Religion is insane. Insane.

From USA Today comes this remarkable question: “‘Test tube babies’: God’s work or human error?” Elaborating, they ask: “Do you think a baby conceived in test tube is still a child in the eyes of God?”

As always, it’s interesting to see how neatly nontheism collapses questions like these. They are not “God’s work”, nor are they a “child in the eyes of God”. Nobody is, because there is no god.

That probably wasn’t the kind of answer they were looking for, though. But there can be no useful answer here, because the question itself is wrong. It’s based on an irrelevant attribute – the location of fertilization – which they pretend has some bearing on an entirely fabricated property: whether a person is a “child in the eyes of God”. The very idea is nonsense. How is such a property defined, and how can they tell if anyone possesses this quality in the first place? What makes you so certain that you’re a “child in the eyes of God”? Such a trait has no apparent effects or physical manifestations, yet they treat it like it’s just another potential birth defect to watch out for: “Ten fingers, ten toes, child of God…”

Clearly, whether someone is a “child in the eyes of God” can’t be reliably determined, because it’s not even meaningfully defined. So why does it merit any consideration, and why should it have anything to do with what we consider a person to be? Is there any real difference between someone who was conceived in a test tube, or a Fallopian tube? It seems the only differences are the ones we’ve invented, kind of like saying someone doesn’t have a “soul” if they were conceived in North Dakota instead of South Dakota.

It’s a shame that major publications would play along with this obvious game of make-believe like it was a serious issue. This only serves to lend credibility to religion’s fiction by treating it as if it has any actual relation to reality. If you really think a baby is somehow special or metaphysically different in some ineffable way because it became a zygote while inside a woman’s body, you’re just wiping off the El Camino.

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Religion is insane. Insane.
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13 thoughts on “Religion is insane. Insane.

  1. 2

    I read about this too! Yesterday in my local paper I saw how Robert Edwards won the nobel prize for physics cuz of his pioneering work with Patrick Steptoe regarding in vitro fertilization. 32 year old Louise Brown was the first baby conceived in a petrie dish back in 1978, and now has a “conceived naturally” three year old boy. There’s no indication Louise Brown’s head spins around or spits pea soup when people aren’t looking. She’s just as soulful (our soul less as the case may be) as any “conceived naturally” person, or the FOUR MILLION other test tube babies that have been born since.

    The Vatican is not only losing ground in this debate, they lost it decades ago. Yet like echoless quacks, flat earths, or venomous Daddy Long Legs, this god myth idea just won’t go away. Craig Venter’s team of scientists have made life from scratch in a laboratory. The argument that a god corners the market on creation is moot. There’s nothing miraculous about it. It’s not a gift. It’s a fluke. Religion wants to believe otherwise and that’s the root of its insanity. Reality doesn’t coincide with what it wants reality to be, but rather than accept that ppl cling to this madness.

    I used to be a believer so I know what it’s like to not think it thru cuz the result is unpleasant. Now that I’m on the other side of the veil, I can’t do anything but laugh. They have no idea, just as I was oblivious, just how wacky delusional they appear to those of us no longer fooled. Earlier today at a restaurant with friends, a complete stranger put her palm up at me and start praying in my direction when she overheard me say I’m atheist. Some days it feels like I’m in the first reel of a horror thriller. They’re creeping me out, and I used to be one of them.

  2. 3

    You know, it’s situations like this that made me start questioning my beliefs in God. I’m pretty sure I don’t even have to look outside the religion that’s condemning ‘test tube babies’ to prove how irrational and, quite frankly, just plain stupid the question posed in that article truly is.

    I was born into and raised by a Christian family, and went to church and Sunday school every week like a good little boy. What I learned there is that, according to the Bible every human being is a ‘child in the eyes of God’. Regardless of who you are, what you have, or even how you have lived your life you are still considered that. Did you lead a pious life filled with helping the needy and worshiping the Lord? Well hey, you’re a ‘child in the eyes of God!’. Murdered thirty-seven people and feel absolutely no remorse? You’re still a child in His eyes. You don’t have to look any farther than the actions of Jesus Christ, a man that frequently associated himself with those whom society had condemned as ‘sinners’ and on top of that, he forgave them for the sins they actually, consciously committed.

