Sunday, December 4, 2011


ABC News is reporting that in an interview with Jake Tapper, Newt Gingrich states that he believe life begins at implantation, not conception, a break with both Catholic teaching and many if not most in the anti-abortion movement.

"TAPPER: Abortion is a big issue here in Iowa among conservative Republican voters and Rick Santorum has said you are inconsistent. The big argument here is that you have supported in the past embryonic stem cell research and you made a comment about how these fertilized eggs, these embryos are not yet “pre-human” because they have not been implanted. This has upset conservatives in this state who worry you don’t see these fertilized eggs as human life. When do you think human life begins?

GINGRICH: Well, I think the question of being implanted is a very big question. My friends who have ideological positions that sound good don’t then follow through the logic of: ‘So how many additional potential lives are they talking about? What are they going to do as a practical matter to make this real?’

I think that if you take a position when a woman has fertilized egg and that’s been successfully implanted that now you’re dealing with life. because otherwise you’re going to open up an extraordinary range of very difficult questions"

Many may see this as a case of semantic silliness but it isn't. In my opinion it signifies a certain cowardice which is betrayed by the last sentence in the quote above. Gingrich is right that to believe life begins at conception does open the door to many questions that are difficult, questions that have a direct bearing on whether the many medical procedures that create embryos for implantation or in fact creating babies, tiny human beings that are then used as things to be implanted, frozen, thrown away or experimented on.

For a man like Gingrich, one that never seems to shy from a fight about ideas, it's nearly impossible to believe that just the fact that difficult questions are created would be enough to preclude him from accepting something as true. I don't believe this is the reason he takes the stand that he does in the interview.

Gingrich goes on to say:

"Implantation and successful implantation. In addition I would say that I’ve never been for embryonic stem cell research per se. I have been for, there are a lot of different ways to get embryonic stem cells. I think if you can get embryonic stem cells for example from placental blood if you can get it in ways that do not involve the loss of a life that’s a perfectly legitimate avenue of approach.

What I reject is the idea that we’re going to take one life for the purpose of doing research for other purposes and I think that crosses a threshold of de-humanizing us that’s very very dangerous."

This is where we get to the heart of the matter; he's trying to have it both ways. If he honestly accepts the argument that he's put forth, that life begins at implantation, not conception, then he shouldn't have any problem at all with any use of none implanted embryos. But in the above quote he says that he's nearly always opposed embryonic stem cell research. Why?

I think I know. He's trying to walk a fine line. He doesn't want to offend the pro-aborts in the Republican party, the big pharma and medical research firms that donate money or the Dems that just might cross the line because they've become so frustrated with the direction their party has taken. But at the same time he's throwing a bone to the pro-life camp, giving them something to hang their hats on so they can still vote for him with a clear conscience. He figures he's probably got their vote anyway when it comes right down to it so he just has to give 'em a friendly nudge.

This is the kind of thing I'm watching for with Gingrich. He's showing his true colors here. He's more interested in politics than principle in the abortion battle.

And, if he's willing to throw babies under the bus to get elected, what else will he do?

So the question remains - has Gingrich changed? It's not looking good so far.


  1. Well, you've certainly caught him out. He is indeed trying to have it both ways. I'm not sure he did it on purpose though. I think that they may have simply asked him a question he hadn't completely thought out yet.

    Many prolifers such as Danforth and Hatch have no problem using embryonic stem cells for research IF those cells were going to be discarded anyway. I don't have a problem with that either. As far as purposely making stem cells for the sole purpose of research goes, I'm as undecided as Newt. People always talk about human "life", but what exactly do they mean? for instance, months after a body is referred to as "dead" and is buried, billions of cells are still very much alive. But once the heart stops beating, the lungs quit drawing air, and the brain quits functioning we say that person is dead. The live cells in this "dead" person's body are still moving though. Is that movement a representation of life? Certainly the cells are alive. But are those cells really representative of who I am? Is my spirit and soul still present? If not, then who's life is present in those living cells within the dead body? Isn't ALL life from God ultimately? "In him we live and move and have our being." Of course that never stopped me from killing a snake. But the point is, if my body can be called "dead" while its cells live on for months, then on the other end of the argument, can we truly say that a mere embryol is actually "alive" with human life complete with a spirit and soul at such an early stage? Or is it merely the kind of life that continues in the cells within my body after what we call "death?"

