Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Stem Cells Continued

Ok, I have a confession to make. In my last post I showed a picture of a blastocyst which is the early stage of an embryo from which stem cells are derived, and asked people to tell me why they thought this mass of about 100 cells is a human being. Most people agreed that indeed this is just group of cells with no brain, no heart or heartbeat and no nervous system. But then there were several anonymous posters who said that this blastocyst was human because it will one day become human and that it has a soul. No, it doesn't have soul, like James Brown has soul, but it has A soul, that I suppose God implanted into it sometime between ejaculation and fertilization.

Well I have to admit that all of our anonymous posters were wrong, not because of my agnostic religious beliefs say there is no such thing as a soul, but because the picture I displayed was A COW EMBRYO! So no, it doesn't have a soul, it would have never turned into a human and there is really no difference between a bunch of cells in a cow embryo and a bunch of cells at this stage of a human embryo because they look like and essentially are the same thing. It is pretty easy for me to differentiate between a grown cow and a grown person, but not so easy for me to tell when they are only one week into their development. Sure the DNA is different but there really isn't much that sets a human blastocyst apart from that of a cow's. Cow embryos have even been fertilized by human sperm though they have yet to get past the single cell stage. So my point is that these people don't know the difference, they can't see the difference, and they cannot say for sure what these cells will turn into, if they turn into anything at all. Ever hear of a miscarriage?

I guess souls are like invisible ghosts that are stored in a soul closet up in heaven until someone gets it on and it is therefore taken out of heaven, put into an embryo by God (who is watching you have sex so he can insert the soul at exactly the right time) so it can later grow up to follow God, so it can get back to heaven. I say why not just skip the middle man and let the soul stay in heaven. Why take the chance right? If you were chilling in paradise and someone said, "hey do you want to go hang out in Somalia and starve for 45-50 years, or be born to a poor single crack mom who will hate you thus taking a chance of you becoming "evil" and therefore not being allowed to go back to Heaven and instead, burning in Hell for eternity; which would you rather do? I would rather not take the chance and just stay in Heaven, wouldn't you?

It's ironic that the very people who claim that life couldn't have evolved from a single or multi-celled organism are the exact same people who call a clump of cells, such as a blastocyst, human life. Which is it, can a clump of cells evolve into a human or not?

Here's what a guy like me sees:
Image hosted by

Here is what the neocons see:
Image hosted by


Sandi said...

Love it, just love it. Who does your graphics? Pretty cool :)

Let the games commence!

Grant said...

Who says cows don't have a soul? If there are no cows in heaven, I don't want to go. Eternal bliss is overrated without a good steak dinner.
Your description of souls departing heaven to be tried here to see if they merit return sounds like what I was taught by the Mormons, but according to them you have no choice but to participate. Souls are taken from god's presence, mind wiped, and sent to inhabit a body to be tested. The church failed to mention at what stage the soul is inserted, but definitely well before birth. Babies get an automatic pass if they die. I don't know why they're anti-abortion since, by their own beliefs, the unborn babies have souls that go straight back to the highest level of heaven. You would think they would advocate killing children to exploit the loophole.

Toad734 said...

RE: Grant

I agree; it seems the people who follow God are always the ones who are so afraid of meeting him. That's why I think skipping the middle man thing would be the way to go. As for the cows having souls I just assumed I wouldn't have too many Hindu's reading my blog so I didn't anticipate that argument as much as the soul in the human embryo.
As for the point of when is a soul inserted; for me I say never there is no such thing, but that can be an argument in of itself among Christians. I would assume some have to believe that there isn't a soul until there is at least a heart beat and a brain, and there may even be some who says not until the 3rd trimester when the brain and other organs start to work and the fetus is capable of feeling pain, and then obviously the ones who would say at conception.

RE: Sandy

I do these on Photoshop and I am actually really bad at it.

trick said...

I believe that every little sperm and egg have half a soul and make a complete one when they get together. Of course, some souls are bigger than others which explains some people are better dancers, musicians, and lovers.

SondraK said...

Manipulation creats false conclusions. Interesting that you had to "pull a fast one" to get your desired results.

And BTW....not all NOECONS (whateverthehell that is) are Christians. I tend to sway pretty atheist, with a bit of Asatru.

Religion doesn't have everything to do with it, TOaD. But keep up with the broad brush, that's why you lose.

Toad734 said...

RE: Sondra

A neocon is similar to a moonbat, just on the opposite side of rationality.

What am I losing?

It didn't take "pulling a fast one" to get my desired response. The same argument applies.

indygirl said...

To answer your question on my blog: Yes, only worse. I think the vomit all over the sidewalks had time to ferment since your last trip. Ah well, I went there to trace my family and am no longer mad at Great Grandpa for moving to the States. :)

Nölff said...

I thought it would smell like Irish Spring™

indygirl said...

I don't think many of them have ever even heard of Irish Spring. To the sorrow of my nostrils.

Boiled Owl said...

My wife, who was raised Catholic believes that the soul comes into a body when it leaves the body of the mother and becomes a separate being "out in the world."

