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Biotech Science

First Genetically Modified Human Embryo Under Review 509

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the gattaca-suing-for-patent-infringement dept.
Wired is reporting that Cornell University researchers genetically modified a human embryo in 2007, but have only recently been gaining publicity as their work is being reviewed. "The research raises a number of thorny ethical questions. Though adding a fluorescent protein was merely a proof-of-principle step, scientists say that modified embryos could be used to research human diseases. They say embryos wouldn't be allowed to develop for more than a few weeks, much less implanted in a woman and brought to term."
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First Genetically Modified Human Embryo Under Review

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  • by nurb432 (527695) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:02PM (#23384648) Homepage Journal
    Wouldn't that mean they were murdered? That is if you accept the religious side of the house...

  • by the_humeister (922869) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:05PM (#23384696)
    We have glowing mice and they're doing fine. Why not a glowing human? I think that would be pretty nifty. I really don't see why there would be people who are against such things. This has other implications too. Imagine if we could remove the defect that causes Huntington disease in an embryo. Would people have ethical issues with that?
  • by jeiler (1106393) <go.bugger.off@gm ... inus threevowels> on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:05PM (#23384700) Journal
    No, I don't want to be preaching "gloom and doom," but it does raise ethical questions. The biggest question: are the ethical questions that such an act raises actual issues of right and wrong, or are they simply the products of Western culture and my own philosophical prejudices? Here's the corrected link. [wired.com]
  • by Bryansix (761547) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:13PM (#23384788) Homepage
    www.m-w.com defines it as " the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought". Therefore the morality of the act is pre-determined by the ruling authority and THAT defines murder. This isn't a religious debate, it is an ethical one. To even bring religion into it is a Straw-Man argument. The point is that these organisms are definitely human and they are definitely alive. So is killing them wrong?
  • by Bryansix (761547) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:15PM (#23384808) Homepage
    I know this is funny but the root problem here is how would YOU feel if you knew you were born out of a scientific experiment?
  • Could Be Worse (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:15PM (#23384814)
    Children are born to parents who don't want them, they neglect them, abuse them, and even kill them.

    There are parents who know they have medical problems related to their genetics, and yet are still selfish enough to "try for one" instead of adopting one of the 50,000+ or so that die of starvation somewhere in the world.

    There are people out there who believe that having a baby can help save their relationship / marriage, and so create a whole human being just so they don't have to face up to the fact that they don't belong with somebody.

    There are a host of ethical issues about this genetically modified human embryo, but nothing worse than already exists in the world today.
  • by kc8apf (89233) <kc8apf@@@kc8apf...net> on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:23PM (#23384922) Homepage
    You are presenting one side of an issue as the only side. You've chosen the side that embryos are human and alive and thus this is murder. From the other side, these are not humans and/or not alive. Religion seems to come in on this since one of the most vocal religious groups (christians) tend to side with you. It isn't really a religious debate, but many people view it as one due to that.
  • by 2nd Post! (213333) <gundbear&pacbell,net> on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:27PM (#23384958) Homepage
    Except what helps an 80 year old billionaire will help an 70 year old millionaire, 60 year old white collar worker, etc, down to 20 year olds with pulmonary hypertension.

    So what IS the cost if an 80 year old billionaire is funding the research for treatment that will benefit everyone else, except a billionaire's money?
  • by Bryansix (761547) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:28PM (#23384970) Homepage
    I think not. Most people can differentiate between the potential for life (semen and eggs) and actual life itself (autonomous life including self-replicating cells that may or may not have certain dependencies for life; don't we all?).
  • by flaming error (1041742) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:28PM (#23384972) Journal

    are the ethical questions ... actual issues of right and wrong, or are they ... my own philosophical prejudices?
    Great question, but aren't "right and wrong" culturally defined? Or is there some objective cosmic value system we can mathematically derive?
  • Invalid arguement (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nerdposeur (910128) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:28PM (#23384980) Journal

    First, you lump all religious people (hint: this is most of the planet) into the category of "people who cause genocide." Second, you offhandedly pronounce that, on the whole, the effects of religion are evil. Then, you conclude that religious viewpoints should not be heard. I say that you can't back up any of those statements.

    It would be just as easy to out-of-hand dismiss Slashdot users (the only group I can knowingly lump you into) as incapable of reasonable political debate.

    The fact is, this is an ethical question. It presumes that human life is valuable, and asks whether embryos qualify, and then asks how their interests balance against the other considerations.

