Cells and Sales

It was once claimed in science texts that the cell was the smallest unit of all living organisms.  I have no idea what the school books say now, but it seems as if the old definition is continually ignored in favor of what’s ironically touted as “women’s health.”  The death of a cell or a few cells in exchange for the life of an actual person is what we’re to believe is the moral case for abortion.  Well, as a scientist, I have a few questions about this rather interesting argument.  Regarding an endangered species, the black rhino for example, if scientists had the last living zygote or embryo in a lab and there were no more actual rhinos alive; would the species be considered extinct?  Or, if we threw out that last living black rhino embryo would they then be extinct?  If a deadly disease caused by a bacteria was nearly eradicated except for one cell of the death-dealing bacterial species; what if that cell were introduced into a human host?  The power of one cell can be the difference between life and death.  Scientists know this.  Though, it seems the validity of empirical knowledge is selective based on one’s world view.  I know we Christians are accused of this (sometimes justifiably) all the time.  The destruction of a human embryo is the destruction of a human being.  There is absolutely no scientific or logical argument against this statement.   Some even admit this is true and still say there is a ‘justification’ for abortion.

“Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.”

–Mary Elizabeth Williams

Let’s talk about the virtues of slavery, shall we?  An institution in which one human owns another.  It’s despicable.  Right?  But a mother is always the boss of the human being inside of her merely by virtue of… well, what exactly??  Autonomy?  You people realize that the question of free will is still philosophically and scientifically unconfirmed, right?  Just throwing that out there.

Racism is an ever present cause of tension, but it always seems to float under the radar that Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was a racist and eugenicist.

The Negro Project was initiated in 1939 by Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood. It was a collaborative effort between the American Birth Control League and Sanger’s Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau.1For a eugenist, it wasn’t controversial, it was integral to the implementation of eugenics to eliminate the ‘unfit’. Eugenics is “a science that deals with the improvement (as by control of human mating) of hereditary qualities of a race or breed”.2 Negative eugenics focused on preventing the birth of those it considered inferior or unfit. This was the foundation of Sanger’s Birth Control Policy and advocated throughout her writings, speeches, and her periodicals including “Pivot of Civilization”, “Plan for Peace” and countless Birth Control Review articles.

http://www.toomanyaborted.com/thenegroproject/

We desperately want to purge all historical symbols of racism and slavery while upholding them in abortion.

“In 1963 when Martin Luther King Jr. shared his dream with the nation, he never envisioned an America where ”reproductive justice” would end 56 million innocent human lives.  His dream never pictured a nation where black boys and black girls would never be able to join hands with white boys and white girls, as sisters and brothers, because “freedom of choice” determined some humans are simply not equal.  …in NYC, more black babies are aborted than are born alive! The NY State Department of Health reports that in 2011 (latest year for available NYC stats) for every 1,000 black babies born alive, 1,223 are aborted. Compare that to 265 abortions for every 1,000 live births among whites and 614 live births for every 1,000 Hispanic live births.”

http://www.toomanyaborted.com/newyork/

Even more disconcerting is the fact that in the wake of the release of damning video evidence that Planned Parenthood is selling aborted “products of conception” the media refuses to recognize it as a legitimate news story, and the DOJ is planning on investigating the group who released the undercover video. Meanwhile, these “products of conception” are called livers, extremities, hearts, and lungs.  But those names must just be codenames for clumps of cells in the shape of the referenced body part.  What kind of nonsensical, upside down cloud cuckoo land are we living in?

In one of the most powerful articles written after the release of these videos Rosaria Butterfield writes:

“In 1818 Shelley, the 17-year-old child wife of poet Percy Shelley and the classically educated daughter of natural philosopher William Godwin and first feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, wrote a novel on a dare. Deeply influenced by natural philosopher and English physician Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles),Frankenstein is about a bachelor who learns how to create life in a laboratory. The protagonist scientist, Victor Frankenstein, is raised by a progressive family, one that protects him from the foolish superstitions of organized Christian religion and affords him the best education in the natural sciences. He’s therefore unafraid to collect body parts from a church graveyard by dismembering bodies. The novel records how night after night he returns to the graveyard and hacks away until he has the bloody parts he needs. It’s base and gruesome work done in the name of higher-minded science. Frankenstein works hard to extract intact internal organs. He skimps on the skin, though, creating a creature whose skin doesn’t stretch to cover all his internal organs. Frankenstein’s “monster,” in spite of having natural science as its mother and receiving the very best Rousseauian education, is literally falling apart at the seams, his internal organs spilling out for the whole world to behold and ridicule.

