[extropy-chat] Re: Stem Cell politics --- Link to the VirtualHuman Embryo site

Brett Paatsch bpaatsch at bigpond.net.au
Thu May 19 15:25:21 UTC 2005

From: "Mike Lorrey" <mlorrey at yahoo.com>

>> When talking about embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic
>> cloning in all its conceivable near term medical applications it is
>> ENTIRELY true and appropriate to talk in terms of "clumps of cells"
>> because that is ALL that is involved scientifically. 
> The problem is the term 'clump of cells' is not a scientific term, it
> is a popular term of vernacular. 

Its not meant to be a scientific term its meant to be a description. 
Whether the description is accurate or not is a matter of what is being
referred to. It would be misleading to describe a fetus as a lump of
cells (as the link I gave you should make clear) but its not misleading
to describe the embryo at the stage that embryonic stem cells are
extracted from it as a clump of cells as that is pretty much all it is.
About 150 cells of so about 30 of which make up the inner cell 

> Thus its vernacular definition should
> be used.

Huh? What do you mean its "vernacular definition" isn't that an 

> Generally, such a term refers to either randomly sorted or
> undifferentiated cells, or a small group of similarly differentiated
> cells from a larger organ. A drop of blood is a 'clump of cells'. A
> fingernail or hair is  'a clump of cells', etc. The use of the phrase
> by pro-abortionists is entirely to soft pedal what a fetus is by
> minimizing its importance or distinctiveness. 

I am not disputing for one moment that terminology can be used
to mislead people by people on both sides of any of these 
controversial debates. My point is to make the science better
known, then the terminology matters less as understanding is

 > To paraphrase you: using such language is perjorative and deserving of
> tar and feathering, when used to describe a fetus that has moved beyond
> cell differentiation and particularly when it has started developing
> its nervous system.

My objection to John C Wright was proportionately higher than it 
otherwise would have been had he not been pretending to make a
virtual of using non perjorative terms whist in fact using them himself. 

> Now, I likely kill more brain cells when I sneeze than a fetus has in
> the first few weeks of its neural development. 
> This being so, and
> despite Olga's broad brush, black and white tarring and feathering, I
> don't ascribe 100% personhood to a fetus at this stage. 

 > As I said previously which Olga and you have ignored, my concern
> *increases* as the fetus gets older.

I didn't ignore it, you posted this before I sent the rest of the reply. 

> Lets say we loosely say that this
> concern starts at two weeks and reaches 100% at six months. This gives
> us approximately 24 weeks, so lets say each week after two weeks we
> give the fetus 2% additional personhood.
> Now, we know that some people are capable of functioning in life on one
> hemisphere, don't we? So we could say that half a brain is half a
> person but still deserving of life. Do we therefore start being very
> concerned when the fetus has reached the 50% point? Or, given that
> cellular reproduction is something of an exponential process, should we
> use a log scale of some sort?
> Now, discussion about the growth of the outer cortex of the brain seems
> to be the final establishment of personhood. The problem with claiming
> that this is the only threshold that matters is that it asserts that
> anything the mother does interactively before that point has zero
> impact on the child: playing music, reading, etc. which I think
> contradicts the claims of most mothers.

As a way of thinking about the problem this has some potential merit. 
In some of the specifics there are problems but I can't get into this any
more tonight. 

Brett Paatsch

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