    The idea that human life IS valuable is just as much a belief as the idea that embryos do or don't qualify as humans. Whether you call that belief "religious" or not, it's still a belief.

    I happen to believe that human life is valuable because we "are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights." I make no argument about the faith of the Founding Fathers, but they did start with that premise. If you toss out the Creator, I assume you have some alternate rationale, but I don't think it's reasonable to say that any religious basis for valuing human life is irrelevant.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:32PM (#23385028)
    > You are presenting one side of an issue as the only side. You've chosen the side that embryos are human and alive and thus this is murder.

    Forget whether it's "murder" or not for a second (that's an emotive word that will only derail discussion) and focus on the "human" aspect of things, please.

    Fertilized embryos and zygotes are living homo sapien organisms--not some other species, right? They're becoming something we all recognize as human, or would given food and shelter?

    So what's the other side of that (and ONLY that--no "murder" discussion, please)? They can't feel or understand pain so it's speciesist to give them special treatment merely because they're homo sapiens. Or perhaps, "What's the difference between them and cell cultures removed from your body? Especially if we could clone those?", ignoring that fertilized embryos are becoming human and samples are not?

    I merely want to understand, so no flames please. I would like to hear your reasoning and your philosophy, not your anger.
  • by johnlcallaway (165670) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:38PM (#23385080)
    You had me until the last sentence.

    They are a mass of cells that one day could become human. My sperm one day could also become human, does that make masturbation a crime if I don't make every attempt possible to fertilize an egg?? Is a woman committing murder because she doesn't attempt to get pregnant every period??

    Oh .. I know. Some chose an arbitrary point when an egg and sperm meet to decide what is human.

    OK .. I chose the arbitrary point when a fetus emerges from a woman as the point a fetus becomes human. I have just as much basis for that statement as anyone who chooses fertilization. It's all arbitrary depending on your beliefs, since there are no scientific or legal definitions for a soul. Religious definitions don't count, as you just said. As far as the law is concerned, a soul doesn't exist.

    I've noticed it also depends on whether or not the person arguing is the one that has to support it. Seems that people are more than willing to argue against abortion when they don't have to support the child in the end. I agree with the semi-serious argument that all anti-abortion advocates should have to sign up to adopt all the children that their cause prevents being aborted.

    That flimsy argument aside, the US recognizes 90 days of development as to when an abortion can occur, so any embryo that is not developed past that point should be able to be terminated in the US without receiving any permission from a legal authority. The US does not define what methods are acceptable for creating embryos, both natural and artificial means are accepted. So whether or not an embryo is in a placenta or a petri dish should also be irrelevant. Since embryos can be frozen for years, it should be based on physical development, not length of time.

  • by LithiumX (717017) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:41PM (#23385106)
    When you're deciding on who gets human rights, and who doesn't, you have to err on the side of caution.

    For example, assuming wild swings in opinion over time (as tends to happen), would you be more concerned about chimpanzees being granted full human rights (something I consider overly drastic), or about the severely retarded (and I mean severely - minimally functional vs a funny-looking slow guy who can't make it on his own) having their rights downgraded due to missing critical elements of a human mind?

    I'm not personally concerned about the fate of an embryo - it's not quite a "baby" yet. I AM concerned about the precedents set by it's fate, and the inevitable results of applying too much logic to the value of human life. Your life only has as much value as society gives it, and the only safe standards have to be overly accepting - otherwise you see how quickly they can erode.

    Another issue... are these embryo's property? If some experimenter chose not to terminate, and had the technology to keep it going, at what point would they cross a line? Definitely not sentience, as it would be very easy to prevent a developing human from ever having that level of intelligence. Would YOU like to see a number of purposefully brain damaged homo sapiens vat grown for medical experimentation?

    Sad thing is, I'm pretty certain that's the future. When opportunity meets ethics, ethics never wins (given time).
  • by MMC Monster (602931) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:42PM (#23385116)
    How about Humanity being defined as having brain activity that allows them to respond to stimuli in a non-reflexive manner?

    If someone has no brain activity, they are often declared dead. That being said, they may still have some nerve reflexed (as do detached muscle cells).
  • by $0.02 (618911) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:44PM (#23385152)
    Ask the first in vitro conceived human.
  • by Toonol (1057698) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:44PM (#23385154)
    Just to nitpick, you don't need to be religious to view abortion as murder. Just as some religious people are ok with it.
  • by $0.02 (618911) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:46PM (#23385170)
    Number 7: Profit.
  • by aztektum (170569) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:50PM (#23385200)
    The effects of religion have proven time and again to be more than overwhelmingly negative. They're only competition for motivation to reap atrocities on mankind is lust for money.

