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Redundant Males, Redundant Humanity

Jul 9, 2009

Two recent bioethics announcements have added a few more nails to the coffin of humanity. While these new biomedical breakthroughs promise much about medical research, cures, and progress, what they are really about is the end of man – both as the male gender, and as humanity. The two recent reports both have to do with the use of embryonic stem cells.

The first news item has to do with a call for Australian women to be allowed to sell their eggs for medical research. One news account says this: “Women could make money by selling their eggs for stem cell research under a proposal by one of the pioneers of Australia’s stem cell regulations. Under present laws it is illegal for women to be paid to donate their eggs to medical research, but the University of Melbourne’s Professor Loane Skene says the regulations need to be overturned to find new cures.”

We have of course heard this for some decades now: let’s kill human embryos at an early stage in the hopes of finding some medical cures for other people. It is a convoluted logic and ethic: let’s kill some human beings in the hopes of possibly saving other human beings.

But it is old news in another sense. Scientific breakthroughs involving pluripotent adult stem cells have really resulted in embryonic stem cell therapy becoming redundant. Indeed, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) are now where all the action is, and the need for using embryos is now passé.

Moreover, the process of retrieving eggs is an invasive procedure which puts the health of women at risk. To put pressure on women to undergo such risky procedures simply to earn a few quid is irresponsible medicine.

Indeed, the whole idea of selling body parts is grotesque. In tough economic times such as the present, the temptation to make some money on the side by selling eggs or other body parts will lead to the exploitation of many women, especially the poor. This is clearly unethical medicine.

The other story involves the creation of human sperm. This is how one news report covered the story: “Scientists claim to have created human sperm for the first time, in a breakthrough they say could lead to new treatment for male infertility. The sperm was said to have been grown in a laboratory in Newcastle, England, from human embryonic stem cells. Led by Professor Karim Nayernia, researchers developed a method of growing early-stage sperm from the stem cells by using retinoic acid, a vitamin A derivative, and found that about 20 per cent of the cells produced sperm. The breakthrough came when some cells continued to grow, elongating and growing a tail that caused them to move, and forming recognisable sperm cells.”

A number of problems come to mind, including the obvious: if scientists can now manufacture sperm, that simply makes males even more redundant than they already are. The social result is similar to what we get with parthenogenesis, or procreation by one sex alone. This might be good for amoebas, but it is not good for human beings, and certainly not good for the children who come about by such a process. Children need fathers, not just sperm manufacturers and donors.

And we again have the same problem concerning ethical research. The use of embryonic stem cells is predicated on the prior destruction of the embryo. If we really need to create sperm, this too can be done by means of adult stem cells. Once again we are creating life only to destroy, in some vague hope of potentially helping other human beings one day.

One commentator has expressed these concerns: “Although this sperm has not been used to fertilise a human egg, the nightmare is simply that we now stand on the brink of a new era, in which the whole business of bearing children has nothing to do with a biological mother and father. For example, the cells of a lesbian could be used to create sperm with which to fertilise her partner’s egg. In an even more extreme scenario, a woman could, in theory, one day be both mother and father to her own child. The possibilities are mind-boggling.”

And the risks are high: “Moreover, the health risks are enormous. Although live baby mice were produced using the artificially created ‘sperm’, the unfortunate offspring were far from healthy, suffering from various growth and respiratory problems. These caveats notwithstanding, there is no denying that the genie is well and truly out of the bottle and we must now ask ourselves where this technology could one day take us.”

As is so often the case, biotechnologies are far outpacing the necessary ethical and social reflection needed with these new technologies. Just because we can do something does not mean that we should do something. Pushing full speed ahead in these areas without proper reflection and community consultation is a very dangerous path to be on.

The brave new world of biotechnology has certainly been a mixed blessing. Some good may have been achieved, but always the downsides are significant. And the biggest of these downsides is the dehumanisation and depersonalisation that seems to inevitably result from much of these technologies.

