Friday, March 6, 2009

LTI Podcast Episode 5 [Serge]

Episode 5 is up. Scott and I continue to respond to Amanda's video, and I analyze a paper from the Guttmacher Institute that seems to support the idea that there are positive benefits to kids having sex as early as 13 years of age.

You can download the podcast directly at or subscribe using Itunes at


  1. I really like podcast 5. Thanks for the reminder that both sides of the abortion debate make meta-physical (moral) claims.

    Of course, I have to listen to all the earlier podcasts as well.

    In podcast 2, Serge mentions some of the problems associated with gathering direct evidence about whether hormone pills affect implantation. When human subjects are too difficult to use, scientists often use animals. What has been the result of this type of research?

  2. Hello Serge,

    I want to thank you for taking the time and discussing the issue in regard to my question in podcast#2. I'm glad there are people like you out there, preoccupied with ethical issues often overlooked by most people today. I'm also sorry for replying only now, but I've been caught up with other things lately.
    I've been investigating the issue of "when human life begins" a little more and came across some interesting events that take place after the moment of conception, I'm guessing you've heard of them. The events I'm referring to are twinning, and, even more interesting, chimerism, in which two early embryos fuse toghether and form one embryo(tetragametic chimerism). There is a lot to say here and not enough space, but for now I have just included a few posts(I'm sure you can find more):

    I think the reason we consider someone a person is because, firstly we regard him as an individual, a separate distinct entity, quality necessary for someone to have a soul. Individuals don't mix or split, if they are separate entities they stay that way, otherwise they might not be what we think they are. I think one of the reasons we are tempted to consider the zygote a person is because of its form of existence(shape) and behavior as a singe whole, but the phenomenon of chimerism would seem to contradict this fact. In tetragametic chimerism, two yzgotes fuse and form one person, no one dies, yet only one person is borned, which bears 2 sets of DNA.
    Couldn't it be that the zygote, morula, blastocyst are entities which contain the genetic blue print of someone (genetic information only) from which life arises, some time later? This could probably be at the moment of gastrulation(primitive streak), at which the person actually starts forming and twinning is no longer possible. See "Norman M. Ford - When did I begin?"

    Please let me know your thoughts on this.

    Thank you,

    P.S. Regarding Amanda's video from RH Reality Check, the points she makes are so out of subject, I dont't think it's even worth discussing.

  3. Thanks Drew. If it is OK with you, I'll address your question during podcast 6.

  4. Mike,

    Thanks for your excellent question. We addressed twinning in the last podcast at least superficially. We will probably return for a more thorough examination. Robbie George's book "The Embryo" and Beckwith's book "Defending Life" provide excellent defenses for the pro-life view from the argument of disunity of the embryo.

    In chimerism, it is extremely rare in humans (less than 100 reported cases), and is not fully understood. The fact that this very rare event may occur does not change the fact that an embryo is a living organism of our species. At least I don't see how it does.

    Lastly, I am familiar with the paper you cited by Karen Downs. Although she presents her arguments in an academic environment, her arguments are very similar to those offered by Amanda Marcotte - even to the point of using the term "fertilized egg" repeatedly.

  5. Mike,

    I have a quick point to make on your comment. In a very short span you talk about three distinct issues and if you conflate any of the two unnecessarily you will create apparent problems that are not real.

    When does an independent human life begin? (Science) When is a “rights bearing” human person present? (Philosophy) When is a soul present? (Theology)

    One of the posts you link seems to believe that the value of an individual is tied up with ensoulment. That is not the case that most pro-lifers are making. We most often operate in two disciplines: science and philosophy. Though LTI is a Christian ministry with biblical beliefs on the value of human life, we most often argue the value of human life position without any appeal to the presence of a soul.

    The reason for this seems obvious. If I appeal to the unbeliever that abortion is wrong as an article of Christian faith then belief in the position that “abortion is wrong” is contingent on the statement that “Christianity is true.” But it is possible to make a case that abortion is wrong and immoral without appealing to Christianity or whether or not I can verify the presence of a soul. In fact, I think that arguing for when you think the soul shows up is as ineffective as arguing about when you think “personhood” shows up. You will have a heck of a time making the case why your subjective point is any better than anyone else’s.

    As to the “devastation” that twinning or chimerism make to the pro-life argument that a human life is present at the moment that the fertilization process is complete and a zygote is present? I fail to see how twinning undermines the scientific case, as there is unquestionably a life present. To say that this life has the potential to exhibit some peculiar properties and behaviors because of the nature of this stage is not a disqualifier for humanity. Is it a rights bearing person? I still fail to see how twinning and chimerism would justify someone feeling obliged to destroy all the human life in the very early stages of development they wish because a few embryonic humans might twin at some point and on very rare occasions two of them will fuse. So all of them forfeit any rights or claims to personhood based on these peculiar possibilities? Why? If you argue, “Because it may not be what we think it is,” then I think you miss the point. There may be more people coming or in very rare instances there may be fewer people in the end but I fail to see why that disqualifies all early human life from personhood based on your possible misperceptions.

    As to when the soul shows up? I couldn’t and wouldn’t begin to make a guess on that. But I also would not justify people using another human for experimentation because I thought the soul wasn’t there yet. I certainly would never advocate the position that human life does not begin until such and such a time because I personally believe that a soul needs specific developmental criteria met before it moves in. Especially since I know that I could never provide a shred of evidence to support or refute those beliefs.

  6. I found this podcast to be very helpful (again). Even though these arguments are mostly ridiculous, they are the arguments that I encounter most often.

    In fact, sometimes I find them difficult to dispute initially because I have a hard time trying to figure out the logic behind them, and finally realize that I am giving the arguments too much credit - there is no logic behind them.

    Refining the arguments, and having short incisive answers will really help in those impromptu social interactions.

    Keep up the good work.


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