Opposition to Stem Cell Research Doesn’t Make You “Anti-Science”

Religious conservatives are often accused of being “anti-science” because of our objection to human embryonic stem cell research.

Two quick thoughts:

1) It’s not religious conservatives, but secular progressives, who most frequently reject the biological definition of when human life begins, perpetuate the myth that casual sex is harmless, consult horoscopes, deny the biological differences between males and females, oppose genetically modified crops (which have the potential to save millions of lives in developing countries), deny the sociological benefits of religious belief, and refuse to vaccinate children against preventable diseases (a decision that sometimes, you know, kills people). It’s ironic that the same people who insist that science should replace religion as the authoritative source of human knowledge, meaning, and morality are the quickest to dismiss or dispute scientific findings that clash with their own opinions.

2) It isn’t “anti-science” to have ethical objections to the use of human embryonic stem cells any more than it’s “anti-science” to have ethical objections to experiments done on prisoners in Nazi death camps. Disagreements over the ethical boundaries of science are not the same thing as disagreements over the value of science itself.

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4 thoughts on “Opposition to Stem Cell Research Doesn’t Make You “Anti-Science”

  1. Matt,

    You keep perpetuating this nonsense, and it’s beneath you.

    I don’t know any “secular progressive” (a pretty poor label) that is the least clued up on science who doesn’t understand that human life is a continuum. As yet (without the technology to achieve it) there is an unbroken chain of life generally, and an unbroken chain of human life since some first humans – an arbitrary definition at best.

    And there is no clear definition that distinguishes a human self-contained entity from its parents. Throughout the life of a self-contained human entity its progressive independence from its parents remains partial.

    So your equivocation on the term ‘human life’ is intentionally misleading.

    There is a distinct moment when the cells of two parents come together, and technically and biologically that is a fascinating and interesting point. But it only has greater significance for the wishful thinking theists who imagine there is something remotely related in some abstract intellectual sense of a soul to what those co-joined cells become as that system develops.

    It the point of joining to make one cell the zygote is of no more interest from a humanist perspective than any fertilized insect cell that most theists wouldn’t give a second thought to. Most animal cells at fertilization differ mostly be their DNA – a chemical, a molecule. Morphologically and intellectually there is no significant difference until the brain starts to develop, and even then there is little known about when the foetus becomes anything like conscious enough to be considered a human person.

    “consult horoscopes”

    What baloney. Yes, those unfortunate enough to be poorly educated or easily persuaded do believe myths.

    Here’s a better breakdown for you:

    Intelligent and science: no myths; believe contingently, based on evidence.

    Unintelligent: will believe in religion or other myths, like astrology, depending on what they are told and persuaded to believe. Given the coercive nature of religious persuasion then it’s not surprising that religious believers tend to opt for their religious myth over some other ‘pagan’ myth. Some may equally be persuaded that science is the right route to understanding the universe, and yet be easily persuaded to believe pseudo-science.

    Intelligent and religious: This is the mystery category. It is a genuine interesting psychological phenomenon that intelligent people believe stuff from myths as old as astrology.

    It’s ironic that you mock uneducated liberals for their belief in astrology when it comes a lot closer to being evidenced based than your god myth.

    You really don’t get it. You really think your myth is better than astrology? At least astrology was an attempt to understand and predict the course of the unfolding universe based on the observation of real and evidenced entities – the stars and planets. Even sun worship has one up on your imaginary god.

    “casual sex is harmless”

    Who on earth thinks that this is true, unqualified? Crossing roads is harmless – as long as you are educated in the skill and responsibility of crossing roads. Safe road crossing and safe sex are safe, by definition, and by implementation if people are educated correctly. But there I note that it’s often the religious who play with fire here, by not only educating people in safe sex. They have the naive idea that abstinence and no sex education is a solution. If you want to promote abstinence it would be just as well to educate too, because you know that abstinence is less reliable that being educated in safe sex.

    “and refuse to vaccinate children against preventable diseases (a decision that sometimes, you know, kills people).”

    I’m puzzled by this one Matt. You are targeting secular progressives, but in the linked article: “January 17: … Keep the prayers coming they are being heard!” This is a religious couple, no?

    It’s most often religious believers who deny the benefits of medical intervention. Have you missed this: http://www.post-gazette.com/nation/2013/08/27/Medical-treatment-trumps-religious-beliefs-courts-say/stories/201308270123

    Ant the anti-vaccination lobby is just one more myth maintaining group. It maintains their ant-vaccination myth just as you maintain your religious myth: ignoring evidence or believing nonsense to be evidence.

    “It’s ironic that the same people who insist that science should replace religion as the authoritative source of human knowledge, meaning, and morality are the quickest to dismiss or dispute scientific findings that clash with their own opinions.”

    Simply untrue. You are really clutching at straws here. You are using the least educated most gullible myth believers who just happen not to believe the myth you believe, and making out that this is “progressive secularism”.

    Really Matt, you’re digging ever deeper holes for yourself with this stuff.

