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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

MDs Serving “Society” Aren’t Professionals



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This isn’t good. Apparently, some medical societies are buying into the distrust sowing meme that doctors should give better care to some patients than to others.

Why? Duty to society. From the New York Times story:

Saying they can no longer ignore the rising prices of health care, some of the most influential medical groups in the nation are recommending that doctors weigh the costs, not just the effectiveness of treatments, as they make decisions about patient care.

The shift, little noticed outside the medical establishment but already controversial inside it, suggests that doctors are starting to redefine their roles, from being concerned exclusively about individual patients to exerting influence on how health care dollars are spent.

No! Doctors are fiduciaries of each individual patient. They owe each patient the highest duty of care. They don’t owe a fiduciary duty to “society.”

Take that away, and doctors are no longer professionals, but technicians.

Making matters worse, some advocate that doctors threat different patients differently based on invidious “quality of life” discrimination:

The cardiology societies, for instance, plan for now to rely on published literature, not commission their own cost-effectiveness studies, said Dr. Paul A. Heidenreich, a professor at Stanford and co-chairman of the committee that wrote the new policy. They plan to rate the value of treatments based on the cost per quality-adjusted life-year, or QALY — a method used in Britain and by many health economists.

The societies say that treatments costing less than about $50,000 a QALY would be rated as high value, while those costing more than $150,000 a QALY would be low value. “We couldn’t go on just ignoring costs,” Dr. Heidenreich said.

QALY is a method of health care rationing in which the cost effectiveness of the same treatment is judged differently for different people based on the quality of their lives. 

I love the smell of lawsuits in the morning. We in the USA won’t accept providing optimal care to one patient and less to another based on the doctor’s (or bureaucrats’) belief in the supposed differing values of the respective patients’ lives.

I’m all for good medical stewardship. But doctors can’t serve two masters–their patients and the perceived needs of society. Hippocrates knew that 2500 years go.

So did the great German doctor, Christof Wilhelm Hufeland, who famously warned: “It is not up to [the doctor] whether life is happy or unhappy, worthwhile or not, and should he incorporate these perspectives into his trade the doctor could well become the most dangerous person in the state.”

Adults Cloned! Outlaw Before It’s Too Late



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Once Dolly the sheep was manufactured, human cloning was always mostly a matter of developing the right technique.

As I described elsewhere, it was a bit ago using fetal cells. Now it has apparently been done with adult cells by Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology. From the Time story:

​​In this case, cells from a 35-year-old man and a 75-year-old man were used to generate two separate lines of stem cells. The process, known as nuclear transfer, involves taking the DNA from a donor and inserting it into an egg that has been stripped of its DNA.

The resulting hybrid is stimulated to fuse and start dividing; after a few days the “embryo” creates a lining of stem cells that are destined to develop into all of the cells and tissues in the human body.

It’s not a quote, embryo, unquote: It is an embryo-embryo, made asexually.​​

Human cloning will lead to the exploitation of women, since human eggs are an essential ingredient of each cloning attempt. And not just any eggs will do. they have to be quality eggs!

The findings confirm that the key factor in making nuclear transfer work with human cells is not the age of the donor cell, as some experts have argued, but the quality of the donor egg. “No matter how much you tweak the protocols or optimize them, it looks like the major player in efficiency is the individual egg quality,” says Mitalipov. He notes that all of his stem cell lines came from the same egg donor. The two cell lines described by Lanza’s group also came from one egg donor.

For the time being, a low supply of eggs will continue to impede the technology. But if they ever learn how to make “quality” eggs from stem cells or harvest and mature them from aborted female fetuses–yes, that is being experimented with–or such like, it will be Katy bar the door!

Women can die or be rendered infertile supplying eggs. And since mostly poor women will be tempted to be egg suppliers, it seems to me we should prevent paying for eggs in biotechnology just as laws currently prohibit buying kidneys.

Last year, California’s increasingly radical legislature tried to go in the other direction, passing a bill to allow eggs to be purchased for use in experiments–which I wrote about at some length. Governor Brown vetoed it. Now, it’s up for consideration again. Brown won’t be running for reelection this time. What will he do?

In any event, the time for making informed decisions about whether we want to go down this road can’t be put off any longer. Human cloning is the gateway to Brave New World. We either outlaw it now–as the United Nations overwhelmingly voted to do years ago, as “incompatible with human dignity”–or eventually see a day in which cloned fetuses are farmed in artificial wombs for use in experimentation, reproductive cloning further distorts human procreation, and human cloned embryos are experimented on to perfect genetic engineering, among other terribles.

Or, we can continue to pretend it will never happen here and just allow it to actually happen here through torpor.

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Govt. Pay Seniors to Sign Advance Directive?



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I am in favor of advance directives. And I usually like Senator Tom Coburn, But this idea seems wrong-headed to me.

Coburn has introduced the Medicare Choices Empowerment and Protection Act, that would pay Medicare beneficiaries to prepare an advance directive. From the story:

The “Medicare Choices Empowerment and Protection Act” was introduced Friday by Sen. Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK). It would pay eligible beneficiaries $75 for creating an online advance directive or $50 for creating one manually in 2015, with incentives in subsequent years tied to consumer price inflation.

Do we really want the government even more bureaucratically involved in our health care than it already is under Obamacare?  Even though the plan would initially be voluntary, how long does anyone think that would last under the autocrats that currently run our government?