I was also raised Catholic from age 11 through college, graduating from a Catholic college and studying comparative religion. I don't recall hearing my wife's theory but I do recall learning somewhere in Tibetan Buddhist theory that the sould choose it's vehicle while the couple is copulating, based on the life station and disposition of the parents and what Karma the soul still has to work out.

I like my wife's theory better, but I do like the Buddhist criteria for selection. It just kind of creeps me out to think of those souls watching during sex! I don't know, maybe if you're from Tibet... it's ok?

And oh yeah, in the east, cows have sould. So do flies.
That's why the Jains wear masks over their noses and mouths, so as not to inhale and kill any bugs. Again, when I talk about Karma to my wife, and why I don't kill things, she aleays says, "look, if I reincarnated as a fly, I'd want somebody to kill me right away!"

So maybe you're onto something with those souls quick trip to Nirvana, Toad. Maybe that's what's goin' on. Maybe the abortion doctors are actually Boddhisatvas!

Toad734 said...

RE: Owl

Actually the Catholic Church/Vatican used to say that it is a human life with a soul at 40 days after conception.

Just to shed a little light on the reincarnation thing:

It really holds about as much water as the intelligent design argument. If we were all reincarnated from a soul that lived before us, does that mean there has always been 5 billion people on the planet at all times, and that the exact number that dies, is the same as the birth rate, and always has been?

Not that anyone really believes in reincarnation fully; right?

United We Lay said...

Hindus think cows have souls. But that does kind-of fall under the catagory of religion.

Toad734 said...

Well, I meant no one here.

Son of Lilith said...

Toad, you're a genius.

I'll admit, the soul argument does seem thin. It requires some mystical thinking. I am a Christian existentialist, so I believe in a soul. So we disagree there, but I'll admit that the whole cow embryo really illustrated a point.

Two Minutes J said...

Yes, babies do have a soul. The Japanese believe that when babies die they go to a place called The Riverbank Sai (Sai no Kawara). The 'Sai' is usually in a desolate distant location. These trapped souls are put into labor until they are able to cross the otherside of the underworld. The origins of this concept are believed to come from Shinto Folk practices, as well as the Cult of Jizo. Check out the music though, because after all, we all sold our souls for rock 'n roll:

Toad734 said...

Cult of Jizo sounds like porn to me

Walt said...

Toad said, "really no difference between a bunch of cells in a cow embryo and a bunch of cells at this stage of a human embryo because they look like and essentially are the same thing."

Come on Toad, you can make a good arguement without being so stupid as to say the above. You know they are not essentially the same thing.

Boiled Owl your wife's view is that of Orthodox Jews and many New-Age sects. I wasn't brought up in a church but my Mother also was of your wife's view. From a soul's point of view no sense jumping in unless the water is warm. :)

Still Bioethics is something we should err on the conservative side as the field developes.

Remember Zymurgy's First Law of Evolving System Dynamics: Once you open a can of worms, the only way to recan them is to use a larger can.

Cheers All!

Ryan said...

I thought that the stem cell issue would be housed in a dead letter office until the next presidential election, and then the Republican maj leader Bill Frist stood up and affirmed the necessity of the research.

The fact is that the difference of chromosomes between a human being genome and that of the common round worm is only in the tens of thousands. Further, the difference between the chromos in a human and other mammals is even less.

It is insulting to common humanity that the "destruction of life" that occurs in stem cell research is what the neocons have decided to assail in the past four years, while we are at war killing people and having our people killed, with starving people in the streets of our country and the rest of the world, working people losing their children b/c they dont have insurance to pay for the treatments for their ailments.

A few months ago in the wake of the Terry Shiavo madness I posted on the hypocrisy of railing for this one braindead womans' life while other people all over the country struggled to find insurance, treatment, or even just basic food to preserve the majesty of their life.

This is the blatent hypocrisy in the right wing war for the preservation of life. They only do it for cinematic purposes, and in cases that can represent their christian view of the world.

If the right to lifers really wanted to save lives in the world today they would have their work cut out for them. Sure they do readily contribute to charity and good causes in their work, but is it enough.

This, and only this is one good reason that they are still able to enjoy non profit status like all of the other secular organizations who fight for life that surely exists, everyday, in order to continue the work that they do to help the human race.

Until we are sure we should concentrate our efforts to preserve human life on what is recognizably human.

Its just ridiculous to argue over the soul that might be contained in the infamous byoclyst while living breathing human beings are starving right before our eyes.

Neocon or not, the same people who are adopting the fucking snowflake babies will rant over cocktails with their friends about the filthy homeless person who almost touched them on the subway and then asked for change to buy some food. They would have just gotten drunk with it anyway.

God bless the drunken homeless...

Toad734 said...


I said the DNA is different; other than that, feel free to point out the differences between the two pictures; what sets them apart?

They are obviously similar or they wouldnt be fusing human DNA with Bovine embryos.

Boiled Owl said...

I just got a clue on this issue yesterday from one of the religious fundamentalists out here in the West and it seems pretty ironic to me.

I'm not sure if I've got it together enough in my head to explain it well, but the upshot seems to be that they don't really want to win on this issue.

