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cryptopodium

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Imagine that in the future it is possible to read the entire genome (i.e. all of the DNA) of anyone very easily (this will probably happen in the not too distant future). Now imagine that a computer program exists which can simlulate conception, i.e. it puts genes from two "parents" together in a "random" way, or rather a way which is a model of the way in which gene selection works during fertilization (this could be done today). Would the result, a simple text file containing a very long sequence of As, Gs, Cs and Ts, be a human being? No? Then how about if the genome was actually produced as real DNA - again, this could be done today; machines exist now which can create unique sequences of DNA from a letters typed at a keyboard. Would this be a human being? The next step would be to assemble this DNA into chromosomes, insert it into a human egg and let it develop. At what point does a human life come into being? If pro-lifers say it is at conception, then it is very difficult to see why if a computer program could churn out 100 hypothetical genomes a second, why each of them wouldn't be a human life as well.
 


Posts: 5 | Posted: 6:59 PM on August 15, 2003 | IP
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*ahem*
excuse me for saying so, but ...

you don't just "decide" at what point life begins.

it's a fact of science. and no scientist argues...life begins at conception.

life ends at abortion.

i'm not on either side, just bringing up a point here...whether or not you say it's "human" (and that argument is really just my word against your word) is another matter.
 


Posts: 0 | Posted: 9:03 PM on September 9, 2003 | IP
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Well, I am a scientist and I'm arguing!

Firstly, many would claim that there aren't any facts of science, merely unfalsified hypotheses. But we won't get into that.

Obviously not all life begins at conception, as not all life reproduces sexually, and even in the case of human life, you have to be a bit more specific than that. Honestly, I'm NOT trying to be pedantic for the sake of it, it's just that a lot of people's arguments in this area are based on the emotive power of certain words, so we need to be sure exactly what we mean by them. The organic material which comes together at conception is already living beforehand. What you mean is that any individual human being's life begins at conception, in the sense that the unique combination of genes that will control "his or her" development is decided upon at that point. The embryo itself is still a single cell, with no more feelings or thoughts than an amoeba. So if the important thing about an embryo at this early stage is just the unique genetic combination, why isn't any unique combination just as as important? If I have a text file which could be used to create a set of chromosomes which could then be put into an embryo, why isn't that a "life" by the same argument?
 


Posts: 0 | Posted: 5:24 PM on September 15, 2003 | IP
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The thing here isn't so much a question of life as it is one of soul. It's unarguable that cow DNA, even when it's grown into a born calf, is not considered alive the way humans are. Otherwise we'd never eat meat.

The most obvious arguement against the computer idea is simple. It's not human. Life only matters if you're human. However, if you could make a computer thingy (no better word comes to mind) that used the DNA to create a computerized human (complete with own thought and digital physiology) then you'd have a problem on your hands. Religious people would argue it's not human because a machine can't have a soul, as I'm sure many others would do. But you'd have a unique entity with it's own thought patterns.

Until we get some sort of soul-meter there's no real way to tell for certain when life begins.
 


Posts: 0 | Posted: 9:05 PM on September 24, 2003 | IP
cryptopodium

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One of the reasons I came to this forum was that I wanted to see if anyone had any reasonable arguments against abortion of very young embryos that weren't based on a religious stance. I'm an atheist, and I certainly don't believe in souls! Once you start talking about souls, I may with equal justification claim that abortion should be encouraged because as a blood sacrifice to Amon Ra it prevents earthquakes! Incidentally, while I don't consider cows to be anywhere near as important as human beings, I am a vegetarian and don't feel that breeding animals to be killed and eaten is morally supportable.

If the only argument against abortion of very young embryos (or using them to further medical science) is a religious one, then obviously religious people should keep it to themselves!

>Life only matters if you're human

I know that you only put this statement forward as part of the explanation for a particular viewpoint and don't necessarily believe it yourself. Nonetheless, I must say that I think that is one of the most truly evil philosophies imaginable! Life matters because it is amazing, beautiful and possibly unique in the universe. Many higher animals, including humans, matter for lots of other reasons as well (e.g. they are sentient to a lesser or greater degree). What is the significance of a single-celled zygote in this context? (that's a real question, not a rhetorical one!).


 


Posts: 5 | Posted: 8:58 PM on September 26, 2003 | IP
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I encourage you to read the post title "Value?"
 


Posts: 0 | Posted: 9:38 PM on January 22, 2004 | IP
    
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