be more disturbing…

  234. danithew on December 10, 2004 at 12:18 pm

    I just spent some time on a comment and somehow it was lost. I’ll try again.

    There are a number of characteristics/principles that come up in discussing whether an embryo could be destroyed for the sake of stem-cell research. Also, there are characteristics or principles that come up that have little to do with embryos but do apply to how we value human life or determine whether a human life (at any stage) could be or should be sacrificed, destroyed or executed. Some of these are absurd to me in some ways … but they have come up for discussion so I’ve included them.

    Ensoulment (having a soul)
    Humanness
    Complexity of Physiological Development (is this a one-celled organism, multi-celled, three trimesters, newborn, child, adolescent, adult …)
    Ultimate Potential
    Intelligence
    Talent
    Process (is an embryo procreated or created in a lab)
    Innocence/Guilt (this hasn’t been discussed but I think it has its place for the sake of argument)

    I’m considering the possibility that none of these characteristics of the embryo (or even a person) by itself justifies a blanket statement regarding the fate of embryos or people in general. For example, the “humanness” of all human embryos or even people isn’t decisive enough, by itself, to determine that all embryos or humans should be protected.

    Entirely apart from the inherent characteristics of a embryo or a person, there is also a factor I might refer to as “purpose” or “ultimate purpose.” Why would this embryo or person be sacrificed, destroyed or executed? Does the sacrifice, destruction or execution of this creature serve any kind purpose? Part of purpose would be the consideration of “impact on others.” How would this sacrifice, destruction or execution of a human being (at any stage) benefit or protect the interests of others.

    Perhaps I’m not merely searching for principles to guide my thoughts on stem-cell research but also for elective abortions or for the application of the death penalty. There might be an opportunity for some kind of consistency in my thoughts, since I don’t wholly oppose any of these — though I’d consider all of them to be necessary in only what I would call exceptional cases.

  235. Matt Evans on December 10, 2004 at 2:34 pm

    Hi Jeremy (Comment 224),

    I don’t think it’s right to say the apostles have called stem-cell research a grey area, or that they’ve taken a “neutral” position. What they’ve said is that they have not taken a position; that they don’t know the answer. Until God sheds light on the question, they won’t know whether the issue is grey or black-and-white.

    More importantly, I don’t believe they’ve addressed the question of the status of the human embryo. From their statement it appears they understood it to be a typical bioethical issue, like organ harvesting or genetic enhancements. My guess is that Huntsman and his scientists didn’t present my side of the argument. From the tortured language of the statement, it appears they didn’t understand the question as we’ve been discussing it. The qualifitications like “cautious scrutiny,” “careful study” and “qualified investigators” suggest they didn’t understand the crux of the question to be whether human embryos are human beings in the full sense.

  236. greenfrog on December 10, 2004 at 2:56 pm

    The qualifitications like “cautious scrutiny,� “careful study� and “qualified investigators� suggest they didn’t understand the crux of the question to be whether human embryos are human beings in the full sense.

    You seem willing to posit a naievete that I think quite implausible. I have no doubt that they knew what they were talking about when they authorized the statement. I think your binary description of the situation omits the ambiguities associated with future developments in genetic engineering and life sciences that likely prompted and undergirded the “no position” position.

  237. Jeremy on December 10, 2004 at 3:07 pm

    The qualifitications like “cautious scrutiny,� “careful study� and “qualified investigators� suggest they didn’t understand the crux of the question to be whether human embryos are human beings in the full sense.

    Which leads me to think that maybe determining (or declaring) some “flashpoint” of ensoulment isn’t the crux of question.

  238. Kristine on December 10, 2004 at 3:27 pm

    “it appears they didn’t understand the question as we’ve been discussing it.”

    Well, let’s hope they’re reading, then, Matt, so you can enlighten them. Because, you know, they wouldn’t be able to counter Huntsman without your help.

    Sheesh.

  239. Ed Enochs on December 11, 2004 at 7:27 pm

    THIS POST IS ABOUT STEM CELLS

    Gentlemen. There was a person or two on this on this section of your blog ealier in this week, that was arguing the incomprensible postion that it is ok for fertilized embryo’s to be terminated because they have a pre-existence anyways.

    There is no way to address this illogical notion but to go right at the veracity and heart of pre-existence doctrine held by the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints.

    When I tried to deal specifically with “it’s cool to destroy human embyos because Mormon’s believe in a pre-existence anyways” idea, one of your moderators, Kaimi Wenger I believe appealed to modern revelations and prophets in dealing with my comments.

    There is no other way to logically proceed from there but to:

    1) Refute the LDS notion of pre-existence.

    2) Refute the LDS notion of extra biblical prophecies and latter day revelations.

    In this stem cell debate I am dealing directly with the argumenation and the direct inter-related arguments of LDS theology brought up by individuals made in this post. I am in not randomly bringing up Evangelical issues. Check out the posts and see.

  240. Ed Enochs on December 11, 2004 at 7:57 pm

    To directly quote Kaimi he said in #85.