    Another excellent example of this basic fact withing Christianity, is the story of the prodigal son. For those who don’t know the story, you can read it here: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+15:11-32&version=NIV. The way the story is typically interpreted is that the father is God, the sons that stays at home are good Christians, and the sons that goes away are the sinners of the world. The point of the parable is that no matter what you have done, God will not only welcome you back with loving arms but will celebrate at your return. By using this father/son description, and by relating the two sons as humanity (sinners and Christians), the parable itself is stating that God considers everyone to be his child.

    So with that out there, I truly question how any ‘reasonable’ Christian could even consider this horrific idea. How is it that a mass murderer can be a ‘child in the eyes of God’, yet someone who was simply conceived in a petri dish isn’t? Perhaps it’s just beyond me, but I fail to understand how this fact (a fact which the person themselves had absolutely no control over, mind you) even comes close to being on par with murder. Yet somehow the author of that article has the gal and audacity to imply that it is somehow worse?

    Please, if anyone sees any flaws in my little rant feel free to point them out. If you don’t see any, then how is it that an agnostic knows more about Christianity than a Christian?

  3. 4

    This reminded me of something I heard while I was on a cross-country greyhound trip during my senior year of highschool- in 2001, wow.

    There were a number of military guys on the bus and there was this woman who was obviously sweet on one of the soldiers, and they were having some sort of deep discussion (in a desperate attempt to make a connection? I don’t know), and she started talking about how test-tube babies are “man-made babies” and not “God-made babies.”

    I remember finding that just ridiculous, and amusing- and I ended up using it in a report for one of my classes on Stem-Cell research- it got a laugh from the class, and the teacher looked at me like it was the most ridiculous thing he’d ever heard. I think it was.

  4. 5

    Well to be fair, if you’re born in South Dakota, can we really call you “human”?

    Seriously though, there are some big differences between being a “natural” born child and a “test tube baby”. Most religious arguments tend to take half a grain of truth and twist it and get caught up and confused in it. It’s like someone was trying to read an article on test tube babies and just got to the medical jargon about how the lack stress and shit from mom causes them to develop different and just goes TL;DR, WRONG IN THE EYES OF GOD!

  5. 6

    It is quite amazing how many people are ignorant about the process of IVF, id est, In Vitro Fertilization. There are in fact very good reasons to abhor IVF. A few of these reasons include: commodification, third party involvement, the psychological effects on the “test tube” child when he/she grows up, risks to the unborn children (even Chirstopher Hitchens believes the concept of an unborn child to be a very real concept: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcYv9hAkenI), and the fact that these embryos/unborn children are condemned to a cold and icy prison, id est, the freezing of embryos.

    Commodification–
    The IVF industry is a multi-million dollar industry. Its only concern is with the accumulation of wealth, and not with the welfare of the unborn children. This is made especially clear with the number of abortions performed as a result of the placing of embryos into suspended animation (freezing). Many of the unborn children are not granted the opportunity to exist either because the embryos do not survive the thawing process, or they do survive, and are incinerated because they are no longer required. It is important to note that each country has a particular length of time in which an embryo can remain frozen. In the UK, it is 10 years, whereas in Denmark, it is two years (Dr. Jennifer Gunning & Dr. Soren Holm; Ethics, Law, and Society, Vol. 3); by which time any remaining embryos (thousands in fact) will be disposed of. With this apparent disregard for the rights of these unborn children, it is therefore only fair to conclude that these embryos are simply regarded as product, and not as innocent unborn children.

    Third Party Involvement–
    “In the life of husband and wife together, fatherhood and motherhood represent such a sublime ‘novelty’ and richness as can only be approached ‘on one’s knees’ ( John Paul II, Letter to Families, 7). The purpose for this quote is to express the Christian perspective on marriage, and how it is held at a level of holiness. In Vitro Fertilization takes away from the marital act of conjugal love (intercourse) where man and woman become in essence, one flesh. The reader may be thinking to him/herself why is intercourse being brought up if a couple are incapable of conceiving? The reason for this is because the vast majority of cases involve women who are not completely sterile, but do still ovulate on occasion. Therefore, the taxonomic nature of individuals’ sterility must be taken into account. What might be an alternative to IVF? It is unfortunate that so many people are unaware that alternatives to In Vitro Fertilization are available, and are not only more effective, but inexpensive. One such method is known as Natural Procreative Technology, where the success rates are statistically much higher than the artificial technologies (IVF=0-50% [http://www.ivf.com/success.html]; NaProTechnology=50-80% [http://www.naprotechnology.com/infertility.htm]). NaProTechnology educates couples about the ovulation cycle, and teaches them to recognise its signs. It also “is a new women’s health science that monitors and maintains a woman’s reproductive and gynecological health. It provides medical and surgical treatments that cooperate completely with the reproductive system” (http://www.naprotechnology.com/index.html). With this in mind, it truly makes one wonder why IVF is still practised.