Worse, once the federal bureaucracy got its mitts on this area, its intrusiveness would only expand and its “neutrality” about what decisions seniors make, evaporate. Guaranteed.

This part also alarms me:

It also calls for an accreditation process to be established for advance directive vendors participating in the program, and the creation of a system to facilitate easy access to advance directives for beneficiaries, suppliers, providers and healthcare proxies…

The bill says that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services should consult with experts when establishing and implementing the program, including nurses, palliative care experts and health information privacy authorities.

That would just open the door to the suicide-peddlers Hemlock Society Compassion and Choices to become accredited vendors. I have long suspected that C & C wants to become the Planned Parenthood of death, receiving government funding to push their ideology. This bill would, I fear, help them move toward that goal.

Some Dutch Pharmacists Say No to Euthanasia



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As we move into a morally polyglot society–with the culture of death rushing to the fore–the question of medical conscience will become increasingly hot button. 

This is apparently already occurring in the Netherlands where many pharmacists apparently refuse to dispense drugs for use in lethal injection doctor-administered homicides. From the DutchNews.nl story:

Dutch pharmacists sometimes refuse to provide the drugs needed by people who have chosen to end their lives through euthanasia, the NRC reports on Wednesday. Euthanasia has been legal in the Netherlands since 2002 under strict conditions and if approved by two doctors.

Stop the tape! “Strict conditions” my right nostril.

Back to the story:

Although only doctors have the legal right to decide about euthanasia, pharmacists’ asscociation KNMP thinks pharmacists have a right to their own opinions. ‘A pharmacy is not a shop where deadly drugs are just handed over’, an association spokesperson told the programme. During the programme one doctor complains that his painstaking and regulated preparations for euthanasia are sometimes blocked at the last minute by a pharmacist who ‘has never even seen the patient.’

The KNMP suggests a conscience protection.

Although they have no official role in the euthanasia process, pharmacists are not legally obliged to make drugs available, the NRC says…

The KMNP wants pharmacists to become part of the euthanasia law. It should also be possible for pharmacists who do not wish to cooperate to refer a doctor to another pharmacy, the association told the programme.

Ah, but that protection could be less than meets the eye. The Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) has opined that euthanasia-dissenting doctors have a duty to refer to a colleague they knew is willing to kill.

If the pharmacist’s protection included such a duty, it would require all pharmacists to be complicit in the taking of a human life when asked to dispense lethal drugs.

No! Dissenting professionals should not be forced to have innocent blood on their hands. A conscience clause involving euthanasia should allow for total non-participation and cooperation by any and every medical professional.

Switzerland’s War on the Elderly



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The UK media has reported the case of a third healthy elderly woman in the last several weeks having flown to Switzerland to be made dead. From the Express story:

ANOTHER British woman has been helped to die at a Swiss suicide clinic because she had grown tired of life, the Sunday Express can reveal. The 99-year-old Londoner, who was not terminally ill or severely disabled, felt her time had come to an end.

Geriatric depression is treatable, but never mind. Sigh.

And get this: 3000 people die each year in the clinics. That’s nearly 10 each day!

The deaths have once more re­ignited the debate on assisted ­suicide, which is illegal in the UK and remains a highly contested issue.

Yet as MPs prepare to vote on the Assisted Dying Bill, now in the House of Lords, which would change the law, retired doctor Michael Irwin, who has helped a number of Britons end their lives at Swiss suicide ­clinics, revealed that 3,000 ­patients are helped to die every year.

So, let’s make suicide even easier to access so more can die?

I don’t see how these poor women can be called “patients.” They weren’t in Switzerland for medical care. They were there to be made dead. They were assisted in killing themselves for pay! Call them customers.

Culture of death, Wesley? What culture of death.

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Embryo Value Debated in Europe Too



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Pro embryo-destructive research activists are often so irrational. They claim than an embryo isn’t an embryo but merely a “bunch of cells.” Well, for the reductionist minded, so are they.

They claim that an embryo is no different than the cells you kill when you brush your teeth. But embryos are organisms and mouth cells are not.

They claim that embryos aren’t really human because they don’t have toes and fingers. Yes! A scientist actually said that to me in a debate! Idiotic.

And they say that only USA religionists care about embryos, when in actuality, Germany (as just one example) bars destructive embryo research and outlaws human cloning. Germany is hardly the Bible Belt. 

European law also bars patenting embryonic stem cell products because they come from destroying embryos.

And now, the European Parliament is debating the value of embryonic human life because a petition signed by nearly 2 million people requires it legally. From the NYT story:

Leaders of One of Us, the group that brought the petition, told lawmakers that they were seeking to prohibit the use of European Union funds for research, foreign aid programs and public health activities that are linked to the destruction of human embryos.

“The problem here is with those who claim that an embryo, a fetus, is nothing,” said Grégor Puppinck, president of the One of Us committee backing the initiative. “It is understood that life begins at the point of conception and must be respected,” said Mr. Puppinck, who also called for a ban on “the financing of abortion in development aid.”

And, of course, one of the embryos-are-just-chopped-liver types angrily brings up religion:

Some of the loudest outbursts during the hearing came when Ana Gomes, a lawmaker from Portugal, repeatedly asked whether the European Center for Law and Justice, an organization based in Strasbourg, France, of which Mr. Puppinck is director general, had any links with Pat Robertson, the American Christian evangelist.

Mr. Puppinck said in an interview that the European Center and the American Center for Law and Justice, a law firm and educational organization that Mr. Robertson had helped to establish, shared the same chief counsel. But Mr. Puppinck said he had never met Mr. Robertson and he criticized Ms. Gomes for raising issues that were “not the point of the debate.”