    “Ed,

    I think that most of the commenters here find the statements of our own church leaders on this topic to be the most persuasive kinds of arguments. Not that argument by another religious tradition or of any particular political group are without value, but one of the benefits of a religion that believes in continuing revelation is the possibility of getting answers from the Lord. ”

    Matt Evans said;

    “I’ve debated stem-cell research and the moral status of human embryos on websites throughout the internet. In those forums I’ve never made appeals to Joseph Smith, Mormon apostles or the scriptures, for the obvious reason that participants in those forums aren’t persuaded by appeals to Mormon authority. Contributors at T&S all realize that those who don’t accept Mormonism are not persuaded by appeals to Mormon authority. The unique value of Times & Season is that, unlike most websites, ideas like stem-cell research can be discussed within the Mormon worldview.”

    Kaimi, contradicts your view Matt directly and appeals to LDS continuing Revelation in his arguments to support a view regarding stem cell research.

    If I am to be intellectually integris, I have to go directly at the foundational issues of pre-existence and latter day revelationa and prophets, there is no other way around it unless you want to cut the arms off my argument that life begins at conception and the terminating of a fertilized embryo is murder.

    Many of your LDS contributers agree with aspects of my argument and their posts can be read above. One such LDS person wrote this to me last night.

    One Mormon wrote this to me about my views on stem cells:

    I have been reading the exchanges on both Times and Seasons and By Common Consent. Though I think some of the responders were out of line, I hope that overall you consider it a good experience.

    I especially liked your posts on Stem Cell Research. Before I knew you were not LDS I was impressed by the depth and discipline of thought evident in your posts. Unfortunately, there is too much “anti-intellectualism” among many LDS members (although these blogs represent the more thoughtful among us) and your insights were a breath of fresh air. I wish I had kept copies of LDS publications from 25-35 yrs ago, when abortion first became a hot topic. 30 yrs ago church leaders (esp. Spencer W. Kimball) were vehemently and unalterably opposed to abortion. But over the years leaders’ opposition has become increasingly muted and murky. I mentioned this change in church position and perhaps you may have noticed that no one has any response to that. Either they don’t know what to say, don’t believe it, don’t care or don’t think it matters. I think it matters very much. I think we need to understand the reason for the change if we are to understand what our current stand should be.

  241. danithew on December 11, 2004 at 8:08 pm

    Ed,

    You don’t need to prove to anyone that you have support from some LDS members for your points of view. You stand up very well for what you believe and it doesn’t even matter if others write you emails or not.

    Also, there’s (perhaps plenty of) room for disagreement within the Church on certain issues.

    You seem to be searching for comfort or support and then feel a need to demonstrate to us that you are receiving that comfort and support. Don’t worry about it. I’ve probably argued with you (and others on this thread with similar views) more than anyone else. At times perhaps the arguments have been terse or to-the-point. But I don’t feel any hostility towards you (or anyone else on this thread).

    Sometimes we correct one another a little bit or point out things that should be adjusted stylistically or content-wise. But one of the things I love about T&S is that generally we can get together, argue a bit, and still be friends. At least that’s the way I feel about things.

    I hope you’ll continue to hang around and contribute your heartfelt thoughts and comments.

  242. Jack on December 11, 2004 at 8:09 pm

    Ed,

    Those two comments are in no way contradictory. Matt and Kaimi were speaking from two completely different contexts. No doubt, Matt (personally) puts a lot of stock in the council of LDS general church leadership.

  243. Kaimi on December 11, 2004 at 8:12 pm

    Ed,

    This is getting really old.

    As Matt, Adam, and others make clear, there are a multitude of ways to argue against stem cell research without rejecting basic LDS beliefs. Just as there are with most other belief systems. And you seem to be unable to comprehend that this is a blog where a bunch of Mormons are discussing how to apply our beliefs in our everyday lives.

    It’s analogous to a baseball discussion. Kaimi says “the best player ever was Babe Ruth.” Kristine says “the best player ever was Ted Williams.” We start comparing stats — home runs, RBI, batting average. We’re having a lively discussion. And suddenly along comes Ed, and says “your whole conversation is invalid, because you’re assuming that baseball is important, and I don’t think it’s important.”

    Well, guess what, Ed — you’re in a room full of people who happen to think that baseball is important. And we’re going to have our arguments about Ted Williams versus Babe Ruth. We’re going to have arguments that ask “Is stem cell research consistent with LDS theology?”

    And when the query is “Is stem cell research consistent with LDS theology?”, your snide sniping about how you disagree with LDS theology is out of line. It’s as if I’m asking “Is the house blue?”, and you’re responding “but I don’t like blue.”

    The question is “Is stem cell research consistent with LDS theology?” The answer that you seem to want to give is “well, I don’t like LDS theology.” That’s not a legitimate answer.

  244. Matt Evans on December 11, 2004 at 8:18 pm

    Ed,

    I believe in the pre-existence of spirits and that human embryos are full human beings. It is not necessary to disprove the pre-existence to prove that life begins at conception. In fact, you will notice that the vast majority of Americans who do not believe that life begins at conception agree with you that there is no spiritual pre-existence. Disproving a spiritual pre-existence doesn’t advance the argument against stem-cell research.