    Point out where I said this wasn't an ethically ambiguous question? Granted my comment was made hastily; I was splitting my attention between 3 things. Given the detailed history of religious followers to shoot first and refuse to ask/answer questions later, I personally give little value to their opinions.

    It would be just as easy to out-of-hand dismiss Slashdot users (the only group I can knowingly lump you into) as incapable of reasonable political debate.
    I'm not here to have reasonable political debate. This isn't a political forum. I'm not running for office. I want nothing to do with "politics".

    What I'm saying is, I tire of religious rhetoric impacting the lives of those who do not follow a religious association. If to you this has ethical implications along religious principles, fine. To me it does not, to many others it does not. I have no desire to see science and the future of humanities advancement marginalized because somethings make people feel icky.

    My beliefs are not your beliefs. Yours are not mine. Science should always recognize this accordingly and avoid being influenced by either.
  • by Tangent128 (1112197) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:51PM (#23385218)

    Or perhaps, "What's the difference between them and cell cultures removed from your body? Especially if we could clone those?", ignoring that fertilized embryos are becoming human and samples are not?
    If you destroy a culture from your body, you remain alive. In the case of an embryo, that culture is their body.

    In the end, it does seem to come down to what defines an "individual". The (practically always) new combination of DNA formed during fertilization seems the most explicit.

    The situation of cloning from a sample of your own tissue muddles things, though. The fact that tissue doesn't naturally revert into an embryo would seem to be the clearest line here. Once a human has delibrately set the cell line on an organism-replicating path, one may as well treat it as a new individual, as one would have essentially "thrown the switch" normally reserved for post-fertilization development.
  • by osu-neko (2604) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:52PM (#23385228)

    An embryo is a human life.

    No more or less so than a white blood cell. But we don't define cutting yourself as mass murder.

    The relevant question is whether it's a "person", not whether it's technically alive or technically human. The embryo has substantially less claim to being a "person" than does a brain-dead body.

  • by Toonol (1057698) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:52PM (#23385242)
    Oh .. I know. Some chose an arbitrary point when an egg and sperm meet to decide what is human.

    I think that point is often chosen because it's not arbitrary. It's a significant developmental event. Twelve hours before, three weeks later; those are arbitrary points. Your second example of an arbitrary point, when the baby is born, isn't arbitrary either. A true arbitrary point would be something like "after the first trimester."

    There's a few other significant points in the development of a baby, such as first mental activity, first heartbeat, and so on. Those aren't arbitrary either. They may not be the correct basis to distinguish a human from a fetus, but they aren't purely subjective.
  • by frosty_tsm (933163) on Monday May 12, 2008 @06:57PM (#23385296)
    I don't have a full answer, but at one point there is a sense of awareness (even if it's not mature). For example, a born baby cries and likes to be held by it's mother.

    At the other end, a freshly fertilized egg does not have a sense of awareness (at least, none that science can detect or explain).

    I think this plays a part in the discussion. The embryo is human, but is an embryo self-aware?
  • by Crazy Taco (1083423) on Monday May 12, 2008 @07:04PM (#23385368)

    Many would accuse you of dodging the issue with that definition. The problem is that to get those stem cells, a fertilized human egg is, at some point, stopped from developing farther. If life begins at conception, trying to tell people you only killed a blastocyst, not an embryo, isn't going to do much for you.

  • by Toonol (1057698) on Monday May 12, 2008 @07:09PM (#23385402)
    And the ethics of a particular matter can sometimes really hinge on nitty-gritty specific details. Thanks for your post.

    I would be against genetically modifying a viable human fetus, or even something that would normally develop into one. However, I wouldn't be against culturing human cells, and would love to hear that they're growing kidneys in a lab someday.

    But when you're doing experiments on individual stem cells, it becomes hard to tell those two situations apart, and our common-sense notions of morality get befuddled. It's like an ethical version of quantum mechanics.
  • by SyntaxFeline (1288272) on Monday May 12, 2008 @07:19PM (#23385516)
    You raise some very valid points here. You say you are certain that this is the future - I am not so sure. It certainly will be the future in forward-thinking jurisdictions, but I am pessimistic about the United States ever allowing any sorts of restrictions though. The conservative religious voting block is simply too large to ignore.