While playing God is a recurring temptation, it is important to bear in mind that probably only God is best qualified to do so.

www.news.com.au/story/0,27574,25749739-421,00.html
www.theage.com.au/world/men-superseded-sperm-grown-in-lab-20090708-ddd8.html
www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,25752463-5001030,00.html

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29 Responses to Redundant Males, Redundant Humanity

  • Hi Bill.
    Again, the acceptance to kill life to make life argument is just ludicrous. It is an argument that goes like this; let’s prevent people from suffering the results of being burned in a fire by sacrificing a few lives for the purpose of research. It’s totally ridiculous, but what else would you expect from a humanistic, amorilist worldview where life has no value. But, there my friend is the problem. There is value in what they do. They are trying to make a market out of all this and make a lot of money. I’m positive if money was taken out of the equation, then why would they waste their time in such idiotic ventures? They are telling us that they are doing it for the betterment of mankind, but really, it is just a grab for cash from anyone who is willing to offer it. Drug companies, businesses and even governments. Playing god with the lives of innocent unborn for the sake of science research wreaks the stench of child sacrificing done by the Canaanites.
    BTW keep up the great articles. You have a talent and a gift in what you do.
    Rohan Needs

  • Yeah I’m not so sure that to everyone who supports this it’s about money. Unless I’m mistaken, eugenics doesn’t have a direct dollar value, yet certain people go for it like crazy (pun intended). I think there are equal or stronger drivers than money in this and many other ethical equations – simply put, sometimes I think the money is used as incentive by those who are pushing an anti-Christ agenda.

    Control. I believe the root of it all is a desire to be like gods unto ourselves.

    Garth Penglase

  • Thanks Garth

    There would be various motivations for all this, but actually money is a major part of it all. Just as we have Big Oil or Big Tobacco, we also have Big Biotech. There is a lot of money involved in all of this. And a lot of industries, such as the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, depend on using embryos, aborted foetuses, etc., for drug testing, or deriving products from them, and so on.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • That is astounding Bill, where have you read of the use of embryos and aborted foetuses for drug testing? I have not heard that one before!
    Keith Jarrett

  • Create sperm? Why do that? Plenty of it on the planet. I suspect the motives are pride, vanity, hubris, playing God etc. Scientists are doing these things just to show how clever they are, to make a name for themselves.

    If infertile couples want kids, then let them do the altruistic thing and adopt some. Will couples who get babies by creating sperm make good parents? Will anyone care?

    John Snowden

  • Thanks Keith

    Yes I am afraid it is all true. I have already written some of this up elsewhere, eg., www.billmuehlenberg.com/2006/08/24/aborting-babies-to-look-younger/

    Here are some general articles:
    watch.pair.com/stem-cell.html (against)
    www.guttmacher.org/pubs/tgr/04/1/gr040103.html (in favour)

    A number of governments allow human embryo and foetal research. Sometimes it is up to the states to decide what is allowed. See here for example: www.ncsl.org/Default.aspx?TabId=14413

    And a bit on the Australian scene: www.mydr.com.au/first-aid-self-care/stem-cell-research-and-cloning

    On pharmaceuticals, foetuses and drug testing:
    www.afterabortion.org/RU486.html

    As to the uses of foetuses in things like cosmetics, see here for example: www.skepticfiles.org/mys2/deadbaby.htm
    www.apologeticspress.org/articles/359

    China is especially notorious for some of these things:
    www.worldtribune.com/worldtribune/06/front2453818.0847222223.html
    www.prolifeblogs.com/articles/archives/2005/09/china_using_tis.php
    www.unmadeinchina.org/contStd.asp?lang=en&idPag=61

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • And another thought…

    After a bit of a search I finally located a book from my shelves. It is Living Laboratories: Women and Reproductive Technologies. Written by Australian author and feminist Dr Robyn Rowland, this book warned back in 1992 how the new reproductive technologies were exploiting women, and how Big Biotech was profiteering from medical research and experimentation.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • So let me get this straight. They have killed a baby to make a baby?
    Kevin Clark

  • Thanks Kevin

    Yes that about sums things up.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • “When common sense ceases to be common, a society is in terminal decay.” -G K Chesterton.
    Garth Penglase

  • Dear Bill, Such effrontery that fallen man should audaciously describe this manipulation as ‘creating sperm cells.’ Only our God can do that. The hebrew ‘bara’ is to create from nothing – and is reserved for the handiwork of our almighty God. In an orgasm 200 -600 million spermatozoa are passed. In a later sexual climax the number is still astronomical. Our Creator God has incorporated this characteristic of pluropotentiality. God’s copyright law should drive our scientists to their knees.
    Harrold Steward

  • Most of the vaccinations are created on the fetuses of aborted babies or animals, what is this world coming to? A world of beasts, like in the days of Noah? I can only imagine how evil the world had become for God to cause a flood, or maybe I dont have to imagine, I can just read in my local news media to find out how it was in Noahs day?
    Donna Opie

  • “This is really parthenogenesis, or procreation by one sex alone.”