They always do. Pro embryonic research types are almost always the ones obsessed with religion.

Opponents point out the scientific truth than an embryo is a nascent human being, a human organism, and make the philosophical argument that being human matters morally in and of itself. Hopefully that POV will not go away.

Global Warming Hysterics’ War on the Destitute



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The Green misanthropes that are corrupting environmentalism want to keep the world’s destitute in squalor to “save the earth.” It’s so cruel. Rather than electrifying Africa, for example, we are told it has to wait until it can be done by solar or other renewable sources–decades away, if ever. Meanwhile, people live in misery.

Then, as some kind of penance, the developed world is supposed to transfer hundreds of billions to the destitute, which would make us much poorer, much of which would go into private pockets, and create a culture of dependency that would be hard to escape. Like I said, it’s all very cruel.

Support for my disgusted view comes now from an IPCC scientist. From the BBC story:

Climate scientists meeting in Berlin have been accused of “marginalising” the views of developing countries. They are preparing to release a key report on how the world must cut carbon emissions to stem dangerous warming. They are likely to say that if significant action isn’t taken by 2030, temperatures will quickly break through the 2 degree C threshold. But a lead author told BBC News that this focus on cutting CO2 was ignoring the development needs of the poor. “The narrative, the language, the views of the IPCC still marginalises the developing country perspectives,” Dr Chukwumerije Okereke, from Reading University, told BBC News.

“Quite frankly this is reinforcing historical patterns of injustice and domination” Dr Chukwumerije Okereke University of Reading Dr Okereke was a lead author on chapter four of the new report, dealing with sustainable development and equity. He believes that there has been a fundamental shift in the discussions because the issue of historical responsibility for carbon emissions has been watered down by richer nations who are more concerned with the future than the past.”…”In effect, this is shifting the burden onto the developing countries and is holding them down from developing; quite frankly this is reinforcing historical patterns of injustice and domination.”

But Okereke is wrong too. His approach would require us to stifle our already shaky economies, which would be as foolish as throttling growth and preventing the exploitation of resources in the developing world. Both proposals are a radical call to self-flagellation in the name of a neo-earth religion or imposition of “nature rights.”

Even if one believes global warming is a crisis–count me as dubious, given virtually no warming in 18 years–Bjorn Lomborg’s approach is best. Prosperity is required to develop the technology to make the transition the warming believers claim we need.  

“De-growth,” Draconian Malthusianism, humans depicted as “maggots” or “cancer” on the earth, throttling growth, etc., will just generate more misery and promote increased conflict. That’s known as a war on humans coming and going.

Forced C-Sections & Obsession with Birth Control



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I read an interesting column in the Guardian today about how many hospitals in Brazil basically force mothers to have C-sections rather than natural birth. From, “Inside the War on Natural Birth,” by Jill Filipovic:

…forced or coerced c-sections are not unusual here in Brazil, where some hospitals deliver almost 100% of babies surgically. And as I’ve found in my visit across the country with the International Reporting Project, birth plans are as much about social class, religion and the role of women in society as they are about so-called choice.

“In our culture, childbirth is something that is primitive, ugly, nasty, inconvenient,” Dr Simone Diniz, associate professor in the department of maternal and child health at the University of São Paulo, tells me. “It is something poor women are supposed to endure.”

By contract, she said, c-sections are seen as “modern and elegant”. In Brazil, low-income women largely depend on the public health system, which leads to much higher vaginal birth rates, while wealthier women use private facilities, making c-sections a kind of status symbol.

The column writer–feminist leftist that she is–analyzed the issue in the context of resistance to abortion rights:

Forced and coerced c-sections, abusive birth practices, restrictive abortion laws and adherence to the she-was-asking-for-it rape myth – these malpractices all exist on the same continuum of belief: that women’s bodies are public property. But when it comes to reproduction, those values also often prove illusive – women in America, too, have been forced into c-sections, and many of our reproductive choices remain overly politicized.

Needless to say, I have a far different take. It seems to me that forced C-sections are just the latest step in the decades-long drive to exert hyper-control over every aspect of human procreation.

Indeed, I warrant that support by writers like Filipovic for the millions of stilled beating fetal hearts as benignly ”choice,” actually strengthens the cultural impetus to commit (other) profound procreative wrongs–such as the “war on natural birth”–that we see increasingly around the world.

Before you start yelling, I am not talking about reasonable methods of family planning. Rather, forced C-sections follows logically from transforming procreation into a consumerist industry–with the values associated with all enterprise–using popular culture to create demand (for abortion, included), quality testing of products, rejection of the poorly constructed, and research and investment into more efficient methods of manufacture and quality improvement.

Think about it:

- There is great pressure placed on gestating women to have prenatal genetic testing, toward the desired (if not yet mandatory) end that “defective” products–babies with Down, Dwarfism, and other anomalies–not be born.

- This idea has bled over into advocacy for “after-birth abortion,” e.g. the infanticide of unwanted babies, either because they are ill or disabled, or even, simply if they don’t fulfill current parental (or societal) desires.

- Global warming hysterics and other assorted Green misanthropes engaged in a war on humans have extolled China’s “one-child” policy even though it includes forced abortion and has led to mass female infanticide.

- Bioethicists widely disdain “reproduction roulette,” by which they mean allowing nature to determine which of us is conceived.