    That having been said, however, I personally wouldn't have an issue with embryos being property, should they be developed. There's incredible applications for vat grown homo sapiens - least of which I can think of being transplants, and absolutely incredible insight into how disease develops. The medical and scientific knowledge to be gained from this type of experimentation certainly outweighs the negative implications - we simply need refinement in the law to state what is, and isn't permissible, and have that stand to court challenges.

    The truly hard thing about living in a time when humanity is on the cusp of a second renaissance pertaining to knowledge and the ability to push beyond is the holdouts who prevent the progress. Litigate it, I say!
  • by couchslug (175151) on Monday May 12, 2008 @07:46PM (#23385760)
    "I know this is funny but the root problem here is how would YOU feel if you knew you were born out of a scientific experiment?"

    That would depend on how I turned out.
  • by amRadioHed (463061) on Monday May 12, 2008 @07:59PM (#23385874)
    The obvious reason why they shouldn't be implanted is because not everyone would want to be turned into a glowing mutant. Some people might not mind, but probably most people would rather not be forced to go through middle school with a green hue.
  • by cdrguru (88047) on Monday May 12, 2008 @08:06PM (#23385940) Homepage
    I don't believe there is necessarily a religious connection to saying "this is wrong." Why is it wrong? For starters, do you actually believe no such creations will be allowed to come to term? If you were offered, secretly, to have a "superior, genetically enhanced" child would you not take the offer? Don't you want your offspring to be the very best they could possibly be?

    Genetic modification holds the promise and the threat of changing the face of humanity. Literally in some ways. But the real problem isn't just making green people but people that are not human and do not share humanity with the rest of the people on the planet. This is a fundamental point; we can have a society because of a shared heritage. Messing around with things that at this point we have little knowledge of is an open invitation to creating a branch of the human species which shares no common heritage.

    What would we, meaning the current humans on the planet, do with someone that was both human and not human? Not human because they, for example, believed and acted like they were a superior form of life and that all others were placed within their view for their own amusement? OK, one such being would be a curiosity. 100 would be a threat and 1000 would be a war. What part of the Star Trek episode "Botany Bay" did you not understand?

    I'm not sure I would say this is an "ethical" problem, but it certainly is a problem that we do not have to address. We can choose not to go down this road. We, as the humans on the planet, must not go down this road as it stands a really good chance of leading to disaster, potentially on a global scale.
  • by ScentCone (795499) on Monday May 12, 2008 @08:19PM (#23386054)
    I personally believe we don't yet have the wisdom or foresight necessary to manipulate our genes

    Nonsense. What do you think the thousands-of-years-old practice of arrangement marriages was all about? Not strictly village economics. Parents also sized up prospective mates for their kids based on the health, history, and talents of thei prospective mate and his/her family. Yeah, yeah, eugenics. Except, that's exactly what it is, and was for a long time.

    We can (the old fasioned way) make new specialized breeds of livestock, dogs, and chickens with only a few decades of paying attention to cause and effect. Cultures do the same thing - it just takes longer. And that's why - whether anyone wants to admit it or not - you can spot, in a given geographic region - people that have a "peasant" look/build and other people that have an "aristrocratic" look/build. Genetic manipulation.
  • by BearRanger (945122) on Monday May 12, 2008 @08:24PM (#23386098)
    Not at all. If I truly believed "not now, not ever" I wouldn't have said this was a good thing or a milestone.

    I think we can reach a consensus on ethical issues. After all, we've done it before. How many cultures used to sanction slavery as part of a viable economic model? I think we've pretty much rejected that today. In the same way I think we can reach a consensus on specific ways to use genetic engineering in humans. It won't be easy. Nor should it be. Consensus doesn't mean everyone agrees. But the dissenters should have their say and they should be listened to and their concerns should be addressed before we blindly press ahead.

    As I said, I doubt if anyone would object to using genetic manipulation to cure diseases, and I'm sure we could reach a consensus quickly on some of the more horrible ones. But like all powerful scientific tools the potential for abuse and misuse is pretty great, and the only way to prevent that from happening is to tread carefully during the early stages of the tools' development.