  245. danithew on December 11, 2004 at 8:21 pm

    Whoa, looks like I threw that last comment in at an inopportune time. Sorry to both Ed and Kaimi. I’m not trying to complicate the picture for either of you. Let me also add that Kaimi is a premanent blogger on T&S and I am not.

    At the same time Ed, I was simply going to suggest that proving or refuting a pre-existence is pretty difficult. It’s like trying to prove or disprove the existence of God. The principle or concept of the pre-existence is probably one of those things a person accepts or rejects on faith, not on evidence. The same is true for the belief in extra-biblical prophecies and revelations. Either one accepts that as true or not.

    On both of these questions we could resort to scriptures to support our positions. You would have your verses and LDS people would have theirs. Finally at the end of the day, it would be a matter of belief and faith, rather than proving or disproving.

  246. Marcus Coffey on December 11, 2004 at 8:39 pm

    Kaimi,

    I have to disagree with you and your comments towards Ed do appear to want to censure him. I am carefully following all of this dialog and it does appear that whenever you or others do not like something he’s now “getting off track” , if you have been following the discussion, not every Mormon agrees with you,

    Man, can’t you guys just let the man speak? It takes a lot courage for him to come into the Lions den of LDS blogdom and try to argue. So what, if the man has made some mistakes, read the posts from many LDS members not everyone feels like what Ed is saying is “getting old”.

    This all reminds me of the Monty Python film “In Search of the Holy Grail” when the man comes to the bridge he is asked by the ogre; “What is your favorite color?” The knight says, “blue, no green” Because he does not get it exactly, percisely right he is thrown off the bridge.

    Don’t throw Ed off the bridge just because he does not figured out the exact minutia of your blog decorum. Man for Mormons you guys are fierce. My god man, let the dude speak!

  247. danithew on December 11, 2004 at 8:51 pm

    Marcus,

    There has been occasionally the feeling that Ed Enochs is attempting to witness to us or to confront and refute fundamental LDS beliefs. That’s not the purpose of T&S. At the same time I’m glad that Ed has been willing to show up and discuss things passionately. Everyone who shows up here at T&S has to make some kind of adjustments at some point, stylistically or content-wise.

    At least I think that’s true because I believe my personal experiences are universally significant. ;)

  248. Ed Enochs on December 11, 2004 at 8:59 pm

    I am not trying to stir up trouble here guys. I will try not to just bust in your various posts with things not relevant to the posts at hand. I just ask you not to try to censure me because you don’t like what I am saying.

    I mean I support much of what Matt Evans has said here and disagree with danithew greatly. But I am the last person to censure him. I want danithew articulate himself freely with major leyway. This all seems like thought police to me.

    I think a great deal is being made of my breaking some rule you guys have made about addressing the issues at hand. O.K., every forum has rules. I hear you loud and clear. Please stop busting my chops over every little detail that I am doing wrong. I understand you don’t want people commenting on stuff not directly relevant to the post topic. ok, ok, ok I see your point. Can’t a man catch a break?

  249. Marcus Coffey on December 11, 2004 at 9:09 pm

    have you guys seen the “soup nazi” episode of Sienfeld? Where there is awesome soup resturant everyone is raving about.

    The only problem is that there is this Nazi like soup server that makes everyone go by his exact rules or they can’t get any soup.

    One wrong step and whamo! The Soup Nazi says, “No Soup for You!!!” So everyone that loves that soup has to line up in single file military style, if they make one wrong move, one mispoken word and they are banned from the soup establishment for one year.

    Stop being soup nazi’s and let the man speak his mind. Give him a break. His argumentation is well reasoned and carefully thought out.

  250. danithew on December 11, 2004 at 9:10 pm

    Marcus, I salute you.

  251. Marcus Coffey on December 11, 2004 at 9:43 pm

    With all the power these moderators have to censure a man with a message or let him speak it must be a temptation to play god. Because there’s a conflict in every human heart between the rational and the irrational,
    between good and evil. The good does not always triumph.
    Sometimes the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called
    the better angels of our nature.

  252. Marcus Coffey on December 11, 2004 at 9:55 pm

    “absolute power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”

    Cambridge Historian Lord Acton (1834-1902)

  253. Jeremy on December 11, 2004 at 10:04 pm

    In answer to soup nazi comparison, a comparison of my own: do you remember that article in the Onion about the regular at the bar who, no matter the topic of discussion, always somehow steers the conversation towards how Stevie Ray Vaughan is totally underrated?

    The annoyance, I think, isn’t that Ed poses questions about the veracity of Mormonism, but that most of us have probably confronted those questions before, and the answers we found kept us Mormon–or perhaps even lead us to become Mormons–and subsequently led us to fora like this one, where those shared answers are a foundation for further discussion.

  254. Jeremy on December 11, 2004 at 10:11 pm

    Marcus, why not another reference to Monty Python, while you’re at it: “Did you see the violence inherent in T&S? Come see the violence inherent in T&S! Help, help, I’m being repressed!”

    The martyrdom/censorship language is a bit dramatic; in 10 minutes Ed could have his own blog up on blogger. Hell, he can even use my template if he wants. Freedom of speech is a good thing. So is freedom of assembly.