- IVF is now used by people who aren’t actually infertile, for purposes of convenience or in furtherance of other social agendas.

- Embryos created through IVF are tested, not just for disease–but also for sex and cosmetic issues–with those not passing muster discarded as medical waste or consigned to the fodder pile of experimentation.

- Some of the most prominent bioethicists insist that genetically engineering for intelligence is morally required–blatant eugenics. 

I could go on and on. Indeed, the values prophesied by Huxley in Brave New World are being embraced by the upper crust with a fervor that would have surprised even him. So why not, one dark day, forced IVF? It would suit the real agenda, which is not “choice” –but control–which is actually something different.

Indeed, why allow women to gestate at all? Remember, in the novel, babies weren’t born into families but hatched out of artificial wombs. That would permit true equality of the sexes, which abortion is supposedly about. And think of the efficiency!

 

 

If He’d Mercy Killed Wife, Would be Applauded



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A correspondent from the UK sends me an article about a man arrested for providing a morphine patch for his demented wife newly in a care home. From the Telegraph story:

An 83-year-old man was arrested and locked up for seven hours for giving his wife painkiller patches at a care home. Walter Crompton was detained by police when he went to visit Ellen, his wife of 60 years, who suffers from dementia.

Care home staff had contacted officers four days earlier after Mr Compton gave her the morphine patches. He was arrested for administering a toxic substance and his subsequent bail conditions bar him from seeing his wife until the end of the month.

Mr Compton insisted the treatment had been prescribed by a doctor. “It’s a patch. Nobody ever killed anybody with a patch. I don’t understand why they needed to arrest me. I was just trying to help my wife and I didn’t know it was against the rules,” he said.

Now, he’s barred from seeing his wife until further court proceedings. That seems cruel to both husband and wife.

My correspondent opined that had he mercy-killed her, instead of trying to relieve her pain, he would not only have not been prosecuted by UK’s assisted-suicide compliant prosecutors, but indeed, would be applauded far and wide as a man of compassion.

I’m certainly not saying that Mr. Crompton acted appropriately. No doubt, he made a mistake and account must be taken.

But I also can’t say that my correspondent is wrong in her assessment.

Fertility Industry Dehumanizes Surrogates



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As a paid consultant for the Center for Bioethics and Culture, I have become informed about issues to which I might otherwise have paid scant attention. This is particularly true with regard to the increasingly dark side of the fertility industry, about which the CBC has been doing splendidly illuminative work. It has really opened my eyes.

There is no polite way to put it: The fertility industry dehumanizes women who supply eggs for pay or rent their uteri. For example, the term “surrogate mother” has been changed to “gestational carrier.” Why not just say brood mare?

The CBC’s Jennifer Lahl and her CBC colleague, Christopher White, have a great piece on the dark side of surrogacy in today’s NRO. In one section, they discuss the objections from the fertility industry to a Louisiana bill that would bring meaningful regulations to the field. From, “Why Gestational Surrogacy is Wrong:”

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies (SART) issued a joint statement opposing the amended bill as it came to the House floor, contending that it “contains a number of provisions that make clear the process of collaborative assisted reproduction is either misunderstood or the supporters of this bill are biased against certain family models.”

The amended bill, which added provisions that removed financial incentives for surrogacy, gave sole medical decision-making authority to the gestational mother. Protest such as that expressed by ASRM and SART is witnessed when any state seeks to regulate the practice and further demonstrates the unwillingness of the fertility industry to acknowledge the problems associated with the practice — medical, psychological, and ethical risks and a lack of protection for women and children alike.

And here comes the dehumanizing part:

In their statement against the bill, ASRM and SART opposed use of the word “mother” to refer to surrogates; their preferred term was the dehumanizing term “carrier.” The introduction of “mother” was one of the most important changes to the bill, as it is important that surrogacy laws recognize the humanity of both the woman and the child, who in pro-surrogacy-industry bills is often treated as a product in a commercial transaction.

Every time I write about this issue, I hear from angry readers telling me that I am terribly insensitive to their pain, and that they would do “anything” to have a baby.

I am not insensitive, but the willingness to do “anything” is precisely the problem. And the industry is all too happy to profit off their pain–distorting procreation and creating increasingly unstable “family models” as they go along.

Here’s my bottom line: It is high time we understand that But I want a baby! doesn’t justify “anything,” because that really means “everything.”

Adopt. Adopt. Adopt.

Belgian Docs Give Selves OK to Kill ICU Patients



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The Journal of Critical Care Medicine has published a statement by the Belgian Society of Critical Care Medicine giving ICU docs the right to kill patients–even though euthanasia in the country is supposed to only be consensual.

Under the document, futile care impositions of withdrawing or withholding care are up to the medical team–whatever a patient or family may want. Moreover, in such cases, doctors are allowed to kill! From the statement (my emphasis) :

This statement paper, developed by members of the Belgian Society of Intensive Care Medicine Council, is not about giving analgesics or sedative agents to combat pain or agitation, nor about the so-called double effect, wherein analgesics given to alleviate pain may have the adverse effect of shortening the dying process. The discussion here is about the administration of sedative agents with the direct intention of shortening the process of terminal palliative care in patients with no prospect of a meaningful recovery…

Moreover, we explain our belief in the concept that shortening the dying process by administering sedatives beyond what is needed for patient comfort can be not only acceptable but in many cases desirable.

In other words, kill the patient by intentionally overdosing with palliative drugs beyond what is needed for comfort–whether the patient wants it or not!