    I suggest that you check the definition of ‘parthenogenesis’ a little more closely as it is nothing of the sort!

    It would still be sexual reproduction, but what we currently call ‘females’ would acquire male function also. In effect it would make humans hermaphroditic.

    Mark Loosely

  • Creating sperms is not for scientists to do because it was done by God who created man and told him to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. Secondly, even if some people do not believe in God, a male was created first before a female came into being and for that matter woman cannot do without man. The sperms which scientist are creating may seem to be an achievement in the sight of men but it is an abomination in God’s sight and it is as if they are telling Him that what He did in creation was not good enough and they are producing a better quality of sperms that wil result in a better species of humans than He did.
    Jill Maama

  • “This is really parthenogenesis, or procreation by one sex alone.” Actually, as long as the (manufactured) sperm and egg come from separate individuals from a genetic standpoint this is still sexual reproduction, not parthenogenesis, and no more hazardous for the offspring than the traditional method of conception.

    If the manufactured sperm and the egg came from the same person, then yes, there would be a greater risk of the child inheriting two copies of a harmful gene. (One way to think of it is as the most extreme form of incest.)

    David DeCoy

  • Hello Bill,

    I stumbled across your website while browsing through the BBC news articles. I am deeply worried about mankind’s desire to treat their fellow man and his own body as a type of human incubator. Donating blood, organs, DNA material to an increasingly money-minded scientific community. (Cures sell, endless research does not.)

    Many supporters and perhaps even a few of those who are working on these projects might believe they’re doing it for the greater good but why does this greater good always seem to be short on an immediate solution and big on immediate money making?

    Whenever one of those ethical questions arise in the media (or even before that) we should stop to reflect before advancing. We just jump from one ethical issue to the next without satisfying the democratic demand behind these questions.

    What ever happened to using embryo cells that were extracted from bone marrow? Every time a country decides to legalize stem cell research they seem to completely neglect the fact that there is an alternative choice that is non-destructive. Why? Probably because it costs more time and money. Unborn children aren’t represented in a democracy by a majority.

    What can we do about it? It’s the way of the world. One of these days, we’ll reap what we have sown. In a way, we’re all guilty by not immediately stepping up against these people by any means necessary …

    These topics can really make me rant, sigh.
    I’ll be keeping an eye out on your weblog.

    Joshua Lindberg

  • Dear Bill, Isn’t that like being a frog (or some other amphibious species?). Ugghhh how awful. We are on the brink of the end of the world.
    Siti khatijah

  • Thanks guys

    Several people rightly commented on my use of the term parthenogenesis. Because most did not provide a complete name, as my rules stipulate, I have not run with all their comments. But their point is well taken. Technically, parthenogenesis is asexual reproduction. The Greek actually means virgin birth. That is, the egg is not fertilized by a male. Thus the entire lot of DNA from the person (or animal or plant) is passed on to the offspring, without that of a second party.

    The reason I used the term is because the effect is the same, in one sense. If we do not need males, but can create sperm by other means, then that effectively renders males obsolete. So I was using the term in that sense, but my commentators were quite right to point out the actual differences. I have therefore made a minor change to my article in this regard.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • “A number of problems come to mind, including the obvious: if scientists can now manufacture sperm, that simply makes males even more redundant than they already are.”

    It would not make males redundant at all – human beings have inherent worth and value even when they are not needed to make more human beings! For example, my parents did not need any Latinos to make my brother and I, and that fact certainly does not make Latinos redundant.

    Joseph James

  • Thanks Joseph

    But you miss my point. I am really concerned about the problem of fatherlessness. Males will always be around, but their importance in society is being reduced, and their connection with children is being severed altogether. The social science data on the vital importance to children is well documented.

    As David Blankenhorn writes, the most important absence is not even so much the absence of fathers but “the absence of our belief in fathers”. It is the social and cultural revolution taking place which makes dads redundant.