  255. Matt Evans on December 11, 2004 at 10:16 pm

    Greenfrog, Jeremy and Kristine (Comments 230-232),

    I don’t believe it’s possible to interpret the statement as addressing the question of the moral status of the human embryo. The stipulations “cautious scrutiny,â€? “careful studyâ€? and “qualified investigatorsâ€? cannot be plausibly applied to research carving up human beings.

    In other words, if scientists believed they could gain knowledge by killing a class of unknown beings under a veil, but many people had reason to believe that the beings were kindergartners, it would not be responsive to this dilemma to say that the scientists’ research must be done “carefully” by “qualified investigators.” No one has alleged that scientists aren’t being sufficiently careful in their killing of human embryos to harvest their stem cells. Nor has anyone alleged that the scientists are unqualified to perform the research.

    In theory it’s possible the statement invokes those qualifications to mean, “because the unknown beings under the veil may be kindergartners, it is important that this research be done carefully by trained experts so that if they are in fact kindergartners, we have maximized the knowledge gained by killing them.” But because that interpretation seems so far fetched, I don’t believe the apostles understood the issue to be whether the beings under the veil have the moral worth of kindergartners. Their language isn’t responsive to that question.

  256. Matt Evans on December 11, 2004 at 10:32 pm

    Ed, I think Jeremy’s explanation for why some readers have been irritated by some of your comments is exactly right (comment 247). I don’t think anyone has meant you ill will, but because they have heard your objections before and are now discussing other topics, they perceived you to be interrupting them.

  257. Jeremy on December 11, 2004 at 10:37 pm

    Their language isn’t responsive to that question.

    Or, to put it another way, your question isn’t responsive to their language.

    What bothers me most about this discussion is that even in the tone you use (“carving up human beings,” for example) you refuse to recognize the possibility that the issue might be more complex than, say, whether or not killing kindergartners is okay. If there’s anything to be taken away from the Brethren’s statement, it is that the issue goes beyond easily dogmatizable binaries.

  258. Jeremy on December 11, 2004 at 10:38 pm

    Sure, Matt, right as I’m trying to flame you you have to go and say something nice about me… :)

  259. Matt Evans on December 11, 2004 at 10:54 pm

    Hi Kristine (Comment 232),

    Well, let’s hope they’re reading, then, Matt, so you can enlighten them. Because, you know, they wouldn’t be able to counter Huntsman without your help. Sheesh.

    Huntsman apparently wasn’t confident that the brethren would come to the right conclusion without his influence, or he wouldn’t have bothered the brethren to ask them to hear his argument. Because proponents of stem-cell research doubted that the apostles had heard all of the arguments, why do you object to opponents making the same assumption? The brethren haven’t addressed (or even mentioned) the issues raised by my arguments, so I have no reason to believe they’ve considered them, any more than Huntsman did.

  260. Kaimi on December 11, 2004 at 11:11 pm

    Marcus,

    You share the same IP address as Ed, and you’re coming to his defense. It makes me wonder whether you’re one person pretending to be more two. (That’s happened before). Or are you merely posting from the same computer?

  261. Matt Evans on December 11, 2004 at 11:24 pm

    Hi Jeremy (Comment 251),

    The only objection to embryonic stem-cell research is the moral worth of the human embryo. Almost all opponents of the research believe human embryos to be human beings in the full moral sense. (Some opponents may think embryos aren’t full human beings but still have an intermediate moral worth that puts them outside the scope of ethical research.)

    In either case, the ontological nature of the human embryo is the only controversy. The church’s statement, however, addresses process and procedural safeguards, concerns that are typical in many bioethics debates, but entirely absent in this one. Because the embryonic stem-cell debate is exclusively over substance, their statement addressing process is unresponsive. To restate my earlier point, because it’s unthinkable that they would provide a process-based answer to the question, “Are scientists carving up human beings?”, I have to assume that they didn’t understand the question as we’ve been discussing it here.

    Did that make sense?

  262. Bryce I on December 12, 2004 at 12:02 am

    Ed Enochs —

    As several people have said already, the main complaint about your recent posts is not that they are off-topic, but that they attack core Mormon beliefs.

    I refer you a third time to the comment policies of the blog. Of particular interest is policy #2:

    2. As a general matter, Times and Seasons is a forum for believing members or for others who are willing to respect members’ beliefs. Commenters do not need to believe in the Church, but comments that suggest that all believers are per se unintelligent or uninformed are not welcome.

    In your comment #233, you clearly violate this policy when you say

    Gentlemen. There was a person or two on this on this section of your blog ealier in this week, that was arguing the incomprensible postion that it is ok for fertilized embryo’s to be terminated because they have a pre-existence anyways.

    There is no way to address this illogical notion but to go right at the veracity and heart of pre-existence doctrine held by the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints.

    When I tried to deal specifically with “it’s cool to destroy human embyos because Mormon’s believe in a pre-existence anyways� idea, one of your moderators, Kaimi Wenger I believe appealed to modern revelations and prophets in dealing with my comments.

    There is no other way to logically proceed from there but to:

    1) Refute the LDS notion of pre-existence.

    2) Refute the LDS notion of extra biblical prophecies and latter day revelations

    It’s fine to say “I don’t believe in the LDS notion of a pre-existence, and consequently, I believe thus and so about how we should view stem-cell research.” It’s rude and out of line to say “The LDS notion of a pre-existence is false, and furthermore, these other LDS beliefs are false, so your argument is fallacious.”

