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« Skeptics' Circle #11 The RantsCarnival of the Godless #16 »

Snappy Answers to Stupid Senators
2005.06.24 (Fri) 23:06

Wow — we actually heard someone get it totally right on Air America.

Of course, it wasn't one of the hosts. It was a guest. This afternoon, on the The Al Franken Show, they welcomed guest Alta Charo, a professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin.

From what we heard on the drive back from lunch, Professor Charo seems like a bright, intelligent and keenly insightful individual, who totally gets the point when it comes to the subject of stem cell research, abortion rights, and cloning.

The bit that really impressed us was her answer to the question posed by Senator Sam Brownback's oh-so-pivotal question. Brownback thought he was being ultra-clever when he asked each individual on a committee the same question: "When do you think life begins?" By cornering them with this question, Brownback hoped to punch up the fact that a fetus is a living thing, and therefore deserves the same rights we grant to independent human beings.

But Professor Charo is, well, somewhat (read: exponentially) more clever than Brownback. Her response: "I don't care!"

And she's right. As she expanded on her answer, she pointed out that a virus is "alive," a skin cell is "alive" (and even has the capacity, with cloning technology on the way, to develop into a completely independent human being) — and yet, we don't think twice about destroying these things. Taking a shower in the morning kills innumerable skin cells, washing them down the drain along with the day's collection of dirt and sweat, yet there's no outcry to save the skin cells.

So Professor Charo is absolutely correct: who cares "when life begins"? It's a pointless and irrelevant question. Bravissimo, Professor!

The real question, of course, always comes down to: which lives do you value? In the case of opponents of stem cell research, and opponents of abortion rights, they clearly come down on the side of valuing clumps of cells or parasitic offspring rather than the sick human beings or struggling pregnant women standing right in front of them.

Frankly? Fuck them. If we're really supposed to be a "culture of life" (man, that's a laughable statement coming from someone like George W. Bush), let's learn to value the human beings we actually encounter every day. Fuck the "culture of life" — let's establish a culture of the living.

— • —
[  Filed under: % Civil Liberties  % Government & Politics  % Media & Censorship  % Religion  ]

Comments (10)

Blakaeris, 2005.06.25 (Sat) 11:30 [Link] »

I've been arguing this same point with all the religious fanatics I work with (it doesn't get me invited to many of their social gatherings ;)). I love to see the look on their face when I tell them that I care more for the lives of complete people than clumps of cells. Although, I have to admit that their level of intensity is frightning.

Thanks 2% for this post. I'd thank god if I believed in such a thing.

Karen, 2005.06.25 (Sat) 14:43 [Link] »

When does life begin? Hey it already began -- 3.5 billion years ago, give or take a few billion. It has continued in an unbroken thread since then. Sperm and eggs are alive; does combining them make them more alive somehow?

The real question is: under what circumstances do we value individual lives, and by how much. I just can't see how a clump of cells has as much value as a fetus, or how a fetus has as much value as a completed human; I value the existing over the potential.

The folks who equate a clump of cells to a completed human, or even value them more highly, see as much or more value in the potential human beings than in the ones already existing. If lives are sacred, this seems like an odd philosophy.

Karen, 2005.06.26 (Sun) 17:36 [Link] »

er, of course I meant 3.5 billion give or take a few million. Sigh.

Jeff from the Two Percent Company, 2005.06.27 (Mon) 01:14 [Link] »

Eh, give or take a few orders of magnitude, Karen — no worries, we know what you meant! And the rest of your comment is right on the money — valuing "possible" life forms over existing ones seems absurd at best, and grossly sociopathic at worst. Ugh.

Blakaeris — I never get invited to those parties, either, but I hear they're pretty mindless and boring. Isn't partying so much more fun when there are actual brains inside those bobbing heads?

Shawn McCormick, 2005.06.27 (Mon) 12:55 [Link] »

Hmm.. So let me try out the conservative argument and apply the standards we've set here.

So, the heirarchy is that older is worse. Given the choice of pulling a baby out of a fire, or it's parent we choose the baby. It follows then, that the life of the fetus is more important than the life of the mother, and should be saved at her expense. Which means the life of the egg is more valuable than the life of the fetus.

So, wait, right there, we need to go further than stopping abortion, we need to stop menstruation, so no eggs are lost. Okay, we'll get the scientists on that one. And masturbation, unless we can get some sort of "sperm valve" installed to protect the sperm. Oh, and we've got to stop that reabsorption of unused sperm as well. They'll just have to be stored.

Hmm.. if we're protecting sperm & eggs, then we need to protect the adults that house them, so no more death penalty, and we need to pad the world so there aren't accidents. Oh, but that means we can't protect the fetus and the mother. I know get the scientists to create artificial wombs so we can save them all.

Except the elderly women. Elderly men still have sperm. But old ladies have no eggs left. So, we don't need them. Let's kill them. Somebodies got to die to make room for all these lives we're protecting.

Jeff from the Two Percent Company, 2005.06.27 (Mon) 15:05 [Link] »

Well, Grandma's going to be disappointed, but with what I stand to inherit, perhaps I'd be willing to make the sacrifice.

Ed, 2005.06.28 (Tue) 01:01 [Link] »

Well, if the elderly women are smart, they'll find a way to suffer some sort of traumatic and irreversible brain trauma, and end up as vegetables. The republicans will keep them safe indefinitely. Vegetables and embryos, gentlemen, that's what it's all about...sort of an 'omlette' approach to the sanctity of life...

Jeff from the Two Percent Company, 2005.06.28 (Tue) 01:23 [Link] »

For me, the magic went out of eating vegetables and embryos after a quick trip to Snopes. And, personally, I think all omlettes should be aborted at conception. Yuck.

jay denari, 2005.07.13 (Wed) 18:58 [Link] »

valuing "possible" life forms over existing ones seems absurd at best, and grossly sociopathic at worst.

Actually, what's sociopathic is the fact that these wackos value the most immediately-potential humans (ie embryos) but do little or nothing to protect the rights and potential lives of potential humans a few generations from now (ie by promoting their apocalyptic crap and espousing policies that, if maintained, would leave our descendents an impoverished world.)

I might have some respect for them if they were CONSISTENT, but that's obviously an alien concept to them.

The Two Percent Company, 2005.07.13 (Wed) 22:58 [Link] »

Very true, jay — there's a form of respect we feel when someone at least applies their lunacy consistently (like good ol' Antonin "Rocksteady" Scalia). This whole bullshit "culture of life" thing doesn't even meet that simple requirement.

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