don’s dissent

Tulsa blogger Don Singleton took issue with a couple of points in my Friday post Frist, Do No Harm. First, he disagrees with my statement that IVF involves a lives for money equation:

I agree that life begins at conception, but the problem is not that Frist will support allowing research on the embryos that are about to be destroyed; the problem is that so many embryos were created without the intention of bringing them to term. What they should do is allow these embryos to be used, but require tighter controls over the future creation of excess embryos in future IVF procedures.

Of course I agree it is wrong to create so many embryos which will ultimately be destroyed. But I have to disagree that they should allow these doomed embryos to be used for research. To do so entails treating the embryos as non humans.

We have precident in our legal system for protecting humans who are doomed. For example, suppose I decide to pull a Jack Ruby on a murderer on death row, just one day before his execution was to be carried out. I would be arrested, charged and prosecuted for killing a human who was going to die anyway. Or to use a perhaps more appropos example, suppose I started offing the very aged and infirm in some quick, unexpected and painless way? I would be charged with murder, despite the fact that my victims were close to death.

The point is, either embryos are human lives or they are not. If an embryo is a human being, then it has the right to protection from being killed for any reason, even if it seems expedient. If the harvesting of the stem cells destroys the embryos or even if it provides any incentive for the destruction of the embryos, and if you believe that life begins at conception, then you have to conclude Frist’s position is morally wrong.

We enter peril, morally speaking, when we think of people in groups and fail to consider the individual. There is a huge number of embryos destined to be destroyed. But the notion of using “them” for research becomes more palatable when you close your mind to the idea that when a lab assistant punctures an embryo with a needle, he or she is ending one human being’s life. If you believe life begins at conception, you have to treat that life as a human life.

frist, do no harm

Frist (fr[i^]st), v. t. [OE. fristen, firsten, to lend, give respite, postpone, AS. firstan to give respite to; akin to first time, G. frist, Icel. frest delay.] To sell upon credit, as goods. [R.] –Crabb.

“I am pro-life,” Mr. Frist says in his speech on Thursday, arguing that he can reconcile his support for the science with his own Christian faith. “I believe human life begins at conception…I also believe that embryonic stem cell research should be encouraged and supported.” (NY Times)

When he was nominated as Senate Majority leader, Dr. Bill Frist was hailed, by virtue of his experience as a medical doctor, as a consumate expert who could lead the GOP through the contentious medical conundrums of the twenty-first century. But apparently the question of embryonic stem cell research requires not so much a leading doctor as an average logician.

Frist has departed from Bush’s policy which allows federal funding only for pre-existing lines of embryonic stem cells. Frist wants to expand that policy to include the use of frozen, soon-to-be discarded embryos to create new lines of embryonic stem cells.

“An embryo is nascent human life,” Mr. Frist says in his speech, adding: “This position is consistent with my faith. But, to me, it isn’t just a matter of faith. It’s a fact of science.” But more than either of these, IVF and federal embryonic stem cell research is about money.

The ethics of IVF (in vitro fertilization) is based on expediency: it does help couples who are having trouble getting pregnant to have children. But it creates many more embryos than the couple will use, mainly because creating embryos one at a time would be prohibitively expensive. If you believe, as Frist claims he does, that human life begins at conception, then IVF involves the hideous equation of lives for money.

Once you accept the morality or at least the expediency of IVF’s lives-for-money equation, Frist’s frozen embryo exploitation scheme is a relatively small step, involving only piddly issues like privacy and the lack of “strong ethical and scientific oversight.” To put it another way, as long as the parents are ok with it, and as long as the doctors and scientists give it the nod, it’s ok to take an innocent human life. Frist, you give new play to the phrase “hypocritical oath.”

not funny

It’s painful to admit it, but when I am busy and distracted, I’m not a very humorous person. That isn’t to say I lose my sense of humor (at least I hope not). But when the gears are really turning upstairs, I’m generally not the one thinking up new material worthy of Jerry Seinfield’s immediate attention. I’m not funny, and I know it. Ouch.

It reminds me of the line from the movie An American Tail. Fival, the movie’s undersized hero with the oversized curiousity, asks the boss of a sweatshop, “but what about my family?”

The boss replies, “You don’t need a family, kid. You got a job. Now GET TO WORK!!!”

So what’s the job these days? I’ve shifted abruptly from reading books in my spare time to assembling a PC for my son to use in school next fall. And so I’ve lapsed into PC Assembling Mode. This means that I think about building computers all the time. Haha, haha. Ha. Funny. What’s worse, I think it’s fun. My entheusiasm is unmatched, even by my son, and he’s pretty darned entheusiastic. It’s just hilarious.