 

Like Dr. Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services for Planned Parenthood, Dr. Victor Frankenstein understood the need for intact hearts. 

 

Like Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Dr. Victor Frankenstein believed there’s no higher calling on the human body than the donation of tissue for scientific research…

 

…Before committing suicide, Victor Frankenstein’s “monster” diagnoses his problem. He laments, “I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion, to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on.”

 

Frankenstein is an abortion novel. The “monster” declares he is an abortion—a present-tense, walking-and-talking, breathing-and-reading embodiment of a culture that values intact hearts but not the children who need them, and that values the all-cleaned-up Proverbs 31 woman but not the Mary Magdalene who precedes her.”

In the name of human health we abrade our own humanity.  In the name of women’s rights we upend and demolish the meaning of womanhood.

The care of women and definition of womanhood should be of great importance to all who are anti-abortion.

A friend and pastor in Richmond, VA writes:

“The conditions that make abortion seem like a good idea are also heartbreaking: extreme poverty, bum husbands, absentee fathers, organizations cloaked in lies and misinformation, crooked politicians, and our culture’s collective worship of convenience. These factors must be addressed—they have to be—or else we’re carbon copies of the Pharisees who place heavy burdens on others without lifting a finger to help them (Matt. 23:4).

But as a friend of mine said the other day: whatever needs to happen to help poor women, overworked women, underpaid women, single moms, and mothers in abusive relationships, we must find a way to do so without helping them kill their children. Two wrongs will never make a right.”

Doug Ponder

This other side of the argument that often gets overlooked is imperative.  If, and this is a big if, Planned Parenthood were defunded we would undoubtedly celebrate.  There are, however, numerous women who would feel left alone as if no one cared about them, kicked aside in favor of fetuses who have never breathed air.  We, the church, cannot, cannot, CANNOT leave these women just to fend for themselves.  We hate government mandates for healthcare, but we need to realize that the church (local churches) need to love these women.  I’m not talking about praying for them.  I’m not talking about writing a check and then forgetting about them.  I’m talking about being there for them.   It’s tough.  I have three small children, I know.  I struggle to muster the motivation just to leave the house.   But we cannot sit behind our keyboards posting links and writing blogs knowing that a lot of women go to Planned Parenthood because they feel they have nowhere else to go.  Feeling cornered is never a good feeling.  If we proclaim the freedom of Christ, then we need to tell of it and display it.  I write this to myself most of all.   There is a great quote of William Wilberforce that others and myself have posted:

“You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say you did not know.”

–William Wilberforce (speaking about slavery)

This could very well apply to the anti-abortion lot ignoring the plight of women.  But only if we let it.

A Continued Discussion On Transgenderism, Causation, and The Mind

About a week and a half ago I posted an article on Facebook regarding transgenderism and its status as something to be treated rather than something to be indulged.  Here is the Facebook post, and here is the article. I’m very proud of the diversity of my friendships.  I’m friends both on Facebook and in person with several Christians and many non-Christians and numerous people who are not just atheist, but anti-theist.  So, I knew when first posting it that it would not be popular with some of my friends.  As I suspected, a lively discussion was started.  Time brings clarity, and there are some issues I’d like to clear up.  The purpose of this post is to continue the discussion and to address things that I did not address before as well as introduce ideas that are born of the passage of time.  I would definitely suggest reading the article and the comments on Facebook for the best context.

First, I’ll address a small issue.  It was stated in a comment that the article essentially just called transgender people crazy.  Are people who are anorexic, depressed or have other psychological issues just crazy?   I don’t think anyone who knows a person who struggles with depression or anorexia would call that person crazy.  More to the point, indulging these disorders instead of treating them would more closely resemble ‘crazy.’  I understand the idea of likening transgenderism to disorders is something many people will disagree with, but the point was that just because a person thinks or feels something about themselves does not mean that thought or feeling is the truth and is to be encouraged.  This is absolutely the case with anorexia.  It was also argued that in the case of anorexia a person’s health was in danger, but not in the case of transgenderism.  This is naive at best.  Is a person’s health in danger if they are depressed? If not, why do we treat it?  “We treat depression because a person feels bad and treatment helps them feel better!”  Does encouraging a person’s transgender status indeed help them ‘feel better?’   What about instances of suicide and deep depression?  What about cases in which a transgender person wants gender reassignment surgery that will permanently damage his/her body? What about the dramatic increase in the likelihood of suicide for those who undergo such a procedure?  What about children who want hormone therapy that irrevocably changes the course of their physical and psychological development and are obliged?   There are definitely health risks involved.
Next, I’d like to apologize for a misstep on my part and address it.  One commenter posted an article on androgen insensitivity syndrome stating,

“It is indeed possible for a female brain to be trapped inside of a male body as well as the opposite. Androgen Insensitivity is just one example of how the simple X and Y chromosomes in someones cells does not necessarily determine their gender. If you can have major external differences like this between genetics and physical traits, why is it so hard to understand that you can have developmental brain situations that result in a brain forming that has a different gender from the physical body.” 

