Stem Cell politics was Re: [extropy-chat] Proposal: was- AChilling Thought.

Brett Paatsch bpaatsch at
Wed May 18 05:49:51 UTC 2005

Mike Lorrey wrote:

> --- Brett Paatsch <bpaatsch at> wrote:

>> I think that this particular concern is coming from you rather
>> than them Mike. (Which is fair enough you are entitled to have
>> concerns of your own).
> No, it isn't my concern. While I'm pro-choice, I think everybody gets a
> choice, and abortion is a choice that should be made along the lines of
> a jury choosing the death penalty: with great consideration,
> deliberation, and care for ALL concerned. In any pregnancy, there
> should properly be three entities with choices: the woman's, the man's,
> and the childs.

I can see some merit in what you are saying. I am not in favour of
cavalier attitudes to late stage abortions either. Very late stage
abortions might indeed amount to aborting viable children if the intention
of the mother had been to try and have a pre baby. (So I think that their
ought be a time based deadline - i.e. a what stage has the fetus reached
in its development deadline - and it is my understanding that there is). I
don't know how common cavalier attitudes to late stage abortions are in
practice. I suspect that they would not be particularly common because
the mechanics of having a late stage abortion are not such that a woman
is likely to want to have to go through them especially if she has the 
of terminating the pregnancy at an earlier stage.

There are also practical considerations that can't be ignored. For instance
there are economic costs involved in having trials and appeals processes
etc to decide whether to execute a person for a capital crime. Spending
as much on the decision to abort would probably be impractical especially
if it had to have a jury decision, also if it was a contested decision with 
the woman wanting an abortion and the man not wanting her to have an
abortion then the longer the legal process dragged on through appeals etc
the more developed the fetus would become. If society was going to
consider abortions on a case by case basis as you suggest it would have
to put some sort of timeframe constraints on the legal process or otherwise
the development of the fetus would render the legal process pointless.

I think it is important to separate out three classes of human life here
though and I'd be interested to see if you agree or disagree with
my classifications.

First an embryo, at the stage when embryonic stem cells are derived
in vitro, at around the five day stage consists of only about 150 cells or
so. Scientifically, an embryo at that early stage of development, is not
statistically likely to develop into a viable human being if it was 
into a woman's uteris. Please understand what I am saying, that is that,
most embryos in that are created naturally by men and women having
sex in the usual way, as well as unnaturally (via IVF) are not statistically
likely to be biologically viable. Nature itself is very wasteful and 
in the way it conducts meiosis to produce a new genetic entitity. This
means that most embryos produced by combination of sperm and egg
are not biologically viable and will not go onto to become babies.

Obviously some of them, some embryos do, or none of us would be
here to talk about it, but the odds of a particular embryo being viable is
reckoned to be only about 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 on average. This is based on
research that has been done to compare the success rates of IVF with
the natural method of constructing embryos.

Further, once an embryo has been created by mixing the genetic
material of a sperm and egg through meisis it is still possible for some
time afterward that not a single embryo but two embryos might be
produced by quirks of biochemistry that cause the cells to divide
again at a particular time in the cell cycle. At the five day stage when
embryonic stem cells are typically derived from IVF embryos (or
in therapeutic cloning if that was being done it isn't done much yet)
the embryo would still be immature enough that it would not be clear
that only a single human being and not two identical twins would
result from it even if it had been implanted and had been one of
the biologically viable minority of embryos.

What I am trying to point out to you is that there are good scientific
reasons for not regarding a five day old embryo as having the same
potential or moral significance as an embryo or fetus that has developed
to a substantially later stage. If you could see these early cells blown
up in full living technicolor and watch the science of early life unrolling
you would be able to see for yourself that there is a real practical
difference that relates to biochemistry. If you were able to see human
embryos under one microscope and human sperm and eggs under another
you would be looking at different forms of human life that all have some
small statistical chance of becoming part of a human being given the right
environmental conditions. You don't have to trust that what I am telling
you is true, you can (or could if you chose to and went to some effort)
check these facts out for yourself. So indeed can just about anyone that
wants to have their moral position informed by the scientific facts.

So I hope you can see that embryos at the stage that embryonic
stem cells are derived (destructively from the embryo) are not
equal in potential to produce a human being as embryos or fetuses
that are much further developed.

> .. Pro-abortionists become irate when pro-lifers truthfully
> display actual photography, cardiography, and other records of fetuses
> before, during, and after they were aborted. Why are they not proud of
> the butchery they do?

I don't think its realistic to expect that a woman would ever (or often)
be proud of having had an abortion, the process is too unpleasant, what
they are chosing is what amounts to a lesser to two unpleasant choices.

As for photographs diagrams anything that makes clear what is actually
going on, for the most part I agree with you. Society should make its
moral decisions with its eyes wide open.

> I am a hunter. I kill animals. I do not deny or hide the blood and
> guts. Unlike abortionists, I do take care that my victims suffer as
> little as possible. I am the honest one.

I can respect your attitude as a hunter but I think you are being harsh
on the class of woman that choose to have abortions.

> Feminists are arrogant in thinking that only their choice counts, that
> they are responsible enough to objectively consider what is best for
> their fetus independently of what they feel is best for themselves, and
> sexist in asserting that man's choice lasts a few minutes but a woman's
> choice lasts 9 months.

Perhaps you have a point but *practically* how could you have a policy
that worked differently than what we currently have?

> Do I object to my tax dollars subsidizing such activities? No, because
> I have no choice, my right to choose and my right to keep my property
> have been stripped from me by the theivery and thuggery of the state.
> They are the criminals and the accessories to death. A crime victim
> never gets a choice in the disbursement of that which is stolen from
> him. It is enough that I object to being robbed to begin with.

This seems a bit ranty Mike. That's a pity because, imo, you raise some
good points when you keep your equilibrium a bit better, and resist the
urge to color the opposing view to your own in the most extreme light.

Brett Paatsch

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