But it’s going to be so cool! Assembled entirely from scratch, and on the cheap, this puppy-dog-tail of a computer is going to rock, relatively speaking. I’ll post a picture when it’s done.

<boring>
I bought the microATX case for this computer several years ago. Can’t remember if it was eBay or somebody’s sale, but I got it for six bucks ($6.00). Such a deal. Only when it arrived did I discover my foolishness: there was no power supply in this case. I then shopped for a microATX powersupply and found they were a little more pricey than regular ATX power supplies, particularly if you didn’t want an underpowered one (I definitely didn’t want that).

So this little-bitty case languished. But this summer as the school year approached, I became enamoured with the thought of assembling a PC for the young scholar, and my eyes turned again to that little case. Now for the ingredients:

  • CPU: Sempron 2300+ Thoroughbred 333Mhz FSB
  • MOTHERBOARD: PC CHIPS M863G Micro ATX
  • RAM: 512Mb X 2 (1Gb) PQI Power Series PC2700 (333Mhz)
  • POWER SUPPLY: 320 Watt MicroATX
  • HARD DRIVE: 60Gb ATA133 White Label (junk, it’ll die in 2 years)
  • DVD Drive: Lite-On Beige DVD-ROM (only $18! Hahahahaha!)
  • MONITOR: 14″ ProView LCD display
  • GUNK: OCZ Ultra 5+ OCZU5STP Silver Thermal Compound
  • EXTRA (FREE) JUNK: Skype VOIP Starter Pack
  • FRONT PANEL: SOYO BayOne Extreme 9-in-1 USB 2.0 Card Reader/Adapter (fits in second 5.25″ bay)
  • FAN #1: 80mm quiet, thermal-sensing, auto-speed-adjusting fan
  • FAN #2: Very quiet PCI-slot fan
  • NOISE REDUCTION: Some noise reduction mats to cut and stick on the inside of the case.
  • CASE MOD: Clear blue led feet for the bottom of the case.
  • KEYBOARD: Cheap ($10) black and grey multimedia keyboard
  • MOUSE: Something blue and glowy and optical.
  • OPERATING SYSTEM: Undecided. Was going to buy Windows XP, but now I’m looking at Linspire and Xandros.

I was going to get a variable rate fan and a nifty glowing LCD displayin’ fan controller, but I opted to automate (after all, it’s for a 10-year-old), so I got a front panel which just has USB and headphone jack, and I’m putting in the automatic fan. This fan is pretty cool (Hahahahahah!) because it runs slower and quieter if the computer is cool, but when things heat up, it cranks up, providing extra coolness. No fuss, no muss, no chance the scholar will turn the thing off.

Motherboard, CPU, RAM, DVD-ROM are all here and installed; tonight I should get the powersupply and hard-drive, and I’ll be ready for a Xandros-fueled test run. Compared to the other computers I’ve got laying around doing next to nothing, this one should cook.
</boring>

My sister and her husband just moved. This weekend I may go help them get settled in. Then maybe while I’m hanging a picture or two, and pushing furniture around, maybe, just maybe I’ll forget to think about computers for a while. Maybe. But seriously, what do you think about getting a cheap MP3 player?

somebody stop me


Smell the baby.
Evangelium Vitae, by Pope John Paul II

I did it again. I cracked yet another book. Starting books is the new speedreading.

Anyway, this book reminds me of A Christian Manifesto in that John Paul II attempts to paint a broader picture of our culture in the modern age, and to detemine the root of the problem. He does this largely in theological terms, although he does discuss government a bit in sections 21, 22.

Quotable quote which stuck out to me:

The values of being are replaced by those of having.

Here the John Paul II was talking about the way that man’s refusal to acknowledge God leads him to an existence which is oriented toward gratification, and that in so doing, he becomes detatched from his own life. His ultimate aim is control; every aspect of life under his control, and even the circumstances of his death are, by his right, under his control. It conjured for me a picture of modern man watching himself live his life literally from outside himself, almost as if he were manipulating a doll. He does not feel what he ought to feel, because the only sensations he accepts are pleasurable ones.

Indeed, what JPII says about suffering is reminiscent of Victor Frankle. JPII says:

In such a context suffering, an inescapable burden of human existence but also a factor of possible human personal growth, is “censored,” rejected as useless, indeed opposed as an evil, always and in every way to be avoided.

This reminds me of Frankle largely because of the potential meaning it proposes for suffering. I’d round that out with a good Frankle quote except it is stinkin’ late and I have to get up in oh-so-few hours. I leave the Frankle quotation as an exercize for the interpid reader/commentor who wishes this task upon him or herself.