    It is the overwhelming importance of the connection between fathers and children that most concerns me here, not whether or not men will disappear from the scene. It is this “cultural patricide” that is the real problem. As Blankenhorn – and others – document, a society of redundant dads “is a society of fourteen-year-old girls with babies and fourteen-year-old-boys with guns”. That is, the evidence tells us that the fatherless society means “the decline of child well-being and the rise of male violence”. These social consequences are not something to be sniffed at.

    Elsewhere on this site I provide the evidence for the invaluable role fathers provide. See for example:
    www.billmuehlenberg.com/2001/08/09/the-importance-of-fathers/
    www.billmuehlenberg.com/2002/06/03/fatherlessness-and-the-two-parent-family/
    www.billmuehlenberg.com/2008/02/01/making-men-redundant-and-harming-our-children/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • “What ever happened to using embryo cells that were extracted from bone marrow? Every time a country decides to legalize stem cell research they seem to completely neglect the fact that there is an alternative choice that is non-destructive.”

    Aren’t embryo cells that were extracted from bone marrow still babies?

    Also, when I said human beings have inherent worth and value even when they are not needed to make more human beings, that also goes for the infertile and the celibate. For examples:

    If a man cannot impregnate his wife because his body has a problem producing sperm and he does not believe in using fertility drugs to increase his sperm production, he is still a worthwhile human being.

    If a woman has to stay a virgin for her whole life because no man wants to marry her and nobody even wants to have extramarital sex with her, she is still a worthwhile human being.

    If an embryo cell that could have been extracted from bone marrow and implanted into a woman and carried to term instead remains inside bone marrow, it is still an embryo cell and still a worthwhile human being.

    Joseph James

  • Dear Bill, as a mother i have learnt that the role for fathers are not only to love and provide a certain basic decent standard of living for the children but down to the fact that children emulate their fathers (not mothers) eating of fruit & vegetables! Hows that for letting God do His job as it is His wisdom. I have seen it off hand with my own two. There are reasons and wisdom behind the creation of woman and MAN. We are not a specie of animal we have higher faculties given as a gift to be used for the good of mankind during our short time on earth.
    Siti Khatijah

  • Thanks again Joseph

    I believe that Joshua meant to say “stem cells that are extracted from bone marrow”. These are not embryonic stem cells, but what are called adult stem cells. Thus we are not talking about a baby here.

    As to your other point, again the rationale for my article had nothing to do with those who are infertile, or their lack of value for that reason. My point was that we are making the worrying disconnect between parent and child, especially between fathers and their children. That is bad for the children and bad for society. It is even bad for males.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Can we stop using the term “fetus” please. It is a baby whether it is one day old or nine months old. The term fetus was conjured up by the baby killers to avoid facing the fact that they were killing a baby.
    Roger Marks

  • Hello Bill, thanks for your correction and input. I did indeed mix up adult with the embryo stem cell!

    I am not sure if I missed your point, perhaps a little!
    What I wrote is, in my eyes, inseparable to the fatherlessness issue as the way of thinking involved causes people to think that they should surrender themselves to modern science rather than ‘nature’.

    Like you quoted: “the most important absence is not even so much the absence of fathers but “the absence of our belief in fathers”. ”

    Allow me to elaborate:

    You mention in your article that:
    “…the whole idea of selling body parts is grotesque.”

    which I think is the true source of the problem. This is what causes (young) people to think that they are nothing more than parts to be sold to a chop shop. It causes them to think less of others because individuals are thrown on one big biological heap of ‘compatible’ flesh rather than being pointed out that they truly are unique individuals that have a body that they should take good care of and that whatever they bring forth from this body, must also be taken care of as it is their own flesh and blood.

    How can they believe in the sanctity of life and family when they’re being told over and over that they can ‘donate’ parts of themselves for money?

    Anyhow, semantics. You’re spot on with your article, unfortunately for humanity.

    Joshua Lindberg

  • To be honest, while it is certainly true we must at all turns keep questions of bioethics at the forefront when making new discoveries, we must also refrain from overreacting.

    Large discoveries like this are made all the time, and much too often the initial response is to engage in fevered speculation as to the ways in which ‘discovery x’ will derail society. The truth is, we’re still here–we’ve got some nightmarish things going on in portions of the world, but First World Western society is very much intact.

    One need only recall the rise of affordable birth control in the early twentieth century to see such overreaction. When condoms, the pill and all manner of contraceptive methods first came about many people heralded it as the ‘beginning of a terrifying new era’, and a harbinger of the downfall of society.

