[extropy-chat] Bioethics Essay- Revised

Amara Graps amara at amara.com
Tue May 24 06:35:24 UTC 2005

Damien Broderick <thespike at satx.rr.com> :
>I think the way to go with an essay like this is either to stick very
>closely to elucidation of the physical and developmental facts, or to
>provide a sophisticated theological argument for why the ensoulment theory
>is a culturally-specific importation of certain historically located and
>limited philosophical opinions, as corrigible as the rest of the largely
>fallacious Greek biology of that time. That would require hard work by a
>theologically informed theorist, and probably should not be tried at home.>

 From many centuries ago, there have been arguments for the soul
in the homunculus, and they are fairly twisted. You can find them
in the reference (1). Here is an example:

In a work perhaps written in the fourteenth century ascribed to
Thomas Acquinas titled _De essentiis essentiarum_ (On the
Essences of Essences) Thomas refers to the homunculus as a proof
that a female seed could not contribute to human generation. He
says that man and sun generate a man, but that the womb's role
can be considered two ways: it either acts naturally when it
preserves the semen and supplies it with a natural heat that
stimulates its growth, but when it nourishes the semen with
menstrual blood, it behaves artificially, like an agriculturalist
when he fertilizes a field. Thomas used this reasoning to
conclude that the mother contributes nothing to the essence of
the child, but only provides a sort of incubator and nourishment.

When others argued the opposite, Thomas responded that
empirical proof from the laboratory (for this 'evidence' he
used the work by ninth-century Arab physician  and alchemist Abu
Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi) showed that semen of a man
kept in a clean vessel under the heat of dung for thirty days
generated a man, but that such a man will not have a 'rational
soul', because he is not from the union of a male and female, but
that such a man will have a 'sensitive soul', instead.

So then Thomas evades the morality issue by asserting that the
homunculus has only a sensitive rather than a rational soul, and
therefore can be classified as subhuman and fit for research

(1) _Promethean Ambitions: Alchemy and the Quest to Perfect Nature_
Nonfiction. By William R. Newman.  University of Chicago Press, 2004,
page 188-189.


Amara Graps, PhD          email: amara at amara.com
Computational Physics     vita:  ftp://ftp.amara.com/pub/resume.txt
Multiplex Answers         URL:   http://www.amara.com/
"Oh you damned observers, you always find extra things."
    -- Fred Hoyle [quoted by Richard Ellis at IAU Symposium 183]

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