    Another poster said that this is just another stage of our evolution, and perhaps that's so. But unlike natural selection we're consciously choosing to manipulate our DNA without regard to external factors or competition. At this stage we don't *need* to do this to survive. What's wrong with taking our time to consider the ramifications?
  • by tsm_sf (545316) on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:03PM (#23386418) Journal

    I tend to side with the quite-serious argument that if people could not have abortions, they may abstain from sex more often or pursue another form of birth control.
    You feel that way because you are too young to remember a time before Roe v. Wade. Abortion and infanticide have been around since the dawn of time and, in fact, are the natural actions of a hunter-gatherer society.

    The sole benefit derived from legal abortions today is that the woman stands a much better chance of surviving the procedure. To assume that people, denied that benefit, would simply stop having sex is entirely ignorant of human nature, past history, and your own throbbing biological urges.
  • by home-electro.com (1284676) on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:08PM (#23386456)
    It is still arbitrary though. You call "important step" when you get fertilized egg. Hey, when the sperm is ejected, it is also very important step. When the egg divides for a first time, is also important step. You can't seriously argue that a single cell is a human. I've got millions of cells in me, but they are not humans. Besides, we have so many REAL humans on this planet who are in danger of being killed RIGHT NOW that arguing about how those cells are humans and how cruel it is to 'kill' them is just hypocrisy and a load of BS
  • by BungaDunga (801391) on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:08PM (#23386458)
    That scoops up most animal life though, doesn't it? Your average chimpanzee isn't working on reflex, arguably neither is your average starfish.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:20PM (#23386550)
    How do you think cat-girls are made?

    Oh damn!

    Someone try it, quick! And I want a pink-haired cat-girl too! With a 36D chest size!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:26PM (#23386610)
    Agreed. The embryo is human, but not an actualized human being in the sense of possessing the qualities we value as significant in human beings (mind, not genetics). It is a potential human being. I realize that this may also apply to infanticide. That doesn't disturb me. I eat more intelligent things for dinner.
  • by jc42 (318812) on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:35PM (#23386672) Homepage Journal
    Most people can differentiate between the potential for life (semen and eggs) and actual life itself (autonomous life including self-replicating cells that may or may not have certain dependencies for life; don't we all?).

    Nope. It is pretty well understood in scientific circles that the issue of "when life begins" was settled a couple of centuries ago. The answer: It doesn't, at least not on our planet at this time. Life only continues from previous life; it doesn't arise spontaneously from non-living material.

    Sperm and ova are living, breating, metabolizing single-cell creatures. They aren't dead. They aren't half-alive. They're alive.

    The really curious thing is that I've yet to hear anything from our moral guardians calling for protection of the lives of living ova (or sperm) cells. The fact that they don't pretty much shows that they don't really have a clue about what "life" means.

    If it's "murder" to prevent a fertilized ovum from implanting and growing, then it's equally "murder" to prevent that ovum from being fertilized. Actually, both are equally absurd.

    (There's also the fun fact that nature provides millions of living sperm cells for every living ovum. The morality of that is yet to be discussed, except by the Monty Python crew.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:49PM (#23386786)
    The obvious difficulty with that standard is its application to human infants. [wikipedia.org] Most people are not willing to take it that far, and so for them it fails (or ought to fail) as a standard.
  • by Epistax (544591) <epistax@noSPam.gmail.com> on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:27PM (#23387028) Journal
    I don't think the parent was suggesting that humans aren't hypocritical dumbasses. That said, I do like my steak medium-rare.

    We make the decision every day as to what deserves to live and die in the animal kingdom. Being a part of the animal kingdom means that we are not above that, unless there is really no logic behind it. If the argument is intelligence, I submit that a one-year-old pig is more sentient than a one-year-old baby (humans develop more slowly), and would therefore have a stronger "right" to live. If the argument is potential intelligence, then what of mentally handicapped?

    Not making an argument, this is just what goes through my head. Again, I like my steak medium rare.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:32PM (#23387062)
    Sperm and eggs are very much alive.
  • Re:Not to flame (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:57PM (#23387200)

    Religion is responsible for more genocide than anything else. Today's rallying cry of "Save the babies!" is typically political babble to earn votes.
    Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler, Darwinists all. So what persons of religion come anywhere close to their murder totals?
  • > Am I the only one here that has no problem with the genetic engineering
    > of humans? Why wait millions of years for evolution to fix things that
    > are obvious?

    Because we are currently clueless. When it comes to understanding how biology actually works we aren't even close to being ready to do more than randomly tinker and watch what happens. That is fine for plants and unless you are a PETA member you are probably OK with that for aminals up to some point where most people go YUCK! The exact point varies from person to person but almost everybody has a limit beyond which they aren't OK with experimenting on animals. For people that line has forever been clouded by the first assholes who experimented on humans like they were animals.