I must admit I did not really read this article at all.  I just kind of glanced at it and moved on and that was wrong of me. I should have actually read it and addressed it, and would like to do so now.

It’s curious to me that this person posted a medical description of a disorder as support for arguing that transgenderism is not a disorder.  The article describes a syndrome in which “Mutations in the AR gene prevent androgen receptors from working properly, which makes cells less responsive to androgens or prevents cells from using these hormones at all.”   Furthermore, there are actual physical ramifications of this mutated gene.

“People with this form of the condition have the external sex characteristics of females, but do not have a uterus and therefore do not menstruate and are unable to conceive a child (infertile). They are typically raised as females and have a female gender identity. Affected individuals have male internal sex organs (testes) that are undescended, which means they are abnormally located in the pelvis or abdomen. Undescended testes can become cancerous later in life if they are not surgically removed. People with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome also have sparse or absent hair in the pubic area and under the arms.”

I think there is a subtlety here that gets lost in this discussion at large.  There are actual disorders that make gender identity very difficult.  However, there are a multitude of differences between such syndromes and what is currently accepted as transgenderism.  The commenter argued, “If you can have major external differences like this between genetics and physical traits, why is it so hard to understand that you can have developmental brain situations that result in a brain forming that has a different gender from the physical body?”   In the case of the posted article, however, there is a definitive phenotype (abnormal sex organs) for the disordered genotype (mutated AR gene).  This is not at all an example of what he is arguing for.  Perhaps he was referring to my earlier comment of males having a karyotype showing XY and females XX, therefore there is an absolute genetic difference no matter how a person feels.  I will readily admit this misstep on my part in the light of the posted article describing a disorder that changes sex organs and gender identity without being linked to the Y chromosome.  That still doesn’t support his argument that a female brain can be trapped in a male body and merely emboldens the distinction between a person born with androgen insensitivity whose mutated genotype leads to physical abnormalities that are in need of treatment and a person who is born a normal male or female and then later claims he/she is the opposite sex… and then possibly later changes his/her mind.

I’d like to now confront the issue of hormones and brain patterning.  I don’t dispute that there are differences between the brain patterns observed.  The question, however, is causation.  Are these differences causing the feelings of gender dysphoria?  Are the habits and behaviors changing the brain patterns?   Interestingly, in an article regarding the neurological implications of sexual sado-masochism psychiatric professor Aaron Kheriaty notes:

“The modern science of neuroplasticity reveals that our brains continue to change—to be molded—across our lifespan, in response to our behaviors, our relationships, and our life experiences. Our brains obviously influence our behavior. But the reverse is also true: our behaviors influence our brain. So our choices have neurobiological consequences: our behaviors hard-wire, and re-wire, our brain in ways that profoundly shape who we are and how we function.” [Emphasis mine]

From my reading, the question of the brain and causality is still not near being completely understood.  So, differences between brain patterns could possibly be explained, at least partially, as emerging from differences in behavior and brain rewiring.  Dr. Kheriaty also says,

“People mistakenly believe that the mind, the sovereign will, is in complete control. The body is just a tool, a sort of appendage, detached from the mind. …But the mind and the body do not work that way. There is no such mind-body split. Rather, the medical and psychological sciences are increasingly demonstrating that there is a profound and inseparable connection between mind and body. And the body—not just the mind—is obviously involved in sexual encounters. The body has its own laws and its own logic; the body has its own wisdom, and it operates on its own terms. The human body must obey the laws of biology, of neuroscience, and of human psychology. And when we push against these, the body will inevitably push back.”

It seems this is the way advocates of transgenderism treat the body.  The brain state is one way, and the body should be changed to reflect that (whether stylistically with dress and makeup or permanently with surgery).  The person feels a certain way that is opposite from the body, and the body needs to be flipped to reflect the way the person feels.  It just seems very destructive and opposite to the idea that the purpose of medicine is to heal and restore the body.

Finally, a common thought amongst people who oppose my thinking must be, “Do you even know any transgender people?  What if you had to sit down and eat or hang out with a transgender person?”