    I think that some of the problem might be that your initial introduction to this board was on a topic involving the relationship between the LDS and evangelical communities. Your voice, as an evangelical Christian, provided a valuable perspective to that particular discussion precisely because you are an evangelical.

    The other threads you have commented on, however, don’t address issues of evangelicalism, and consequently your perspective as an evangelical was out of place in a way that may not have been immediately obvious to you given your introductory experience on this blog.

    Frankly, even though you may not think so, you’ve been granted quite a lot of leeway in your comments thus far. You gained many admirers in your initial posts on this board. Don’t undo the good work you’ve done here by persisting in ignoring or refusing to try to understand the culture that underlies this community.

  263. Marcus Coffey on December 12, 2004 at 12:03 am

    before you go making accusations Ed is my roomate, i have known him for ten years. We go to the same church.

  264. Site Administrator on December 12, 2004 at 12:54 am

    NOTICE FROM T&S ADMINISTRATOR == Several comments have been removed for violations of Times & Seasons commenting policies. Ed Enochs and Marcus Coffey have been apprised of proper commenting etiquette by a sufficient number of participants. Please move along, there’s nothing to see here but teeny-tiny embryos and stem cells. Thank you.

  265. Bryce I on December 12, 2004 at 1:01 am

    Site Administrator–

    Suuuure. You’re just trying to keep this thread from overtaking “Six degrees of T&S” for the #3 spot on the most popular list.

  266. Jonathan Green on December 12, 2004 at 1:34 am

    Well, let me join the club: Midnight in the Village of the Banned.

    After a while you start to recognize the MO. I don’t think it’s doing anyone a favor to let it continue.

  267. Kristine on December 12, 2004 at 9:35 am

    Matt (to #253),

    Are you saying that you wouldn’t accuse me of ark-steadying if I said something like:

    “The brethren’s rhetoric on women’s roles clearly doesn’t address my sophisticated argument x; therefore, they must not really understand issues relating to women in the church, and I can conclude that their statements on the subject do not represent any truly authoritative position or real revelation on the issue.”

    I just can’t believe that on any other issue you’d think it was OK or even necessary to counsel the brethren.

  268. Ethesis (Stephen M) on December 12, 2004 at 11:46 am

    there’s nothing to see here but teeny-tiny embryos and stem cells and then Kristine makes a rather very good point.

    A couple of things, from direct observation.

    If you kill a living human being in a cold and dispassionate way, you get excommunicated and don’t otherwise qualify for baptism.

    If you have an abortion, in some cases you may not even get probation of any sort. Abortion is *something* but it is not murder. Whether you consider it from a spiritual viewpoint and the observations of those who see sins as tangible blots on people or a theological viewpoint from the praxis, we have a solid operational definition going on.

    Fertility doctors do not get excommunicated for creating excess cells and embryos that are sacrificed (which is an appropriate word, and a sad one). The Church allows people to note miscarriages and still borns in personal histories, but does not allow them to be sealed to parents or have temple work done. Do I understand that dynamic? No. I didn’t when I wrote this ( http://adrr.com/living/understand.htm ) and two more miscarriages and another child buried, I still don’t. Some day I will. I hope.

    As to various mysteries of the gospel, we have God telling Joseph Smith “preach nothing but repentence to this generation.” What is “this generation?” Good question. Why not preach speculations (and yes, I love Joseph Smith’s sermon on speculating and how he loved the audience that let him do it rather than rise up and sting him to death when he was wrong)? I think we now know, especially with the room mate posters above.

    On the other hand, we do know that policies change (which completely revises speculations — consider Bruce M and his belief that Blacks would get the Priesthood only a thousand years after the return of Christ. I saw him questioned about that, and he said “I [half pause for emphasis], was wrong” in a clear voice without any hesitation or hedging). (and yes, that does color my appreciation for his likely accuracy on other speculations he had).

    God has a lot for us to do that we are not doing.

    I think it is very appropriate for the official position to be “we need to think and ponder and pray about this, and as we do, we should be careful.” We may not yet be at a place that will let us understand the answer.

  269. Jonathan Green on December 12, 2004 at 3:19 pm

    Matt, thanks for sticking around to answer questions this long. I think I finally have something on-topic to ask. I have a question concerning a verse of scripture. I don’t intend it to be a proof-text of any kind; I came across it recently and and I have been curious about the reaction that someone with your viewpoint might have. Exodus 21:22:

    “If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely puished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. [23] And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life….”

    I understand that there are lots of problems with understanding the application of this verse today, but it does seem to be one place where God comments upon the destruction of a fetus. It seems to me to be saying that unintentionally killing a man’s wife (“if any mischief follow”) can be punished by death, while unintentionally destroying the unborn offspring could be handled by financial compensation. It suggests to me a scriptural distinction between the sin of killing an adult and the sin of harming a fetus.

    Again, I’m not going to argue for one interpretation. I’m just curious to hear your understanding of it.