    I find it ironic that ANY church would be silly enough to think they can pronounce someone dead by lack of brain, heart, and lung functions, and yet pronounce them alive before they've even developed those same items. Maybe we should stop fooling ourselves. There is life, and there is meaningful life. I don't see how the life in an embryol is any more meaningful than life in a dead bodies cells.

  2. By the way, I hope you don't think I'm trying to be negative or that I'm playing the Devil's advocate. I'm just saying that I don't know anything, and I don't like it when people, be they laymen or church leaders, pretend to know things they don't. I have no clear idea when life begins or ends. Maybe it begins with our first literal breath. I have strong doubts that we have any kind of soul or spirit at conception any more than I think Jesus could read and write while in the womb. There wouldn't be much point in having those things till we need them.

    I shall have more to say on the subject on my religious blog once I get the kinks sorted out. I'll have more time for blogging after next week.

    One good thing about being Episcopal is that we're free to believe what we want on most subjects without coming under fire from church leaders. We don't have just a whole lot of church doctrine. In fact, we pretty much just try to stay out of jail. See ya.

  3. I've got some fairly strong opinions on the life issue myself, though to be honest, right now I'm not in the mood for a long drawn out discussion about it. I'm more focused, at least for the moment and as regards this post, on the inconsistencies in Gingrich's stance. I don't trust him but I do like to listen to him argue.

    I'd condense my position on the life issue down to this: I don't know when life begins, either. I do accept the Church's teaching that it begins at conception though I'd admit that this is purely an act of faith. Mostly it's also playing it safe. Since we can't know for certain I think it's better to just assume that life begins at conception because if we don't, and it does, we're committing murder if we destroy the cell that is created.

    I'm opposed to all the various means of creating life outside of natural procreation for the same reason. To create embryos and then to pick out some for implantation, some for experimentation and some for the trash can is inconsistent with my reason for assuming life is created at conception.

    And that's why I can't agree with Danforth in his reasoning that the embryos are just going to go to waste anyway. They shouldn't have been created to begin with (in my thinking) and the fact that they were doesn't justify compounding the evil by experimenting on them.

    As far as when death occurs, I would say that medical science has clouded the issue a bit but for the most part, much like pornography, you know it when you see it. And there's a difference between the cells in a dead body and those in an embryo. The one is decaying. It's natural course is not to become more human but less, to just fade away and turn to dust (or something). The embryo, left to nature and apart from calamity, will continue to develop, to grow into a baby, a child and so forth. Life and growth are worlds apart from death and putrification.

    And on that note I'm done because I'm really not in the frame of mind to go into all this, though it's really interesting. Maybe when you get your religious blog up and running we could have a friendly discussion on the subject. Sometime this winter when it's snowy and neither one of us have anything better to do. And enough time to apply the proper research and back up for our different positions.

    Sucks being a geek sometimes. :)

  4. But if we play it safe, as you say, who is it safe for? I guess I don't see any reason for a mere zygote to be endowed with a soul or spirit yet. What would be the point? There is no indication whatsoever that a zygote/embryo has anything of meaningful life in it. But we don't have to guess about those already born. We know they have a spirit and a soul and a mind. To ignore those with illnesses that could quite possibly be cured through stem cell research from embryos for the sake of worrying about a tiny bit of cellular life that certainly has no intelligence (no brain yet) and has no reason to have a soul or spirit seems backwards to me. But like I say, I haven't thought the whole thing through to its logical conclusion yet (and I believe there is one).

    The Recondite Cogitations blog has been up since 09. I was talking about sorting out my thoughts concerning stem cells etc.