I think this is a very poignant and justified question for Christians who oppose these ideas and who claim to follow Jesus.  Jesus routinely ate with people who were social outcasts.  People enjoyed eating with and being with Him and you get the distinct picture that He did not make them feel like lesser people but made them feel loved by Him and by God.  It is important that we as Christians do the same.

I have eaten with a hung out with transgender people and I’d like to think they didn’t feel awkward around me and that I treated them like I would any other person.  I won’t deny that at times it’s awkward for me depending on the conversation, but I try to keep this in check by knowing that my awkwardness is mine to own and that these are people made in the image of God just like we all are.

I pointed out at the beginning of this post the diversity of my friends and what they believe.  As a result of this I routinely, almost daily, sit and eat with people who regard my identity as a Christian with enmity.  I have for a very long time.  People who make disparaging remarks about Christians and monotheism.  People who might call me bigot, hateful, deluded, stupid and several other lesser appropriate things.  They might have even done this or do this when I’m not around.  But I really don’t care.  I liked and still like being with them.  I like laughing with them.  I like hearing about their families.  I like enjoying life with them.  I would have it no other way.  We are not told as Christians to distance ourselves from those who oppose us.  We’re told to love our enemies.  We’re led by example to eat with and love those who are outcasts.  We are to tell them that they are made in God’s image and are loved by us and by God.  American Christians fail at this an awful lot as we resist the changing moral norms.   We can be an effective resistance while being effective disciples of Jesus and effective human beings who love other human beings.  It’s not just possible, it’s imperative.

All Truth, One Truth

Hello everybody, I’m a Christian.  I believe in Jesus and the truth of the Bible.  Not just that, I believe in the inerrancy of the original Biblical manuscripts and that it is the Word of God written by men via the Holy Spirit (it is ‘God-Breathed’).  I also believe that evolution is scientific fact.  It happened, it still happens, end of story.

There.  Now people on both sides of the argument think I’m nuts.

We should all be able to agree about one thing; there is only one truth.  It is incorrect to say that the Bible only answers religious questions and science answers everything else.  That cannot be true since both say things about the origins of our universe, our planet and us.  One overrides the other at our flippant choosing depending on what worldview we’ve bought into?  That doesn’t make sense at all.  So, what do we do when it seems as if the things we observe and detect contradict what the Bible describes?  Do we reject science and cling to dogma?  Do we throw out ‘man-made religion’ in favor of empirical truth?  Truth is objective, not subjective.   This means that what is true and actual is true regardless of perspective.  That’s awesome!   It means we Christians should not be afraid of concepts like evolution, because the truth that says God made all things is the exact same truth that says organisms change over time even though the sources of these truths are different (Although, technically God is the architect and maker of our intellect and everything we scientifically observe so the sources are the same…)   Jesus is truth and all truth leads to Him.  ALL truth.

The point is this; if there is one truth, then there is no need to reconcile evolution and the Bible.  If the goal of science is to reveal truth about our existence through empiricism and the Bible is truth revealed by revelation and there is only one truth, then the two cannot ultimately contradict.

As humanity has fallen deeper into the rabbit hole of knowledge and technology we tend to forget or even ignore how much we actually do not know.  It is true in science that for every question answered many more are produced.  We don’t know even close to everything there is to know about genetics and inheritance.  I am not saying that our lack of answers to certain scientific questions are or have to be answered by belief in God (ie, god of the gaps).  What I am saying is there exists a disconnect in knowledge between what the Bible says is true about our origins and the conclusions we are able to draw about origins based on observation.  A disconnect, not contradictions.  Part of that disconnect exists as a lack of scientific knowledge and part of it exists as a lack of theological knowledge.  This is exacerbated by secular scientists who in an effort to push their worldview interpret data having already assumed that worldview to be true.  It is equally aggravated by pastors and even Christian scientists who try to turn their back on the data and say evolutionary biology is wholly false. This disconnect turns into conflict when Christians, pastors, and Christian scientists elevate their ability to understand and interpret the Bible to the same level of inerrancy as the scriptures themselves, and when secular scientists allow their opposing worldview to affect their ability to interpret their own data. Data is numbers, it will never lie.  But how data is collected and interpreted is very pliable in the face of one’s philosophy, and the same is true of Scripture.  This needs to be remembered by both scientists and pastors alike during discussions about our origins.

My hope is that as Christians and non-Christians discuss such important issues as where we come from and why we are here there will be no fear from either side and a discussion/argument can actually occur rather than juvenile bickering or derisive comments towards one another.

Remember, if our common goal is to look for truth then the buck stops at Jesus.  Every time, all the time.

 

 

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Tony Svarczkopf for help in editing and honing ideas.