    Psychological Effects–
    “Discovery by some individuals that they were conceived with sold gametes and embryos or through commercial surrogacy is extremely devastating to most of them and to their sense of worth and personal identity. How do I reconcile my sense of integrity with knowing that my father sold what was the essence of my life for $25 to a total stranger… What kind of man sells himself and his child so cheaply and so easily?” (S. Rubin, Reproductive Option I: A Sperm Donor Baby Grows Up). In most cases, those who donate sperm and ova, do so to make a quick buck. Once again, money is the real motive for what might be considered by some to be a selfless act. A study conducted by Elizabeth Marquardt, Norval D. Glenn, and Karen Clark indicates that those conceived through unnatural means experience hurt, confusion, and estrangement from family members. Two-thirds agree with the statement “My sperm donor is half of who I am.” Approximately one-half are disturbed that money was involved; more than half say that when they see someone who resembles them they wonder if they are related; nearly half say they have feared being attracted to or having sexual relations with someone to whom they are unknowingly related; two-thirds affirm the right for donor offspring to know the truth about their origins, and about half of donor offspring have concerns about, or serious objections to donor conception itself, including when parents inform their children of the truth (Elizabeth Marquardt, Norval D. Glenn and Karen Clark, My Daddy’s Name is Donor: A New Study of Young Adults Conceived Through Sperm Donation). It is quite clear from the evidence put forward by these scholars that unnatural means of conception can cause serious emotional trauma to those conceived by such artifical methods.

    Risks–
    “The assumption seems to be that why and how one gets a baby makes no difference in what happens afterwards. They may be true of hens or cows, but it is hardly true of complex, thinking, emoting, imaginative human beings functioning within social systems” (Dr. Daniel Callahan Ph.D.). The good Doctor comments on the immoral/unethical realities of IVF, and alludes to the maltreatment of the unborn children, where proponents of the unnatural method reduce these children to the status of animals. A number of studies have been made which show that the rate of disabilities is much higher in children conceived by IVF than by natural means. Stromberg B. et al, show that cerebral palsy is 2x higher in children born through IVF (Neurological sequelae in children born after in-vitro fertilisation: a population-based study. Lancet 2002;359:461-5.). Another study shows that major birth defects can occur with approximately 9% of those born via IVF (Koren G, Adverse effects of assisted reproductive technology and pregnancy outcome. Ped Res 2002). Finally, perinatal mortality is 40% more likely to occur with children born through IVF (Frans M Helmerhorst et al: Perinatal outcome of singletons and twins after assisted conception: a systematic review of controlled studies. BMJ 2004; 328:261). Not only does this evidence show the immorality/unethicality of IVF but it indicates incontrovertibly, that this process is unreliable, and is subject to all sorts of problems.

    As indicated, the natural process via NaProTechnology is much more efficient and effective than that of In Vitro Fertilization. However, it is not just a question about efficiency, but also one of morality. Can we in good conscience continue on with IVF when we know how ignominious it is, especially with regard to the risks to unborn children, the abortions, or even the suspended animation? I believe that the answer to this question should be left to the reader. I emplore you to seek out the truth, and to analyse the evidence with an open heart and mind.

    1. 6.1

      A lot of this is irrelevant; early suspended embryos are quite obviously not “children” and any concern over their “welfare”, if they’re going to be disposed of anyway, is inapplicable. So too is describing them as “innocent”. Such a term simply has no bearing on this – same with the “prison” metaphors. These concerns would only be relevant if you accept from the outset that blastocysts are “innocent unborn children”.