  5. You're going to suck me in yet, aren't you! :)

    I agree with Aquinas that all living things have souls and since a zygote is definitely alive then it must have a soul (Summa Theologica Part 1: Question 75 ( The question is really more along the lines of what type of soul?

    Aquinas postulates that there are three types of soul, the vegative, the animal and the human. Following his line of reasoning the three different types of souls have characteristics proper to their function. All three animate the otherwise inanimate yet only one has the qualities that we define as human, among them self awareness and the highest intellect. The human soul is demonstrably different than the other two types. He argues that the soul exists apart from the body but that the state of the body can impact the way the soul interacts with the world (Part 1;Question 75;Article 3).

    I'm no Aquinas but I'll use this to try to explain my understanding and why I believe as I do about not taking a chance with the humanity of the zygote.

    The zygote is alive, therefore it has a soul. While it is dependent upon its host for survival it exists apart from its host as an individual cell and will continue to develop its individuality over time. It is designed to move apart from and beyond its host. Unlike other organisms (disease comes to mind) that operate in much the same way, it will not require further contact with other hosts to remain alive after leaving its original host. It is not designed as a parasite but rather as an independent life. It will posses all the mental faculties needed to attain its goal, including self awareness and the highest intellect. Just as animals and vegetables don't become people souls don't change into something else either. Therefore, a zygote has a soul and its soul is human.

    We may not recognize the human soul because the zygote does not have the physical development necessary to use the power it posses. The body impacts the ability of the soul to interface with the material world. If a mentally retarded person has such significant damage to their brain that they can no longer function in anything resembling a normal way of life have they ceased to be human? If someone is beaten and abused, dulled and exhausted and unable to function at anything close to a normal cognitive level, have they somehow become less human? Of course not. They remain fully human and thus posses a human soul with all its powers.

  6. The body is merely the interface. Without it the soul cannot function properly in the material world because it is purely spirit, without form, parts or mass. I'd liken this to a computer. The processor needs all the other hardware to interact properly with the computer user. If the hardware fails or is not up to the task of fully supporting the processor then the capabilities of the processor, though they haven't been changed, will not be accessible or usable. The processor is still what it was and the computer is still a computer, it's just a broken computer.

    Now, to say that we have a higher responsibility to those that have achieved independence of their host, that have developed to the point that their intellect and self awareness are apparent to one and all may be valid. Sometimes a choice has to be made. Sometimes one is going to die and one is going to live. A pregnant woman may undergo an operation. If something goes wrong during the operation and it becomes apparent that mother or the child will die, that only one can live, then it seems morally acceptable to make a choice and let one die.

    That's far different, though, than purposely killing an innocent third party to benefit another. If the zygote is human, which I believe it is, and it is killed to benefit another, then how does that differ from the Chinese killing political prisoners to harvest their organs to sell to those that can afford them(

    And I'm trying to avoid getting into all this but here I am. I guess I'm just an argument slut, willing to put out whenever the chance arises.

    I haven't thought the whole thing out, either. And I agree there's a logical conclusion. There always is. Sometimes the trick is in recognizing it.

    I'll have to go over to your religion blog. I didn't know it was there.

    Now, it's on to breakfast.

  7. The crux of the matter has to do with when a body, even a mere cell, may become endowed with a soul and spirit. Aquinas seemed to think the action was simultaneous at birth. Yet he offers no real evidence for his thoughts here. The bible says that Adam became alive when God breathed into him the breath of life. Obviously that may be metaphorical of a science that happens in the spirit world that we aren’t privy to. But it may also be literal in its significance as to how God wants us to view life in our world. Speaking to old testament people about EEG machines and so on was out of the question. Talk about brain functions was useless. But two things the bible always associated with life were easy to understand, and that was breath and blood. There was no life without those two things and everybody understood that. If (and it’s a big if) God truly made Adam from dirt (and it IS possible since we know that the human body is made from the same basic 17 elements as dirt) then Adam’s body had all kinds of moving cells in its framework from the time God made it since dirt is full of living organisms. Yet we’re told that Adam became alive only after God breathed this breath of life into him (whatever that was). Even if this is symbolic, why shouldn’t we take it as a symbol that a being isn’t truly alive until its free of the womb and breathing air? Yes, it has a basic kind of life just like bacteria does, but is it really the life of a spirit until it has emerged from the womb? Again, I find no reason for any human to have a soul or spirit before it can take part in the world. It would be like gassing up your car and then setting it in the garage for nine months. Who would do that? You gas up the car after its out of the garage and ready to go.