    Eventually we will understand. Eventually we will create Human 2.0 in our own image and we will become obsolete. And we will be OK with it because it won't have to involve a bad scifi storyline where we get massacred because the 2.0s won't have a problem waiting us out. Or better yet we will reenginner ourselves and upgrade to 2.0. But it ain't yet time to be thinking about that sort of thing as something that will happen in our lifetime.
  • Re:Could Be Worse (Score:3, Insightful)

    by syousef (465911) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:58PM (#23387550) Journal
    There are parents who know they have medical problems related to their genetics, and yet are still selfish enough to "try for one" instead of adopting one of the 50,000+ or so that die of starvation somewhere in the world.

    Before trying to create a master race, name me one person that doesn't have some genetic medical problems. Where do you draw the line?
    - High blood pressure?
    - Flat feet?
    - Short or far sightedness?
    - Hearing difficulties?
    - Sleep apnea?
    - Cancer in the family?
    - Heart disease in the family?
    - Obesity? (Anyone in your family at all being fat).

    For someone advocating sympathy, you sure aren't very sympathetic. No wonder you choose to remain AC!
  • by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @12:01AM (#23387570)

    We know that babies start to be self aware around the age of 2
    Citation needed. We don't give rights based on ability, and I sure as hell wouldn't want to live in a world where what you were capable of determined your legal status. We tried that once [schoolnet.co.uk] or twice [hnn.us], wasn't pretty. Even if babies weren't sentient, that still wouldn't make it ethical.
  • by amRadioHed (463061) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @02:44AM (#23388424)
    Weak argument? No not everyone is born into perfect circumstances, but parents aren't typically going out of their way to cause these difficulties for their children either. Their is a world of difference between having a child in a less then perfect situation, which basically every parent does, and having a child that you willfully turned into a social outcast. That is not reductio ad absurdum, it is just an absurd argument.
  • by zoney_ie (740061) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @04:32AM (#23388868)
    The problem isn't religion, it's humans. People are capable of the worst excesses ascribed to religion regardless of whether they are doing it "for religion" or not.

    People who are allegedly not religious (as in practicing a religion) are usually just as religious as anyone else, or even more so, when it comes to the issues they care about.
  • Thanks for taking the time to address my points.

    You can't create a law purely from logic. You can try to create a system of laws derived from as few subjective value judgments as possible, but then you end up blindly overriding some concerns with others, ala Libertarianism.

    That's kind of a tangential debate, so we don't have to beat each other up on that.

    Making irrelevant (is there a verb for that?) the emotional link between mother and child would definitely crucial in infant experimentation. I don't think it's good enough, though. It's an emotional strain on the scientists who work with them, and it's an emotional strain on the citizenry who find themselves contemplating the horrifying existence of experiment-babies. It's not rational, but it doesn't have to be.

    I conveyed the wrong idea with my last point. My point was that there's not much to be gained with experimenting on infants as opposed to chimps, at least at this stage. When I wrote that, though, I was thinking of neuroscience. There are plenty of advantages to experimenting on infants in other contexts, so it really isn't a good point.

    In this limited slice of history, the western world has very negative feelings about eugenics, genocide, and forced abortions. This hasn't always been the case, and it isn't the case everywhere in the world. We've been sensitized. You risk losing that sensitivity when you start challenging people's perceptions of the value of life. This is simultaneously a very weak point and a very important one.
  • by servognome (738846) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @03:22PM (#23394488)

    If their opinions are stupid and backwards, why should we give them the same value as rational, progressive opinions?
    What constitutes stupid and backwards? Religion does not necessarily mean lack of rational thought, it can serve as a container for a value set that have rational backgrounds. Rational ideas like human equality and fundamental rights in the US grew out of the religious belief in nature's God. Also progressive opinions do not necessarily result from rational thinking - for example the idea of "we do, because we can."

    Any argument invoking the FSM or any other noodly deity should be immediately ignored.
    And the "faithful" would say moral judgements from those without God should be ignored. Both arguments are equally intolerant. Outright dismissal of opinions for any reason can be detrimental, because we should take time to pause and consider other opinions when our decisions will impact those people. It doesn't mean the ultimate decision will be swayed, but at least thoughtful consideration of even extremist views can be valuable, because when you dig deep into those opinions there may be something that can be learned.

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson

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