      More of it seems to be derived from the usual Catholic line about how heterosexual marriages are better than everything else, which is based less on reality and more on doctrine and tradition. You know there’s no circumstance under which they would acknowledge that other relationships are equally valid and worthy even if this is borne out by evidence. Also, IVF doesn’t always involve third-party gametes.

      I’m amused that there seems to be a Catholic argument that these people who exist with some concern about their origins would be better off having never existed at all. (I’d be interested to hear the subjects’ views if they were asked that particular question.) Is that really the message they’d like to send, while insisting that abortion and even birth control are impermissible? No preventing babies from coming into existence, except if it would involve IVF?

      Elevated risk of medical problems in IVF is a legitimate concern, though I’d be interested to see how much of this is due to other factors rather than the simple fact that some children were conceived via IVF. That is, I’d hope we could figure out how and why this is actually happening so that it can be addressed and minimized. As is, it is a risk that should be taken into account, though how that risk is evaluated is subjective. Different people will have different ideas about whether the chance is worth it, when it’s a choice between having a child or not – in the same way that advanced maternal age can be a concern. Really, saying that this “indicates incontrovertibly, that this process is unreliable, and is subject to all sorts of problems” misses the point that even “natural conception” can still be terribly unreliable and problematic at times.

      1. “A lot of this is irrelevant; early suspended embryos are quite obviously not ‘children’ and any concern over their ‘welfare,’ if they’re going to be disposed of anyway, is inapplicable. So too is describing them as ‘innocent.’ Such a term simply has no bearing on this – same with the ‘prison’ metaphors. These concerns would only be relevant if you accept from the outset that blastocysts are ‘innocent unborn children.'” (ZJ)

        Before I begin, I would like to express my gratitude to you for responding to my post, and taking the time to read what I wrote. It’s good that people take the time to address this very important issue. Now, to begin….

        You claim that much of what I indicated is irrelevant. I find it interesting how you so quickly dismiss the evidence that I brought forward with out actually analysing it in depth for yourself. Clearly philosophers like Dr. Daniel Callahan, an expert on biomedical ethics, finds this to be very relevant to the IVF debate; as does renowned atheist Christopher Hitchens. You make the claim that these frozen embryos are not children, and that being concerned with their welfare, id est, their disposal, is inapplicable. I would of course beg to differ, and point out to you that great strides have been made in the area of embryology. The evidence does seem to suggest that yes, life begins at the moment of conception, and therefore extinguishing such life raises serious moral/ethical concerns. (see J.P. Greenhill and E.A. Friedman, Biological Principles and Modern Practice of Obstetrics. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 1974. pp. 17, 23 & http://abortionabout.com/when-does-life-begin.html & http://www.abort73.com/abortion/medical_testimony/) I believe the term “innocent” is very applicable to this discussion because unborn children in today’s society are annihilated for some of the most arbitrary reasons. If these children have done nothing wrong, and are incapable of defending themselves, then I believe describing them as “innocent” is more than appropriate. The only reason people regard embryos as anything less than human is because they wish to veil themselves from the harsh reality of the loathsome acts being committed against these innocents. What is indeed taking place in contemporary society, is a modern “slaughter of the innocents.” Denying this fact is quite disingenuous on your part, and I hope that you will come to acknowledge this grim reality sooner rather than later.

        “More of it seems to be derived from the usual Catholic line about how heterosexual marriages are better than everything else, which is based less on reality and more on doctrine and tradition. You know there’s no circumstance under which they would acknowledge that other relationships are equally valid and worthy even if this is borne out by evidence. Also, IVF doesn’t always involve third-party gametes.” (ZJ)

        I found it interesting that you brought this up, especially due to the fact that it has little to do with the discussion at hand. I am focusing on the moral/ethical concerns regarding IVF, not same-sex marriage. However, I thought you might try to sneak this into the discussion somehow, because you tend to do this in several of your videos when speaking on other issues. If you would like to discuss same sex marriage, I would be willing to do so, just not here. The only point that you make in this paragraph that relates to the discussion is the last sentence, and it is this that I will acknowledge. You are correct in what you say, however the risk factors mentioned in my previous post still remain the same, no matter who is involved in the process.

