Friday, December 12, 2008

Scientist Reacts to Vatican Bioethics Paper ~ National Catholic Reporter Article

The National Catholic Reporter has just published an article by William B. Neaves, who is president and CEO of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, Mo. Neaves is responding to the bioethics paper, Dignitas Personae, that has just been released by the Vatican.

Here are a few paragraphs from the NCR article:

"Dignitas Personae catalogues the consequences of actions derived from a moral framework based on a point of view about personhood — a view that is not shared by all. This point of view accords the dignity of a person to the first cell that results from fertilization of an egg by a sperm. If this premise is accepted, all the consequences detailed in Dignitas Personae logically follow."

and further along:

"An alternative point of view to the Vatican’s, embraced by many Christians, is that personhood occurs after successful implantation in the mother’s uterus, when individual ontological identity is finally established. This way of thinking about when a person comes into existence reconciles another otherwise troublesome reality of normal, natural human reproduction: in many (and probably most) instances, the single cell resulting from fertilization of an egg by a sperm perishes in the woman’s reproductive tract and never implants in the uterus. Only after implantation does a birthed baby become highly probable. Would God have ordained that most people should die in the first two weeks of existence, long before seeing the light of day? No human being can know, but it seems unlikely."

Please go
here to read the complete article before responding.

I thought this was a very thoughtful article and an important one to consider. What say you about this alternative view?


James H said...

THe Pope issued a state ment attacking poverty today also that will be part World Peace day

I really have to wonder if NCR would have a headline COncerned Scientist Blast Reacts to Pope on Arms Control and not mention that this Scientist was the CEO of a company that made surface to air missiles

William B. Neaves has been on the scene fro some time and the various things he is CEO should be looked into.

He fought the Bishops tooth and nail over related issues revolving around the Ballot issue on this topic in Missouri. He also wants to change definations so the public does not get alarmed.Why NCR does not give us more of the potential bias of Mr Neeves both professonally and monetary is beyond me.

Needless to say many others are a tad wary of his midleading tactics

Anwqy I am going to have more thoughts on what he said tomorrow but if you read his whole article he very little interacts with what is a very long and complex document by the Church

I think over at Crunchy COn that took note of this article shares some of my inital thoughts at

Vatican bioethics document and competing moral visions (Erin)

She says in part:

"Neaves discusses the usual objections, including twinning; he also fails to define when exactly after implantation the "products of fertilization" (his term) start having a soul, and thus personhood--could be immediately, but then again, it might not happen until the child's fourth birthday, for all he--or anyone else--is able to establish.

Moreover, a look at the Vatican document illustrates that the Vatican isn't discussing ensoulment or personhood; rather, the document simply states: "The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life" as one of the two foundational principles by which we view bioethics. The embryo is human, and it has being (in the sense that it is alive); we therefore must give to the embryo the same respect which we give to all human life.

If Christians are really acting in good faith, isn't it better to approach that which is unquestionably human and alive with that respect to which we give all humans? Isn't it acting in opposition to Christian morality to kill or destroy that which may be a human life, even if we aren't sure of it?

According to traditional morality, this is so. But according to the new secular morality, the well-being and happiness of the adult actor must outweigh any and all concerns about the right of the human who is in the embryonic or fetal stage, or even in the process of being born: the ability to be a self-determining agent of one's own happiness demands that the power of life and death the mother has over her child be absolute, and Peter Singer's view that she ought to be able to order the death of the neonate should the child be defective in some way makes more logical sense than the more sentimental view that this ought not be done.

Thus, the Vatican document will be another salvo in the culture war, since the battle involves competing moral visions one or the other of which will ultimately shape society.

Mark said...

The article by Mr. Neaves says nothing new, it thoughtlessly rehashes old arguments against the personhood of the unborn. The arguments of this type have been debunked many times over.

People of good will should denounce any attempts to deny human rights to anyone simply because he or she doesn't physically resemble (at one stage of their life) a grown man. What operates in such thinking is at best utter confusion, or else it is the same malicious logic that was used to justify slavery, the domination of the strong over the weak.

Efforts to disassociate personhood from the moment of conception always degenerate into arguments that view personhood as based on a sliding scale. That is the actual purpose of such arguments. Actually, the civil law, way ahead of Mr. Neaves, draws only one line at the moment - whatever it is, it has no human rights until it passes thru the birth canal, or is removed via a C-section.

I'm afraid pro life arguments will be refused by many, until the power of the state tells them one day (God forbid) that due to their physical deterioration they can no longer can be classified as human beings according to the state "standards".