    “Without it the soul cannot function properly in the material world because it is purely spirit, without form, parts or mass.”

    It has none of those things in THIS world. But every world must have a science behind it or it wouldn’t exist. All matter has energy, and all energy has matter. The very fact that God makes decisions shows that he has energy, and therefore matter. I view the spirit realm that the bible speaks of as something like a parallel world, just as real as this one, and with just as much, if not more, science behind its makeup. And the very fact that God exists shows that there must have always been some kind of space where he is. He couldn’t have created his own space to exist in. So there is at least one thing which by default must be even older than God and which exists without his assistance, and that is the space in which he lives. There may even be laws regarding that world in which he has no control. Thomas never thought his Prime Mover argument through very well.

    I haven’t said much of anything new on my religious blog for about a year or so. I said just about everything there was to say in the first year along with the George MacDonald book/movie/website and all those YT videos I made back then. The past year I’ve just been leaving links to other sites mostly. I’m not saying I’m out of ideas, but I felt a call to writing fiction, and I think that it was a positive move that will pay off eventually. You can say things in fiction with other characters that you could never explain any other way. Seems odd to say that now because I wouldn’t read fiction until I was 35 years old. Then God led me to MacDonald, Chesterton, Lewis, Charles Williams etc., and I soon realized that people will say things in fiction they wouldn’t normally say. Chesterton was right—there’s more truth in fairytales than anywhere else. Don’t know why it took me so long to see it.

  8. I'll have to get back to this in a couple days because I actually have some work to go to tomorrow. Hope I remember how to do it.

    The one thing that comes to mind right off the bat is that the example of Adam is flawed in that he was created in a way different than any other person in the world so the rules that apply to us may not have necessarily applied to him.

    Or, and this is just wild supposition on my part, Adam is THE missing link!

    Go with me for a minute. Let's just say that there is truth in evolution (not Darwinian but designed and directed). Let's just say that God created mans body through the millenia. Let's say that in nearly every physical way the cave men were like us - except they lacked a human soul. Perhaps they had Aquinas' animal soul. Anyway, the story in Genesis of God breathing life into Adam really represents the moment in time when God replaced Adam's animal soul with a human soul.

    Adam, and then Eve, are the transitional form that have eluded science for so long.

    Now, from this point on the human soul became part of our nature and was passed on down through the ages, right alongside that other gift, original sin.

    Just thinking out loud here. And now going to bed. Let me put some thought and research into the underlying reasons for Aquinas's ideas. I've read all this before but it's been awhile and I'm not 100% on it all anymore.

    I'll be back. Damn, this is fun.

  9. Just a quickie to say that I've always wondered about that that same exact thing about the Adam/Eve story representing, if nothing else, a God-given evolution in human consciousness such as the beginning of self-awareness. But yes, could represent the endowment of the first soul as well.

    You should read the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey. Clarke was a very mystical kind of sci-fi writer. He uses an advanced race of beings from "elsewhere" as those which supply the seeds of evolutionary consciousness in early hominids. (It's what those monoliths were about that you saw in the movie). And toward the end of the book we find Dave going through the next step in human evolution. Clarke never identifies those early advanced beings who helped humans advance, and one take on it is that they were angelic. Interesting.

    Yes, I guess Adam's origins, if literal, were different from the rest of us that came later. I'll have to think on that a bit.