    “It isn’t “anti-science” to have ethical objections to the use of human embryonic stem cells any more than it’s “anti-science” to have ethical objections to experiments done on prisoners in Nazi death camps.”

    Yes it is more anti-science.

    Prisoners in Nazi death camps where whole sentient conscious beings who could suffer both physically, and we tend to think even more so psychologically – the latter because they have developed and experienced brains that have a lot of conscious investment in understanding the value of life. They are particularly subject to mental trauma and suffering, in addition to the physical suffering.

    This is simply unfounded myth when applied to embryonic stem cells. There is no sign of any sentience in embryonic stem cells – or any other cell for that matter. Even a single neuron gives no sign of sentience.

    We are in the middle of a period where we are still trying to understand what it takes to be a sentient being. We have fully formed adult humans as one example, various stages in childhood as a progressive development to that stage, and various degrees of sentience and capability of suffering in animals. But there is not a jot of evidence that suggests an embryonic stem cell or any cell, including a zygote, is sentient at all. There is little evidence that tells us one way or another about the degree of sentience even in a foetus, or even in a new born baby for that matter. All the science we have suggests there is little if any sentience in the early foetus, and the late foetus, as the brain develops, is still uncharted territory.

    So, your claims about the importance of stem cells and zygotes in this regard is entirely anti-scientific, and unbecoming of a biologist.

    “Disagreements over the ethical boundaries of science are not the same thing as disagreements over the value of science itself.”

    That’s right , they are not. Ethics as practiced by the religious is anti-science.

    Proponents of science and reason accept that the drawing of boundaries is somewhat arbitrary and difficult, and so the making up of ethical rules based on religious myth, or astrology myth, or any other myth, is anti-science.

    You invent your myth about stem cells entirely for religious reasons, not for scientific reasons. That’s anti-science.

    Don’t you think it unethical to perpetuate these myths and untruths about secular liberals? Your misrepresentations have been pointed out many times before.

    I get that your myth belief has it that abortion is wrong and that using embryonic stem cells for research is wrong. Do you really need to go on misrepresenting non-believers in this way, as if to justify your own myth, as if to give your myth more credibility by making up stuff about secular liberals?

    I would obviously still disagree with your myth. But at least you wouldn’t keep shooting yourself in the foot with stuff like this.

    • “I don’t know any “secular progressive” (a pretty poor label) that is the least clued up on science…”

      Just a few weeks ago, a liberal friend of mine absolutely insisted – and I quote – “We simply don’t know when human life begins.” This individual has a college degree.

      ___

      “And there is no clear definition that distinguishes a human self-contained entity from its parents. Throughout the life of a self-contained human entity its progressive independence from its parents remains partial.”

      What do you mean by “self-contained”? What does that have to do with anything?

      ___

      “There is a distinct moment when the cells of two parents come together, and technically and biologically that is a fascinating and interesting point.”

      Technically and biologically, that is the point at which the human organism’s life begins.*Philosophically* one can always argue that this human organism only becomes *valuable* when he/she attains some arbitrary set of physical characteristics. But my point is that this is a very dangerous, Nietzschesque way of thinking.

      ___

      “Safe road crossing and safe sex are safe, by definition, and by implementation if people are educated correctly.”

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131119093306.htm

      (“There’s always been a question about which one is the cause and which is the effect. This study provides evidence that poor mental health can lead to casual sex, but also that casual sex leads to additional declines in mental health.”)

      ___

      “I’m puzzled by this one Matt. You are targeting secular progressives, but in the linked article: “January 17: … Keep the prayers coming they are being heard!” This is a religious couple, no?”

      It seems so, but their child wasn’t yet old enough to be vaccinated. They didn’t refuse to vaccinate him.

      ___

      “It’s most often religious believers who deny the benefits of medical intervention.”

      In the United States, we’ve had several significant outbreaks of diseases like whooping cough in the Pacific Northwest, thanks to an anti-vaccine movement among mostly secular, left-wing parents. That’s what I was referring to. But I’m interested in seeing the data to support your claim.

      ___

      “Prisoners in Nazi death camps where whole sentient conscious beings who could suffer both physically, and we tend to think even more so psychologically – the latter because they have developed and experienced brains that have a lot of conscious investment in understanding the value of life.”

      You seem to be suggesting that killing is only wrong (or at least, “more wrong”) if the victim is capable of physical and/or psychological suffering. By this reasoning, is it immoral to murder an adult, if it’s done painlessly while he sleeps? It seems apparent to me that murder is wrong regardless of whether or not the victim experiences physical or psychological suffering during the process of being murdered. Please read: http://blog.secularprolife.org/2013/01/a-future-like-ours.html

      ___

      “So, your claims about the importance of stem cells and zygotes in this regard is entirely anti-scientific, and unbecoming of a biologist.”

      Look at that sentence a little closer:

      …”claims about the importance”…”unbecoming of a biologist”…

      Biology, in itself, can’t tell us much about the *moral worth* of a human life. You’re confusing the domain of biology with that of philosophy/religion/metaphysics.

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