And note, the patient need not be actually suffering!

Shortening the dying process with use of medication, such as analgesics/sedatives, may sometimes be appropriate, even in the absence of discomfort, and can actually improve the quality of dying; this approach can also help relatives accompany their loved one through the dying process—such a decision should be made with due consideration for the wishes of family members.

The killing license also applies to children:

The present document applies to children as well as to adults

It’s only logical: Once killing is accepted as an answer to human suffering, what constitutes “suffering” expands like an elastic band to include that of society and the hospital having to care for lives defined as meaningless. And it can even include termination when patient suffering isn’t present.

As for choice: What’s that got to do with anything? Efficiency!

#itwillhappenheretoounlesswestopitnow!

Quebec Safe from Euthanasia--For Now



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Quebec’s Parliament came close to legalizing a very radical euthanasia bill, but then the fat was pulled out of the proverbial fire at the last minute, and new elections were called.

Boom! The political party pushing so hard for doctor-administered homicide lost the election big-time, perhaps putting euthanasia on hold in Canada’s French province. From the Catholic Register story:

A surprisingly strong victory by the Liberals in Quebec’s April 7 election means euthanasia is off the table for now while signaling a greater acceptance of religious Quebeckers, informed observers said. The Liberals led by Philippe Couillard trounced the Parti Quebecois (PQ), winning a majority 70 seats to the PQ’s 30…

McGill University historian John Zucchi said the Charter of Quebec Values, euthanasia and separatism were all “intimately connected” in this election.

All three issues showed the PQ either didn’t understand the needs of the electorate or responded with “facile solutions,” he said. “On the question of identity, they responded with a silly charter that would take care of problems by pinpointing ethno-religious groups,” he said. As to the “fears people have concerning the health system as they grow older, they responded with euthanasia.”

I sure hope this isn’t wishful thinking.

No, Dogs Are Not “Like Children”



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There is no question that we Americans intensely love our pets. And we anthropomorphize them like crazy, giving them internal lives of our own creation. That’s half the fun.

But that doesn’t mean that our cats and dogs are akin to “children.” Nor does it mean that any animal should have rights.

Alas, the pressure to elevate animals to our status–which would be to actually reduce us to theirs–continues to grow in intensity.

For your pondering pleasure, take an interview with David Grimm, author of Citizen Canine, in Wired–for some reason, a reliable fount of anti-human exceptionalism. From, “Dogs and Cats Are Blurring the Line Between Pets and People:”

WIRED: Do you think we’ll develop new social and legal customs for dealing with animals?

GRIMM:..The question is whether there’s some happy medium where we can acknowledge that these animals are not toasters, but not grant them as something as extreme as full human rights.

Maybe we create a new class of nonnhuman rights. David Favre at Michigan State University has proposed an intermediate category of “living property“: dogs and cats could have some rights, even some responsibilities, but legally be like children. We’d have a responsibility to not mistreat them, to provide a basic level of medical care, but not constitutional or inalienable rights.

No! Half way is all the way.

Besides,we already have the moral and legal responsibility to not mistreat or neglect them. That is known as animal welfare, the compliance with which is a distinctly human duty predicated simply and solely on our being human.

In contrast, dogs and cats are not moral beings. They are incapable of assuming “responsibilities.” A guard dog is trained to so be–and we intelligently design them for that instrumental use–but they have done nothing “wrong” if they fail in their assigned task.

A vicious dog is not “executed.” It isn’t a punishment for a moral failure. The dangerous dog will be put down as a matter of public or animal safety, not because he is immoral or has committed a crime by biting a child or killing a neighbor’s dog. We would–and should–never do that to a dangerous child.

The Wired correspondent has interests beyond our pets:

WIRED: So far we’ve talked about animals in our immediate domain. What about extending these ideas to animals on the landscape?

GRIMM: That again gets to the slippery slope that a lot of lawyers are worried about. If we create this intermediate category, why can’t elephants in the wild be living property? If we let cats and dogs in, and open that door, does it open the floodgates? This is already happening. Late last year, the Nonhuman Rights Project filed a lawsuit on behalf of four captive chimpanzees in New York, arguing that they deserve to be legally recognized as people.

You’re seeing a lot of discussions about this. What are animals to us? Whether in the wild, in our homes, or on farms, what’s the appropriate relationship to them? There are very heated passions on both sides. What I find most interesting is that this forces us to confront what it means to be a person.

Aaaannd, here comes the cliché false equivalency between the historical abuse of humans and the way we treat animals:

This is a discussion we had to have 150 years ago as slavery was ending and blacks were considered property. There was a backlash: emancipation was going to put plantation owners out of business. But as a society, we decided that didn’t matter. Acknowledging that slaves were people was the right thing to do.

We’re not yet at that point yet with cats and dogs. But what does it mean to be a person? Who gets to be a person? What kind of rights should you have compared to all the other people who are already considered people?

That sound you hear is my head exploding! It was “right” because the slaves were equally human! “Other people” are considered “people” because THEY ARE PEOPLE! Ow, that hurt.

Animal rights activists believe that once just one animal is accorded just one right, the “species barrier” will collapse. They may be correct in that, which is why the hard line between human duties and animal rights must be maintained–including the crucial moral distinction between us and our beloved dogs and cats.

 

A Materialist’s 3/4 Search for Truth



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Only humans pursue truth. It is one of our exceptional attributes.