        “I’m amused that there seems to be a Catholic argument that these people who exist with some concern about their origins would be better off having never existed at all. (I’d be interested to hear the subjects’ views if they were asked that particular question.) Is that really the message they’d like to send, while insisting that abortion and even birth control are impermissible? No preventing babies from coming into existence, except if it would involve IVF?” (ZJ)

        You first point is a clear straw man fallacy, and not only misrepresents my view, but also the view of Catholics. I certainly have never claimed or suggested that those born via an unnatural method would have been better off if they were never born, nor has any other Catholic. The fact of the matter is, these people are here and walking amongst us. They are not any less deserving of life and love than any other person. The process that was used to conceive them may have been ethically/morally deplorable, but that doesn’t make any of these people any less of a human being.

        “Elevated risk of medical problems in IVF is a legitimate concern, though I’d be interested to see how much of this is due to other factors rather than the simple fact that some children were conceived via IVF. That is, I’d hope we could figure out how and why this is actually happening so that it can be addressed and minimized. As is, it is a risk that should be taken into account, though how that risk is evaluated is subjective. Different people will have different ideas about whether the chance is worth it, when it’s a choice between having a child or not – in the same way that advanced maternal age can be a concern. Really, saying that this “indicates incontrovertibly, that this process is unreliable, and is subject to all sorts of problems” misses the point that even “natural conception” can still be terribly unreliable and problematic at times.” (ZJ)

        I’m glad that you agree that the argument concerning elevated risk factors is a legitimate concern, however the studies seem to suggest that IVF is the immediate cause for these problems. The problem with your final sentence is that the risk factors for IVF children, and those conceived naturally are juxtaposed; this is how they are able to calculate that children conceived via IVF are 2x more likely to contract disorders like cerebral palsy.

        I thank you for the dialogue, and I look forward to reading your response. Maybe you’ll decide to answer me via Youtube video, which might encourage me to respond in the same manner.

        1. “The evidence does seem to suggest that yes, life begins at the moment of conception, and therefore extinguishing such life raises serious moral/ethical concerns.”

          But you assume this is centered around “life”, when “life” begins and what “life” is. It’s not; pro-life moralists just tend to seize on this point out of convenience because the premise supports their position. It doesn’t matter if it’s “life” or not – it does matter what kind of life it is. Being “life” doesn’t automatically make something a person, or worthy of the considerations of personhood. For instance, we have no issue with ending life in the case of a brain-dead person on a ventilator. There’s just no longer any person there. So it is too with embryos – there never was any person there. Likewise, ascribing some state of “innocence” to someone who had been brain-dead for their entire life would be just as irrelevant. They don’t even exist on the spectrum of “innocence”.

          “The only reason people regard embryos as anything less than human is because they wish to veil themselves from the harsh reality of the loathsome acts being committed against these innocents.”

          Or it could be because there’s no sensible reason to regard this as “loathsome” at all, or a “slaughter”, or any of the terms that are used more for the sake of emotional impact at the cost of accurately describing the reality of the situation.

          “I found it interesting that you brought this up, especially due to the fact that it has little to do with the discussion at hand. I am focusing on the moral/ethical concerns regarding IVF, not same-sex marriage.”

          Well, you were the one quoting “the life of husband and wife together”, “the Christian perspective on marriage, and how it is held at a level of holiness”, and “the marital act of conjugal love (intercourse) where man and woman become in essence, one flesh” (which you claim IVF detracts from). The implications here are pretty clear, and I don’t know why you would bring all this up and then back off from it once it’s pointed out. You know what these people are talking about; you know where they stand. If you don’t actually agree with this, that’s fine.

          “You first point is a clear straw man fallacy, and not only misrepresents my view, but also the view of Catholics. I certainly have never claimed or suggested that those born via an unnatural method would have been better off if they were never born, nor has any other Catholic.”

          If that’s a “straw man fallacy”, then what was your intention in claiming that IVF-conceived people experience some lesser quality of life, other than to suggest that it would be better if such people had simply not existed in the first place (because IVF shouldn’t be used)?

          “The fact of the matter is, these people are here and walking amongst us. They are not any less deserving of life and love than any other person.”

          Yes, but do you think they even should have been here to begin with, if IVF was used to conceive them?

          In any case, I would be interested to find out how fertilization in vitro is making them more vulnerable to cerebral palsy, if it actually is. If there’s some kind of causative mechanism there, it’s important to figure it out and would probably have broader implications beyond just IVF.

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