Fetal tissue

Reilly Jones (Reilly@compuserve.com)
Mon, 2 Mar 1998 21:01:28 -0500

Arjen Kamphius wrote 3/2/98 responding to my point that "fetal tissue" is a
dehumanizing definition... propaganda developed against the enemy:

<What enemy? I'm sorry, but this sounds like you're picketing in front of a
clinic or something (or maybe it's just my reli-fanatic-alarm going off?).>

Enemy? Why, the mother's unborn child and how it's viewed, take your pick:
as imperfection, denier of comfort, inconvenience, responsibility, the
weak, life itself, etc. What's wrong with picketing as a form of political
activism? Is human life not worth defending? It's OK if your
reli-fanatic-alarm went off, my kneejerk bigotry alarm went off in response
to this, in fact, I think I heard the pilot light on the camp ovens turn

<Since the fetus at this stage is nearly indistinguisable from most other
mammals and many other vertebrates that would mean that a pig fetus has the
same value & rights as a human, after birth the fetus somehow loses that
value/those right and it's ok to use it as a source of protein.>

This may be true for very primitive humanity, but for many moons now,
enlightened humanity can tell quite easily which is pig and which is human.
Do a web search on "human genome project, and in vitro fertilization" and
follow the links if you don't believe me. Also, regarding pig rights and
sources of proteins, you might do a web search on "animal rights,
bioethics, vegetarian, & Jainism" and follow the links. After a couple of
years of in depth research on the topic, you may begin to see that the
development of animals has been a political question for a very long time.

Interestingly, the same groups that want animal rights typically support
mothers murdering their unborn children. Likewise, the same groups that
lobbied to have alcohol and tobacco warnings for pregnancy typically
support the right to murder what the warnings are meant to protect. If a
mother can murder her unborn child, why can't she smoke and drink to her
heart's content without being warned about it? Even the most hardcore
ethical relativist has a twinge of conscience over the birth of crack
babies, permanently maimed human beings, maimed in the area of volitional
freedom. Yet if a mother can murder her developing child, why can't she
smoke all the crack she can afford? If the unborn child is just fetal
tissue, why not genetically engineer it in vitro or in utero to become a
slave or worker drone? Why not maim it deliberately, using worse methods
than crack, just out of cussedness, that's freedom of choice isn't it?
There will never be an anti-cloning or anti-designer baby law that will
hold water with the Supreme Court until Roe v. Wade is overturned. The
right to murder an unborn baby because it has been defined away coincides
with the right to use the baby however the mother wishes to use it. They
are inseparable.

<The parallel-server that I'm working on has no intelligence and thus no
value&rights as a consious being.>

I can't make sense out of this. Are you saying that the possession of
intelligence is the source of rights? How much intelligence is enough to
get on the rights wagon? Who defines intelligence and why is it the same
as consciousness?

<Maybe all it takes is a processor-upgrade and smarter software? That would
mean that this 'lump of metal' is a potential consious being. O dear. What
right do I have feeding it all these problems that I want to have solved.>

This is strange reasoning. Where do you think rights come from? If we are
unconscious, say when we're sleeping or in a coma, do our rights go away?

<If everything that has the potential of becoming a human has the rights of
a human then we're comitting mass-murder every time we have sex.>

I don't know who you are arguing against here, but it's certainly not me.
A fertilized egg with a normal full set of chromosomes is the starting
point for human development, not earlier. At that point, with genetic
engineering, we can modify what nature hath brought together. The
environmental factors that influence the whole development of a human begin
right at this point, and it is these factors that produce a unique human
entity every time, no matter how identical the raw material is to begin
with. The environmental factors are all political questions, e.g., smoking
and alcohol advisory warnings for pregnancy.

<What's so special about that? lot's of cells contain a complete set (and a
good thing they do!>

But I didn't specify any old cell, now did I? What's the point of this

<Ah yes, but the political conclusion that was reached in most modern
countries was: "This is a choice the woman in question must decide for
herself, after having been duly advised of the pro's and con's." or
something like that. If you have an alternative, practical, model for
deciding these things I'd love to hear it.>

In America, no political conclusion has been reached, only a judicial
usurpation of the political question. This is judicial tyranny, to define
away human life without recourse to the Constitutional Amendment process,
such as was used when slavery was abolished. Slavery and abortion are all
about the private ownership and disposition of human life. The crux of the
philosophical issues in both cases was and continues to be definitional.
My alternative is polycentrism, or particularism, many jurisdictions trying
out many different treatments of the issue. The judiciary cannot usurp the
legislative role. Individuals should have the choice to move to
jurisdictions that honor life, or that worship death. The type of society
that evolves in each jurisdiction will provide the incentive or
disincentive for movement, but I know from moral reasoning from first
principles that families trying to raise children will be drawn towards
jurisdictions with an ethic of protecting and enhancing life.

<Fact is that after an abortion the remains of the fetus are usualy
destroyed, a great waste since some of the tissue's have great medical
potential. If destroying it is acceptable, why would medical use (with
permission of course) not be?>

Why would permission be needed? If the sewage treatment plant wants to
make use of a mother's fecal material, no one expects it to ask for
permission, and the fetal tissue in the eyes of the law is exactly
equivalent to fecal matter. Even better than medical use, why not eat them
as gourmet delectables, like milk-fed veal with great nutritional value?
What's wrong with cannabilism? What's wrong with the Chinese Communists
harvesting body organs without "permission" from prisoners they've bumped
off and selling them on the world market? What's wrong with
commercializing all life, at all stages of development, including humans,
intelligent or otherwise, conscious or otherwise? Just make all life into
products in the marketplace, all custom designed for any use whatsoever?
"If destroying it is acceptable," why would any use not be, living or dead?

Reilly Jones | Philosophy of Technology:
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| between 'How we create' and 'Why we create'