But we all find ways to somewhat hobble the quest. A bit ago, I wrote a piece at First Things noting that atheists/materialists claim the mantle of objective truth-seekers, but they are really not. While putting down some religionists’ naturalistic explanations myopia, they similarly refuse to acknowledge the potential mystical, and/or religious potentialities for the numberless inexplicable experiences people have reported over the ages. 

Even if they have an intense personal “encounter,” they often ”reason away” that which science can’t explain–in the words of Steven Pinker’s wife, Rebecca Goldstein–because doing otherwise could undermine their materialist mindset, or perhaps, corrode their self-perception as a proud rationalist. 

But just because something can’t be proved via the scientific method doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Thus, if rationalists want to be true truth/Truth seekers, it seems to me that they should acknowledge, to paraphrase Shakespeare, at least the possibility that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in the philosophy of rigid materialism.  

This is why I was somewhat encouraged by atheist author Barbara Ehrenreich’s piece published in yesterday’s New York Times. She has written a book about a mystical–what some might have interpreted as religious–experience, which she did not pursue because of her and her family’s adamant atheism. From, “A Rationalist’s Mystial Moment:” 

But something happened when I was 17 that shook my safely rationalist worldview and left me with a lifelong puzzle. Years later, I learned that this sort of event is usually called a mystical experience, and I can see in retrospect that the circumstances had been propitious: Thanks to a severely underfunded and poorly planned skiing trip, I was sleep-deprived and probably hypoglycemic that morning in 1959 when I stepped out alone, walked into the streets of Lone Pine, Calif., and saw the world — the mountains, the sky, the low scattered buildings — suddenly flame into life.

There were no visions, no prophetic voices or visits by totemic animals, just this blazing everywhere. Something poured into me and I poured out into it. This was not the passive beatific merger with “the All,” as promised by the Eastern mystics. It was a furious encounter with a living substance that was coming at me through all things at once, too vast and violent to hold on to, too heartbreakingly beautiful to let go of.

Some would call that a gift of grace, an invitation to explore salvific potentialities. But Ehrenreich wasn’t interested in Truth if that was the direction in which her experience might lead her:

Since I recognized no deities, and even the notion of an “altered state of consciousness” was unavailable at the time, I was left with only one explanation: I had had a mental breakdown, ultimately explainable as a matter of chemical imbalances, overloaded circuits or identifiable psychological forces. There had been some sort of brief equipment failure, that was all, and I determined to pull myself together and put it behind me, going on to finish my formal education as a cellular immunologist and become a responsible, productive citizen.

Yet, she was haunted her whole life by the vividness of her vision.  

Ehrenreich has finally received permission from recent changes in scientific trends to turn away from the glib denigration of such experiences as mental breaks or some form of psychosis. Rather, she is now open to more quasi-materialist possibilities–albeit, still not those that might contain theistic implications:

Without invoking anything supernatural, we may be ready to acknowledge that we are not, after all, alone in the universe. There is no evidence for a God or gods, least of all caring ones, but our mystical experiences give us tantalizing glimpses of other forms of consciousness, which may be beings of some kind, ordinarily invisible to us and our instruments. Or it could be that the universe is itself pulsing with a kind of life, and capable of bursting into something that looks to us momentarily like the flame.

Except there is plenty of evidence of a loving and personal God of the same kind quality as Ehrenreich’s testimony of a potential larger material world. And if God exists, such experience are as “natural”–if unpredictable and unprovable–as Ehrenreich’s theorized invisible beings or altered mental states.

But good for Ehrenreich: Some phenomena will always remain a mystery, but it is progress that she is now willing to pursue what I think could be fairly described as a three-quarter search for Truth.

But there are risks: Seek and you just might find. Knock, and you never know what or Who will open the door onto you.

Ending the Baloney About “Rare” Abortion



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There was a full page ad in Sunday’s New York Times–expensive!–touting the message, “Abortion is not a crime. It’s a right.”

The ad was sponsored by the “Airlie Center, Virginia, for the World Leaders Consultation on Uniting for Safe Legal Abortion.” Here’s the wide-open fetus killing license the group advocates:

Make safe, legal abortion universally available, accessible and affordable for all women and girls.

Well, at least they’re not trying to snow us with the nonsense about wanting abortion to be “rare.” They seem to want  ubiquitous abortion, more than it already is. 

Swiss Assisted Suicide to Save the Planet!



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Assisted suicide is not about terminal illness.

Assisted suicide is not about disability.

Assisted suicide is not about mental illness.

Assisted suicide is about suicide!

All pretense otherwise was stripped off the movement as the Daily Mail reports that a healthy elderly woman flew to Switzerland to be made dead because she couldn’t handle how high tech has impacted society and, apparently, to save the planet. From the story:

A retired art teacher has ended her life at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland after becoming increasingly disillusioned with modern life. In an interview before her death, the 89-year-old environmentalist, from Sussex, said she felt technology had taken the humanity out of social interaction.

Anne, who asked to be referred to only by her first name, also said she was worried about the damage being inflicted on the planet through overcrowding and pollution.

This is right out of the Church of Euthanasia nonsense, only for real.

Ann was helped by one of the UK’s most prominent assisted suicide advocates. From the Independent story on the suicide:

Michael Irwin, the founder of the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide (Soars), helped Anne with her application to Dignitas. He said she had ended her life “with quiet determination”, and that her only “regret” was that she had been made to travel to Switzerland, accompanied by her 54-year-old niece, to do so.