    Lo and behold, since birth control has become available and affordable society has thrived, particularly in the U.S. We’ve grown healthier, weathered dark times remarkably unscathed, still produce some of the best technology and art in the world, and allowed the better parts of our nature triumph over the darker prejudices of our past. Men and women are freer, minorities are freer, and productivity has continually risen, even in hard times. We also rank at or near the top of the world’s nations when it comes to social peace and overall happiness.

    So while we must continually keep ethics in mind at every turn, and recognizing possible risks of certain developments is crucial, we should also realize that overreacting to a discovery before it has been contextualized over time and dreaming of the apocalypse via hasty extrapolation is counterproductive and, empirically, usually not accurate. If the past is any indication, we’ll figure out how to deal with this, come to understand the good and the bad that can extend from it, and society will continue to thrive.

    Robert Roarke

  • Thanks Robert

    We may have to agree to disagree here. I certainly do not share in your optimism and almost cavalier attitude about all these things. Please bear in mind that often is not this or that individual biotech discovery or activity that will result in great calamity. But the cumulative effect of many such things may well spell trouble indeed.

    And contrary to your somewhat dismissive remarks, many learned social commentators, moral theologians, philosophers and others have seen the various things you mention – part of what we call the sexual revolution – has having very momentous negative consequences indeed. This site seeks to document the harmful results of the radical 60s counterculture as a whole. (And as one who was very much a part of that counterculture, but has since left it and repudiated it, I speak with some first-hand experience here.)

    My contention is that the Cultural Revolution – in which we can place the Biotech Revolution – of this period was as important and influential as the Industrial Revolution or the Russian Revolution. Of course whether this influence and importance is to be seen mainly in a negative or positive light depends on the worldview one holds, and where one sits on the political and ideological spectrum.

    It seems that you happen to see most of these activities as pluses, and signs of progress. I happen to see most of them as negatives, and signs of regress. But as I say, we may therefore have to agree to disagree, given that we seem to be coming from quite different starting points.

    And let me say that I am no Luddite, and certainly do appreciate many of the genuine benefits due to advances in medical technology and related fields. But as with many others – even writers, filmmakers, artists, and so on – I am quite aware of the many dangers and potential dangers in Big Biotech. Even works of fiction such as Brave New World or 1984 had, it seems to me, some prophetic insights into where modern, technological man was heading. These voices need to be taken seriously, along with the more academic and philosophical voices which have made similar warnings.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Robert also needs to appreciate that the negative consequences of the various anti-family “discoveries” and trends are not usually immediate but take generations before the full effects are manifest. Whilst Western society still has a veneer of progress in certain areas, overall the indicators show decline. One example, out of wedlock births recently hit 40% in the USA – a figure which has shown dramatic increase in recent years. And population growth demographics for the entire Western world demonstrate the unstainability of an increasingly anti-family culture.

    Ewan McDonald.

  • Hmm. Robert, so would you disagree with me when I say that just in this generation we have seem a massive derailment of family values, increases in suicide, fatherlessness, single parenthood, domestic violence, gender confusion, teenage pregnancies, abortion?

    Where do you think that has come from, if not by incremental erosion in areas such as this? We don’t jump straight to the morning after pill without first convincing society of the need for widespread use of drugs; the US didn’t jump to Presidential support of 42 week abortion – it all started with Roe vs Wade; the argument over using embryonic stem cells wasn’t ‘just’ about the need to use embryonic stem cells. Even now that there are non-foetal destructive methods of obtaining stem cells for research/medicine, do you think that we will now be able to reverse that decision? No, the precedent set in using embryonic stem cells will be used to further all aspects of body part science/foetal destruction for whatever purpose they deem to be a social good. And so it goes, the continual erosion of a Godly view which in turn changes our culture.

    We are now no different in culture than the days of Baal. We sacrifice more babies at the altar of humanistic determination than Baal worshipers ever did. We are now a culture that applauds gay activists who condone pedophilia (as Obama recently did in a speech on Stonewall day) and accepts, even encourages, sexual immorality and perversion as the order of the day no different that Rome, Babylon and even Sidon.

    This didn’t just all happen overnight – it is gradual erosion. That’s why it’s essential to stand up for anything which raises itself against the knowledge of God, anything which is, or could be used for evil. Because if it can be, it will be.

    Garth Penglase

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