  270. Matt Evans on December 12, 2004 at 10:39 pm

    Hi Kristine (Comment 261),

    Given that the first item from the church’s statement on stem cell research is that the apostles “have not taken a position at this time,” I think it’s safe to conclude that they have not received revelation on the matter. Once God reveals his will to them, I’m confident the apostles will adopt his position.

    For all issues where the apostles have acknowledged that they haven’t received God’s opinion on a matter, I think it’s completely legitimate for us to defend and argue for the position we believe to be right. Some people might think it improper for Huntsman to counsel the brethren, or for me to wish they’d give me equal time, but when they themselves admit they don’t know, I don’t know why it’s wrong to hope they consider arguments we find persuasive.

    If there are issues like that which are important to you, I support your hope that they consider your side of the issue.

    UPDATE: Matt mistakenly posted this comment under the login Site Administrator.

  271. danithew on December 12, 2004 at 10:41 pm

    Hehe… Matt… you need to switch back to your own name. So you’re the one who was deleting comments. :)

  272. danithew on December 12, 2004 at 10:46 pm

    Matt Evans,

    Isn’t it a bit convenient that you were deleting comments that were directly criticizing one of your main supporters on this thread?

  273. Bryce I on December 12, 2004 at 10:56 pm

    Danithew —

    Are you trying to get yourself IP banned or something?

  274. danithew on December 12, 2004 at 11:17 pm

    Bryce,

    Am I wrong?

  275. Bryce I on December 12, 2004 at 11:30 pm

    Dan —

    Well, my comments that were deleted, while uproariously funny, were probably out of line.

    Most of the comments that were deleted, as far as I remember, were piling on poor Marcus Coffey, not Ed Enochs. Marcus isn’t one of Matt’s allies — he’s just cheerleading for Ed.

    Of course, Marcus’ comments #245 and #246 accuse the blog administrators of being evil and corrupt, respectively, and they haven’t been deleted. So maybe it’s ok to accuse site administrators of using their vast powers to advance their own selfish agendas.

    /waits for this comment to be deleted …

  276. danithew on December 12, 2004 at 11:40 pm

    Bryce,

    One particular comment you made that I thought was insightful, to the point and valid was that a whole bunch of different names posting here were utilizing the same IP address as Ed Enochs. That was a legitimate point that provided more evidence supporting a comment (#254) already made by Kaimi earlier. Kaimi’s comment (rightfully) wasn’t deleted and yours shouldn’t have been either.

    Matt Evans has posted heavily on this thread and Ed Enochs agreed with him. It bothers me that Matt would come in under the name “Site Administrator” and delete comments by those he disagrees with because they are apparently skewering a bad tactic (being used by his ideological ally).

  277. jonathan on December 13, 2004 at 12:09 am

    I concure with danithew on the Ed Enochs and Marcus Coffey issue. I think the whole thing is way overblown. I also do not see what they really did wrong. I think this whole thing is a bit gestapo for my and many observers. I have followed what Enochs has written and it was not that bad. So, those guys had a little fun on a blog spot. I think you guys are treating it like it was Watergate or something. There is way too much of an air of self imortance and self righteousness going on here. You people are acting like your website rules are the Bill of Rights or something. Enochs may be a little zealous and him and his friend may of been goofing around, but I want to let you know that many of his arguments are well thoughout and do show intellectual rigour.

  278. jonathan on December 13, 2004 at 12:11 am

    frankly, they are actually better arguments than 95% of what else is being posted on here

  279. Ed Enochs on December 13, 2004 at 3:12 am

    Hi everyone, after deep contemplation and prayer yesterday about the events that have transpired with me here on Times and Seasons in the last few days. I want to take all of the blame, say I am sorry and for my part get back to discussing the issues.

    I will admit to not knowing your guys format here, for working with Marcus to goof around and make up names and for not citing some of my references. I repent of that and I am sorry.

    All of this animosity is getting out of control and I caused it and I want it to end here and now. Unlike Bill Clinton who did not know what ought “is” and said he smoked marijuna and “did not enhale” in an evasive diversionary tactict to avoid responsibility and the consequences of his actions, I will admit my stupidity and wrong doing and repent before Almighty God whom I will stand before and give an account before Him on the solemn day of Judgment on the final day.
    I will try by God’s sovereign grace to follow what you guys are saying carefully and not barge in on dialogs with information that is irrelevant to the discussion. As for me, I am not going to discuss this anymore. I want to move on and discuss the issues of the respective blogs.

    Sincerely in Jesus Christ,
    Ed Enochs

  280. Gordon Smith on December 13, 2004 at 9:20 am

    Ed, I have been observing this from the sidelines, and it has not been pretty. While I appreciate your apology, I wonder whether you can live up to your own aspiration of discussing the issues in light of the fact that “Times and Seasons is a forum for believing members or for others who are willing to respect members’ beliefs.” It’s not that I doubt your good intentions, but rather that you have made it abundantly clear that you do not respect the teachings of the LDS Church. See, eg, Comment 233, where you argue that the only way to proceed against some of the commentators is to “Refute the LDS notion of pre-existence [and/or] Refute the LDS notion of extra biblical prophecies and latter day revelations.” While some people here might be interested in having that discussion, the creators of this blog (including me) decided early on that such discussions were boring and would not take place here. Frankly, we are past those questions, and we wanted to create a forum for other people who were past such questions. That is what you are up against.