Let’s see if Irwin is drummed out of the assisted suicide corps, as it were. I’ll bet not.

Another woman committed assisted suicide recently at a Swiss be-made-dead house because she was upset at losing her looks.

Death on demand: That’s what assisted suicide is really all about. 

#theyhavesomuchbloodontheirhands!

Eugenics Mostly Progressive, Not Conservative



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I have often stated that biologist/eugenicist Charles Davenport was one of the great villains of American history. Apparently a new book is coming out by Paul Martin, about American villains, includes a chapter on the odious man. Good.

But–there may be other agendas afoot in Martin’s writing about Davenport if the excerpt in Salon is a reliable indication. Indeed, a reader of the article would never guess that eugenics was primarily supported by political progressives who rejected human exceptionalism. From, “Hitler’s Favorite American:” 

What’s indisputable about the eugenics movement in this country is that it was driven by racial and class prejudice.

At the dawn of the twentieth century, white Protestant Americans feared being overrun by immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, people who traditionally had large families.

Groups such as the Race Betterment Foundation and the American Eugenics Society stoked those fears by suggesting that the superior traits of industrious Anglo-Saxons were being undermined by the lazy, degenerate masses showing up on their shores.

Meaning Catholics. And there’s no question that the era featured pronounced anti-Catholic bigotry, now, I’m afraid, in resurgence around other social issues. 

There’s some truth to what Martin writes, but he is more than implying that there is a nexus between supporters of eugenics 100 years ago and the liberal stereotype today that religious and other conservatives are prejudiced and racist. Thus the excerpt concludes:

And while we can celebrate the fact that the bigoted, immoral pseudoscience of eugenics has been consigned to history’s junk heap, regrettably the white supremacist attitude that shaped much of Charles Davenport’s career lives on in the beliefs of diehard social Darwinists—an outlook as persistent as a noxious weed, a kudzu of the mind.

Who are these “white supremicists?” Other than the rare crackpot and occasional KKK holdout, they mostly exist in the fervid imaginations of MSNBC commentators and such ilk who ubiquitously accuse Tea Party types, Paul Ryan fiscal conservatives, and opponents of Obamacare of secret racist motives.

Let’s get real: The Eugenics Movement was mostly a top/down phenomenon, driven into bigoted public policy tyranny by minions of the high academy, funded by liberal foundations like the Carnegie Institution for Science

Moreover it was primarily a politically progressive movement–technocratic at heart and claiming the mantle of “science”that presumed it possessed the wisdom to improve the human herd. All of this was based, in part–as my Discovery Institute colleagues have pointed out repeatedly–on a misapplication of Darwinian principles.

Indeed, Martin could just as easily have said that Davenport was Margaret Sanger’s favorite American. That he was Teddy Roosevelt’s, and George Bernard Shaw’s favorite American. That he was H.G. Wells’ favorite American, and Emma Goldman’s. Also, John Maynard Keynes and Oliver Wendell Holmes, of Buck v Bell infamy enthusiastically supported eugenics! The list of progressive eugenicists goes on and on.

With regard to “white Protestants:” Those who most supported eugenics were not primarily believers in orthodox concepts of Salvation and the sanctity of human life. Rather, the most enthusiastic Protestant eugenicists were liberal ”Social Gospel” types​–a historical fact documented splendidly in Preaching Eugenics by Christine Rosen. From my review in the Weekly Standard:

The Social Gospel movement, led mostly by Congregationalist and Unitarian ministers, grew rapidly in these years among mainline Protestant churches. The Social Gospel reconceived Christianity as being less about faith and salvation, and more about, as Rosen writes, “ushering in the Kingdom of God on earth through [social] reform and service.”

Many Social Gospel adherents viewed eugenics as God’s plan to reconcile the truths of science with the Bible. Toward this end, Bible verses were reinterpreted and found to contain what had theretofore been secret eugenics messages. Thus, in one minister’s sermon, Noah’s flood was God’s own eugenics policy for eliminating a human race that had degraded and become inferior. Others insisted that Christ’s Parable of the Talents was actually about improving the population: In eugenics exegeses, “Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him,” took on a whole new meaning.

Today’s eugenicists are also primarily politically progressive academics–such as Princeton’s Peter Singer and Oxford’s Julian Savulescu–who reject human exceptionalism and the equal moral importance of all human life. Religious types who support the new eugenics, as the original version, tend to come from the most liberal Protestant denominations.

Today’s eugenics is not racist. But it is elitist. Progressives today tend to support “new eugenics” policies and policy approaches; eugenic abortion, genetic enhancement/engineering, eugenic infanticide, euthanasia, and/or transhumanist “post human” recreationism. 

This isn’t to say that there aren’t conservatives who buy into pernicious neo eugenics agenda items. But not sanctity of life conservatives. And certainly not those who most liberal Salon readers consider to be on the wrong side of history in the pro-life/pro-choice culture wars.

Admitting Global Warming “Info Manipulation”



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Climate Depot ran a story about a peer-reviewed journal article that defends exaggerating about global warming. I decided to check it out. Sure enough.

The need for international global warming agreements is so urgent, the authors claim, that “exaggeration” is justified in communicating with the great unwashed so as to increase their pessimism. From, “Information Manipulation and Climate Agreements” (my emphasis):

This article offers a rationale for the phenomenon of climate damage accentuation or exaggeration on the part of the international mainstream media or other pro-environmental organizations. Forming a binding IEA [International Environmental Agreement] to curb climate change is a matter of urgency. The IEA literature generally takes the pessimistic view that an IEA has little chance of success in resolving the climate problem because strong free-riding incentives prevent a sufficient number of countries from participating in that agreement.

