Here is an interesting five-part interview (on Issues, Etc.) with Dr. John Warwick Montgomery on Christian Apologetics. Topics include legal evidence, history and approaches to apologetics, and the influence of Christianity. Dr. Montgomery is a lawyer, professor, theologian, and author. He is quite witty and clever, and so his interviews are always very informative as well as entertaining. Check it out.
I may have posted this video before elsewhere, but I thought I would bring it back one more time here on the blog. It is a good illustration of the virtually axiomatic saying that “ideas have consequences.”
Warning: it is a bit intense.
Defeating dangerous, false ideas is more foundational to fixing our problems than the surface-level band-aids we often want to apply to them, however helpful those solutions may seem in the moment. There are deeper issues to consider. How we view the world and what is Really Real informs how we act. For good or for ill. Consciously or unconsciously. In short: “Ideas have consequences.”
An example, cited from Nancy Pearcey’s most recent book:
“As Woolfson writes, evolution has endowed us with ‘genes that make us believe in concepts like the soul,’ but those concepts are illusory. ‘One day such irrational tendencies might be removed by adjusting the relevant brain circuitry.’ In the meantime, ‘We will have to resign ourselves to the unpalatable fact that we are nothing more than machines.’ The fatal flaw in this theory is that it undercuts itself (emphasis added). If consciousness is an illusion, then who is conscious of that fact?”
Never mind the cold, ominous undertones here, where human belief is reduced to “irrational tendencies” which can be “removed” simply by “adjusting…brain circuitry.” (I get chills just thinking about what all that entails.) As Pearcey points out, this theory not only undercuts itself (defeating itself logically by its own claims), it devalues us as human beings to the point where we see one another as simply “machines,” “heaps of molecules,” or “blobs/clumps of cells or tissue.”
Much more could be said here, but it’s something to think about the next time we see human beings treating one another as something less than what they actually deserve.
1. Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning (pp. 92-93). B&H Books. Kindle Edition., p. 92-93.
Generally speaking, in my workplace the standard pro-life view isn’t one that is championed or even held in very high regard. More than that, it’s not very often you hear of a scientist actively seeking ethical alternatives to embryonic stem cell research and then modifying how he does his science based on the more ethical choice. I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen, but in recent years, it just seems that ESCR is the only kind of stem cell research that is talked about with much enthusiasm.
More recently however, better methods–both scientifically and morally–are being talked about and gaining some momentum in the discussion, and they do not involve ESCR. In fact, this new research, I’m happy to say actually is going in my own workplace, right under my nose…or feet anyway.
In a recent article from Penn State Live, the University announced the development of yet another valuable scientific method that utilizes reprogrammed adult somatic cells (induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs).
Here’s an excerpt:
A team of scientists at Penn State, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and other institutions have developed a method for recreating a schizophrenic patient’s own brain cells, which then can be studied safely and effectively in a Petri dish. The method brings researchers a step closer to understanding the biological underpinnings of schizophrenia. The method also is expected to be used to study other mysterious diseases such as autism and bipolar disorder, and the researchers hope that it will open the door to personalized medicine — customized treatments for individual sufferers of a disease based on genetic and cellular information.
The study will be published in a future edition of the journal Nature and will be posted on the journal’s advance online website on April 13.
Gong Chen, an associate professor of biology at Penn State and one of the study’s authors, explained that the team first took samples of skin cells from schizophrenic patients. Then, using molecular-biology techniques, they reprogrammed these original skin cells to become unspecialized or undifferentiated stem cells called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). “A pluripotent stem cell is a kind of blank slate,” Chen explained. “During development, such stem cells differentiate into many diverse, specialized cell types, such as a muscle cell, a brain cell, or a blood cell.”
After generating iPSCs from skin cells, the authors cultured them to become brain cells, or neurons. They then compared the neurons derived from schizophrenic patients to the neurons created from the iPSCs of healthy individuals. They found that the neurons generated from schizophrenic patients were, in fact, distinct: compared with healthy neurons, they made fewer connections with each other.
As you can see, one great thing about iPSCs is that they are sourced directly from the patient in question. In this case, they provide a “model system that allows us to study how antipsychotic drugs work in live, genetically identical neurons from patients with known clinical outcomes.”
This is of course also perfectly safe for the patient, Chen notes:
What’s so exciting about this approach is that we can examine patient-derived neurons that are perhaps equivalent to a particular patient’s own neural cells. Obviously, we don’t want to remove someone’s brain cells to experiment on, so recreating the patient’s brain cells in a Petri dish is the next best thing for research purposes. Using this method, we can figure out how a particular drug will affect that particular patient’s brain cells, without needing the patient to try the drug, and potentially, to suffer the side effects. The patient can be his or her own guinea pig for the design of his or her own treatment, without having to be experimented on directly.
More information about diseases that could be studied (e.g. autism and bipolar disorder) and further benefits of using these methods can be read in the article.
This is great news for patients and the researchers who study these puzzling neurological disorders. Even better news, and conspicuous by its absence (or not!) is the fact that we have more evidence for the good science being done using alternatives to ESCR, such as Adult Stem Cells and induced Pluripotent Stem Cells.
That is something that should be encouraging to pro-lifers (and many others as well) and is cause for a little celebration, at least in this blogger’s opinion.
In his book, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice, Frank Beckwith points out a humorously named, informal logical fallacy committed by some abortion-choicers called the “fallacy of the beard” (also known as the “continuum fallacy” or “fallacy of the heap”). He describes this fallacy as follows: “Just because I cannot tell you when stubble ends and a beard begins does not mean that I cannot distinguish bearded faces from clean-shaven ones.”
So how is this related to the abortion debate? And more specifically, how is this fallacy committed by some abortion-choicers?
Beckwith cites David Boonin as an example. Boonin says that the precise moment at which a new human being comes into existence is in dispute. In his view then, this counts as evidence against the claim that the existence of a human being starts at conception.
Beckwith handles this very nicely (as follows):
Boonin’s raising of this important epistemological question (When do we know X is an individual organism and its germ cell progenitors cease to be?) does not detract from the claim that a complete and living zygote is a whole human organism. It may be that one cannot, with confidence, pick out the precise point at which the sperm initially penetrates the ovum and a complete and living zygote is present. But how does it follow from that acknowledgement of agnosticism that one cannot say that zygote X is a human being?
Quite cleverly (in a classic style found throughout the book), Beckwith then takes this objection and turns it back on the abortion-choicer’s (including Boonin’s) own views on the right to life:
Abortion-choice supporters typically pick out what they consider value-making properties–for example, rationality, having a self-concept, sentience, or organized cortical brain activity (as in the case of Boonin)–that they maintain justify concluding that a being lacking one or all of them does not have a right to life. But it is nearly impossible to pick out at what precise point in a being’s existence it acquires the correct trait, for example, when it becomes rational enough or has a sufficient amount of organized cortical brain activity, to warrant a right to life. But it’s doubtful whether the abortion-choice advocate would abandon her position on those grounds.
Well said. Anyway, it’s an interesting fallacy to remember the next time you shave.