    My guess is that your experience of participating in the discussions on this blog from a starting point that LDS teachings are true (or at least not subject to contradiction for purposes of the discussion) will seem like fighting with one arm tied behind your back. Nevertheless, after reviewing this thread, I see that you have made many comments that were relevant to the discussion and did not require explicit gainsaying of Mormon doctrine. So I know that you have the potential to do that, and as long as you do, you are welcome here.

  281. Matt Evans on December 13, 2004 at 10:50 am

    Hi Danithew (Comments 265-66),

    I deleted one of Marcus’s comments, two of yours and two of Bryce’s. After Ed’s comment 242:

    I think a great deal is being made of my breaking some rule you guys have made about addressing the issues at hand. O.K., every forum has rules. I hear you loud and clear. Please stop busting my chops over every little detail that I am doing wrong. I understand you don’t want people commenting on stuff not directly relevant to the post topic. ok, ok, ok I see your point. Can’t a man catch a break?

    I thought it was important that the T&S community not continue to provoke or taunt him. And I admit to using a double standard, holding T&S regulars to a higher standard than our recent guests. It’s the same principle that leads the church to have fewer expectations of recent converts than of seasoned members. Ignorance can be an excuse, but not forever.

    But of course the real reason I deleted comments teasing Ed is that I didn’t want people to tarnish his excellent reputation at T&S, which had blessed my stance on stem-cell research. : )

  282. danithew on December 13, 2004 at 11:09 am

    I am a fierce Mormon. :)

    See comment #240: http://www.timesandseasons.org/wp/index.php?p=1712#comment-34074

  283. Matt Evans on December 13, 2004 at 11:22 am

    Hi Jonathan (Comment 263),

    I think you’re right to read Exodus 21:22-23 as not treating unborn people equally with born people. But because the chapter justifies slavery and repeatedly treats slaves as unequal to others, I don’t believe the chapter accurately reveals the moral worth of different classes of humanity. (This chapter was a staple of slavery-apologists.)

    Exodus 21 contains some of the ugliest verses in scripture. Verse 4 says the wife and children of a slave belong to the master, and verse 20 says that if a master beats his slave but he survives a day or two, the master “shall not be punished, for he is his money.” Verses 24-27 contains the infamous “eye for an eye” policy, and exempts those who gouge the eye of a slave. Verses 28-32 say that if an ox kills a person, and the owner knew the ox was “wont to push,” then the owner of the ox shall be killed for his negligence, unless the victim is a slave, in which case the owner must pay 30 pieces of silver to the slave’s master.

  284. Jonathan Green on December 13, 2004 at 1:14 pm

    Thanks, Matt. That’s pretty much what I was looking for.

  285. danithew on December 13, 2004 at 2:03 pm

    Ed and Matt, I was kind of irritated this morning when I read your more recent comments so I did my best to not say much. I cooled off since (as I knew I would) and I just want you both to know that I look forward to reading more of your thoughts and comments in the future. You both argue very well and articulately. I hope none of the disagreements or issues that arose on this thread translate into any lasting hard feelings. Hasta luego. :)

  286. Walt Nicholes on December 15, 2004 at 6:35 pm

    Ok, this is probably a distraction, but everything REALLY intelligent to say on the subject has been said, in my opinion.

    Question (rhetorical): If we had enough faith to be healed (as in a priesthood blessing, for example) would we even NEED stem cell research? Obvious response: Some things shouldn’t be healed because they are given to us as a part of “…to learn by their experience the good from the evil….”

    Is is at all possible that stem cell research is yet another effort for man to superceed the will of God. (Ok, I know, I know – medical knowledge is revealed to improve our lives, yadda, yadda, yadda.) I just wonder if, to a true and faithful saint, it is really important to solve all of our ills? Is there not merit in most cases learning from our problems and doing the best that we can?

    I seem to recall that Joseph taught that on the earth there is everything we need for our health and welfare. That was way before most medical advances made our lives so cushy. I am grateful for aspirin and penecillin and all of those other things, but isn’t there a point where living right becomes more important than living comfortably?

    If we are ever able to reverse all of the ills of mortal existence, will we not have destroyed the plan of God?

  287. danithew on December 15, 2004 at 6:53 pm

    Walt,

    I really don’t think that stem-cell research is going to “reverse all of the ills of mortal existence.” I mean, there will still be non-stem-cell related issues such as unrequited love, bombs and really big hair. :)

  288. J. Stapley on December 15, 2004 at 7:02 pm

    Walt: Obvious response: Some things shouldn’t be healed because they are given to us as a part of “…to learn by their experience the good from the evil….�

    I don’t believe this. With enough Faith one can be healed of anything, but that is hard so we (especially me) settle for the non-miraculous path.

    Walt: If we are ever able to reverse all of the ills of mortal existence, will we not have destroyed the plan of God?

    This is an interesting rhetorical concept. I think it is a great argument for a Luddite agrarian lifestyle.