When the media or pro-environmental organizations have private information on the damage caused by climate change, in equilibrium they may manipulate this information to increase pessimism regarding climate damage, even though the damage may not be that great…

[W]e show that the aforementioned exaggeration of climate damage may alleviate the problem of insufficient IEA participation.

But when people know they are being lied to, why in the (currently non-warming) world would they push their governments to participate in IEAs? 

The authors recognize that in more (supposedly) dire circumstances, that can be a problem:

In essence, overpessimism mitigates the problem of underparticipation that is caused by free-riding incentives. However, because people update their beliefs using the Bayesian rule, such information manipulation has a negative externality on the other state when climate damage is really huge, in which case the aforementioned information provider will not be sufficiently trusted even if it indicates the true state. As a result, the participation level falls further in this situation.

In other words, mendacity to increase fear about global warming can increase motivation to submit to the international technocracy after more minor events, but might reduce it after a major dislocation because of a loss of trust. 

The authors see the message manipulation as, essentially, a wash in promoting an international global warming agreement:

Overall, information manipulation has an ambiguous effect on IEA membership and global welfare from the ex ante perspective.​

Ambiguous? No. “Information manipulation” undermines people’s trust in science (at least, by association), destroys what is left of the media’s credibility on this issue, and is toxic to democratic deliberation. 

We have known we are being manipulated in this debate for a long time. The good news is that it doesn’t work well anymore except among those who are ideologically committed Chicken Littlists.

What is that old joke: How do I know global warming hysterics are lying? Their lips are moving. 

Feeding Tube Removed Despite Court Order



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Texas has a medical futility–what I call Futile Care Theory–law permitting doctors to remove wanted life-support that works from a patient based on their views about quality of life. 

Before that is done, patients/families are supposed to receive due process–such as it is–e.g., a hearing before a bioethics Star Chamber committee. Then, if the committee decides the treatment should end, the patient has 10 days to find a new hospital.

But here’s the thing: I believe that once a society determines that doctors can refuse wanted efficacious life-sustaining service–that becomes the meme–and eventually the due process part goes away. 

That may be part of what happened in a case out of a hospital near Austin. As recounted by Thaddeus Mason Pope, an estranged wife (of 5 years!) authorized pulling the feeding tube of Terry Mace. His parents won guardianship and a court blocked the dehydrate decision.

But the hospital did it anyway. From the Austin State Journal story:

Stephen Casey, one of the attorneys for Mace’s parents, said doctors at Seton Medical Center Williamson surprised the family by removing the feeding and hydration tubes for Mace sometime within the past few days. The 43-year-old Killeen man had been hospitalized since March 6, when he went into cardiac arrest and hit his head on a concrete floor.

After receiving a phone call Monday morning from Mace’s father, Casey went to the hospital and saw the tubes had been removed. Mace’s father got a doctor to reconnect the hydration tube Monday afternoon, Casey said. Mace died about 1 a.m. Tuesday. The hospital’s director of communications, Adrienne Lallo, released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying the hospital had cooperated with Mace’s family. 

Some cooperation.

Apparently the hospital didn’t adequately explain that “comfort care” actually meant in Mace’s case, ”dehydrate to death:”

Doctors had told Mace’s family over the weekend that they were providing “comfort care” to him, meaning they were keeping him sedated and making sure he wasn’t choking, said Casey. Mace’s parents might have been confused about what kind of treatment their son was receiving, their lawyers said.

This is how trust in our health care system is being steadily destroyed.

Some might expect lawsuits to be filed. But I would probably advise the family not to risk adding insult to injury.

In my experience in this field, once a seriously disabled patient dies, juries tend to apply a “no real harm, no foul” invidious judgmentalism. In other words, imposition of futile care can sometimes be stopped before death, but afterwards, it ceases to matter very much outside the family’s mourning.

Humans Are the Enemy of Earth!



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I will be interested if the former Washington governor calls us cancers or a plague. Or perhaps, as David Suzuki has, maggots?

If you are having trouble viewing this email, please click here.

 
We have met the enemy and he is us.
Former Gov. Christine Gregoire

FORMER GOV. CHRISTINE GREGOIRE
TO SPEAK AT PLU FOR EARTH DAY

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 22

Register for Lecture

Former Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire will be the keynote speaker at Pacific Lutheran University’s Earth Day presentation on April 22; the title of her talk is, “We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us.”

Gregoire, who served as Washington’s governor from 2005-13, says Puget Sound offers a good example of the title. “As environmentalists have raised concerns about the health of the Sound, we have responded with answers from, ’the solution to pollution is dilution’ to ‘industrial discharge is the problem’ to today’s understanding that the health of a water body like Puget Sound is determined by each of us and what we do.”

As the 22nd governor of Washington, Gregoire prioritized the environmental health of the state and its residents: She created the Puget Sound Partnership in 2007 and insisted that the state invest in and deploy one of the world’s premier oil spill and prevention response programs. Gregoire also reinvigorated the state’s Department of Ecology and led the state to adopt Clean Air standards in 2009.

During her tenure, Gregoire passed laws that made the state a national leader in climate-protection policy, leaving Washington an environmental treasure for future generations.

Office of the President
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, WA 98447
253-535-7101

[email protected] 

www.plu.edu/president 

 
 
PLU

 

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