dinsdag 28 juli 2009

Het verschil tussen reageerbuisbaby's en een bril...

gaat verder... Julian vraagt hoe je dan en onderscheid maakt tussen een bril opzetten om te zien, en geavanceerde technieken gebruiken om te reproduceren. Nou, zo...
Dear Julian,


Thank you for your reply and for the very reasonable question you ask. I think correcting eyesight with spectacles and using enhanced fertility techniques is clearly different from a natural morality perspective. We need to do some distinguishing.


First of all it is clearly natural for human beings to have children. But at the same time it is not a necessity that a sexual act always results in a child. Children have always been a 'gift', not a necessity; this is also the way most parents describe their experience of having children. Eyesight is not primarily a gift, it is a part of normal functioning. So here is a first clear difference.


Secondly, in humans there is a natural link between the sexual act and procreation. This has a deep significance, because it means that a union of love between two people lies at the origin of every human being. It is clear that every act of artificial insemination and fertilization separates this natural link between sexuality and procreation. In the case of spectacles improving your eyesight, there is no question of any natural process being interrupted. This is a second clear difference between the two situations.


In a broader perspective, it is good to reflect further on the fact that procreation is not only concerned with the 'functioning' of a human person, but actually with the origin of a new person. In the case of natural procreation, this person is the result of an act of love of two people. In the case of artificial procreation techniques, the person results from a technical act by a biomedical expert. The act of procreation becomes 'dehumanised'. It therefore profoundly affects the natural origin of the new person. Spectacles have no such implications.


So natural morality can distinguish clearly between wearing spectacles and creating babies in test-tubes. If people in ecological movements can distinguish what is good for the nature around us, why can't we apply our reason to distinguish what is proper for human nature? It seems to me that such a path would keep us safe from much 'natural resistance' that manipulation would incur – and be the happier for it. Don't you think that if you applied yourself to the question, you could lead us there, Julian?


donderdag 23 juli 2009

Mooi stuk over evolutie

Nog een reactie op een stuk op internet, dit keer een mooi stuk van mercatornet over de theorie van Darwin in de nieuwe biologie
Dear Authors,

Thank you for the insightful article. I think the concept of information clearly points out the weak spot in the Darwinian theory - can 'random mutation' really generate new information in a sufficiently efficient manner?

But I think new biological insights are also making clear that genetic determinism has other drawbacks. The emerging paradigm of 'systems biology' shows that the causal chain from genes -> epigenetics -> proteins -> cells -> tissues -> organs -> organism - is not one-way traffic. Actually, there is feed-back at all these levels, which makes the information flows within an organism way more complicated. The organism does 'read' the genetic code as an instruction manual, but to do so it needs a very complicated machinery, which is regulated at many levels.

I think we are just starting to understand this complexity. But we can say that Darwinian evolution does not suffice to understand it.

woensdag 22 juli 2009

'Playing God' - again

 Dit is een antwoord op het oorspronkelijke artikel:
Dat gaat over nieuwe methoden om van een stamcel een spermacel te maken. De auteur zegt dat het feit dat dit niet 'natuurlijk' is geen reden is om het af te keuren.
Dear Julian,

Thanks for an interesting article.

I think that the point about something being 'natural' or not requires careful distinction. In the philosophical sense of the word the 'nature' of something refers to its 'essence' or what it 'really is'. In this sense the 'natural' development of a human being refers to that development which is proper to human beings, if they are not somehow disturbed.

The examples you quote of starvation and illness are in this context disturbances of natural development. This is also a convincing justification for us to apply medicine: it restores the development to its normal – natural – course. The same reasoning would also lead to a condemnation of techniques that lead to the 'enhancement' of humans as unnatural.

With regard to the technique of producing sperm cells from adult cells and using that to create a baby in a test tube – this clearly has nothing to do with the natural way of human procreation. I understand the noble ideal of helping people to have children – but in morality, the end has never justified the means. So do scientists really want to be involved in a technique that distorts the natural way in which humans procreate, and 'play God' – as you put it? Or should we focus our attention on ways to assist procreation that are respectful of the nature of human beings?