    I would argue that it is our moral imperative to assuage as much of the human dolor as possible. It is our moral imperative to increase in knowledge and skill and consequently master the elements. To suggest that this is a challenge to God’s omnipotence seems untenable. I have full confidence in God to be able to fit all that I need into this life at this time and to be able to do so ad infinitum.

  289. Clark on December 15, 2004 at 7:43 pm

    “Many people are unwilling to do one thing for themselves in the case of sickness, but ask God to do it all” (Brigham Young, JD 4:25)

    “You may go to some people here, and ask what ails them, and they answer, “I don’t know, but we feel a dreadful distress in the stomach and in the back; we feel all out of order, and we wish you to lay hands upon us.” “Have you used any remedies?” “No. We wish the Elders to lay hands upon us, and we have faith that we shall be healed.” That is very inconsistent according to my faith. If we are sick, and ask the Lord to heal us, and to do all for us that is necessary to be done, according to my understanding of the Gospel of salvation, I might as well ask the Lord to cause my wheat and corn to grow, without my plowing the ground and casting in the seed. It appears consistent to me to apply every remedy that comes within the range of my knowledge, and to ask my Father in heaven, in the name of Jesus Christ, to sanctify that application to the healing of my body; to another this may appear inconsistent.” (ibid 25)

  290. Walt Nicholes on December 16, 2004 at 3:18 pm

    Cool! Responses!

    Suppose a person had perfect faith. Suppose that he was inflicted with an illness that was terminal, and was “appointed unto death.” Supposed he asked for a priesthood blessing? Would his faith superceede his appointment unto death? (D&C 42:48)

    At any rate, for the sake of our convenience (as in “but that is hard so we settle for the non-miraculous path”) should we then take liberties with something like abortion? What if our faith was weak but we couldn’t afford medicine? Would stealing be condoned? Of course everyone here would agree that the answer is no.

    The real issue for me still gets back to the purpose of our trials and suffering. And I have learned a lot from unrequited love and big hair. (Not much from bombs so far.)

    Thanks, all.

  291. J. Stapley on December 16, 2004 at 3:58 pm

    Walt: Would his faith superceede his appointment unto death?

    Empirically, yes. I know of someone who has postponed their appointed time for the love of their family and friends. But this is not for me to document (too sacred and too personal). I am not familiar with any documented cases off hand (though I would not be surprised if there were), so while I believe that the answer is yes, there is no reason to accept it as a principle.

    Walt: Of course everyone here would agree that the answer is no.

    This is an answer to questions that are non sequiturs.

    Walt:The real issue for me still gets back to the purpose of our trials and suffering.

    Again, this logic entails an asceticism that I don’t find doctrinal. The Amish personify your argument. We are to fight through our trials. In the end we should neither intentionally bring trials upon others nor succumb to our own. Emphasizing Clark’s BY citations: If you have depression, take your meds. If you have a head ache, take Excedrin. If you have cancer, visit the oncologist.

  292. Clark on December 16, 2004 at 4:15 pm

    Walt, it seems your question must presuppose an answer to what faith is and entails. That was the point of the Brigham Young quote. i.e. I’m not sure faith means what you think it may mean.

  293. danithew on December 16, 2004 at 10:02 pm

    Suppose a person had perfect faith. Suppose that he was inflicted with an illness that was terminal, and was “appointed unto death.� Supposed he asked for a priesthood blessing? Would his faith superceede his appointment unto death? (D&C 42:48)

    Maybe the answer is in 2 Kings 20: 1-7. [You should need a prayer in your heart and some boiled figs.]

    1 In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.
    2 Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, saying,
    3 I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.
    4 And it came to pass, for Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying,
    5 Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD.
    6 And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.
    7 And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.

  294. Walt Nicholes on December 17, 2004 at 4:56 pm

    It is clear that the aggregated wisdom of the contributors to this board exceeds my own.

    And yet I hark back to D&C 122:7 (“…these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”) As an example, Joseph Smith is tremendous! He certainly did all in his power to forstall, endure, resolve and recover from his trials, including illnesses, I presume. And I take aspirin and other medications without bothering myself as to whether I am missing out on some ephemeral blessing(s).

    But where it comes to activities that may set others at a disadvantage, such as the many facets of harvesting cells for stem cell research, I walk with extreme caution. Now, at least one reader will raise his eyebrows and ask “what the heck is he babbling about – setting others at a disadvantage?” What I am babbling about is more than the life that may be sacrificed (and I concede that I have no sure answer to when life starts, when the spirit enters, or when the fertilized egg becomes an individual, certified son or daughter of God.) It is that in a headstrong rush to explore the promise of newer medical advances we sometimes abandon spiritual rules of life. If, for example, we create an atmosphere where stem cell research is more important that many other important things, then we set a stumbling block for our bretheren (and sisteren :) ) in that we “tempt” them to disregard considerations that my not be trivial.

    If, in order to find newer and more abundant sources of stem cells, they allow themselves to become advocates of abortion, then I think we have had a role in having created the environment that pressed them into doing so.

    One other thought that passes my mind (and I am waxing lengthy – not uncommon for me.)
    It seems clear that the intentional taking of innocent life is a sin beyond forgiveness. And yet, someone having confessed an abortion may receive full forgiveness. Surely those who receive revelation for the church would not err in this matter, would they?