They want to lose.

This is somehow all "in the prophecy" as far as they're concerned, and signals the impending rapture and the end of times.

As far as they're concerened, the sooner this happens, the better. But for their part, they have to fight. That's all, just fight.

The reward is that when they lose "down here" they will win "up there" ...something like that.

Anyone out there better informed on this than I am?

I'm just piecing this together as I go, from what a few fundamentalist bloggers are sharing with me.

Toad734 said...

Sort of like the 70 virgins thing right?

How scary

Boiled Owl said...

Yeah, it's pretty scary. And everything you do to argue with them strengthings their resolve that they're right!

Boiled Owl said...

The challenge must be to their moral authority, not to their logic. They will fully admit that their position isn't rational and that it doesn't have to be.

I think some of these folks might be the very "false prophets" they rail against. Perhaps if you keep holding up the mirror for them, Toad, they'll see that.

In my expereince these folks are not an emotionally stable group. More ofthen they are just wiley, and duplicitious.

If you sincerely ask them to teach you, they will have to do it. The bible insists on it. Plus, their stuff is interesting to learn. (Warning though, they'll only tell you once.)

I say, let them bring their arguments to the table for us all to hear and see. For many of them, that's the last thing they want you to do.

Even so, as with counselling, sometimes you don't know how nuts you are until you have to say what you're thinking deep inside, out loud.

Boiled Owl said...

By the way Toad, when you get into "souls", you also get into "magic".

With magic, number and logic don't make any difference anymore.

Check out Patanjali's Yoga Sutras sometime.

An "avatar" can be "in charge" of thousands... sometimes "millions" of souls. But, they are all "his" soul, working out karma in a sort of spiritual "production line" kinda way.

To paraphrase the subsequent glosses on Patanjali's Sutras, the "adept" has his "ray" into them, and if and when he withdraws it, they die. "...usually of heart failure.")

Strange stuff indeed.

I myself tend to believe that there is probably only one soul and only one God. Hologram like.

But I'm not planning to start a church, so what I happen to believe should not really be of any challenge or consequence to anyone else's ego or belief system.

You see, it really doesn't make any difference whether you "believe" my idea or not. What is, just is.

So if I'm wrong, so what? Who cares?
That's not how it is, why worry about it?

Same dif if I'm right. That's how it is, suck it up!

Either way, I suppose we'll find out soon enough.

And THEN what will there be to argue about?

Tom Harper said...

A cow embryo? And yet it had the face of Jesus?!? OK, back to the drawing board...

Anonymous said...

So what we are looking at is the Kathrine Harris Embryo?

Dem0critus said...

I thought that every egg has a soul, and so every egg should be fertilized so as to allow every soul the opportunity to screw up this world.

Isn't that why catholic folks have so many children??

Damnit. Your blog tends to make me tired and a little bit dizzy.

The Fly said...

So what you're saying is that they were wrong because you were disingenuous with the original post?

Sorry, Toad. I don't think this does anything to advance your argument. Great graphics editing, though.

Toad734 said...

No I am saying they're wrong because the two differnt cells are equal; there is as much "life" in one as there is the other and no one could know the difference.

Toad734 said...

By the way I wasn't disingenuous with my first post; I stated that it was a blastocyst consisting of about 100 cells and I asked what made it human. It's not my problem they can't tell the difference. Someone may see a painting of flowers and call it a Van Gough but that doesn't make it so, just because they think so, with their untrained eye.

trick said...

I don't see how you can draw a line between the two. Either they both have souls or neither of them do. I can't decide if I'm a Jainist or an Atheist. I guess I'll stay an ignorant Agnostic. I'm just fine with that until I find something better. Then I'll happiliy admit that I was wrong.

Toad734 said...

Unlike the other side who would never do such a thing.

Allan said...

Brilliant. Since a cow blastocyst and a human blastocyst look the same, humans must not have souls at that stage. Excellent logic. You've proved you're point.

The elephant man look less like a human than some apes but it didn't reduce his humanity. Just as underdeveloped (deformed) people are no less human than I, the level of development of the embryo can not be a determining factor. If it is, please tell me where you would draw the line.

Forget souls for a minute and, since the topic is appearance, try to determine what an adult would have to "look" like for you to call them "non-human."

Toad734 said...

RE: Allen

The topic is neither appearance nor souls. The topic is about how a 5 day old clump of cells doesn't have a brain, a heart, a nervous system and other than DNA, of which we share over 90% with a cow, how is this microscopic ball a human being?

To answer your question; If an adult had no heart, no brain, no lungs, no nervous system, no bones, no eyes, no sexual organs I would say they would be non-human. Thanks for proving my point. Please play again.

City Troll said...


"The topic is about how a 5 day old clump of cells doesn't have a brain, a heart, a nervous system and other than DNA, of which we share over 90% with a cow, how is this microscopic ball a human being?"

we don't know toad stare at yourself in a mirror and you'll see why the same question is asked about you.

Toad734 said...


I may not have a heart but I am pretty sure I have DNA; I even left some on your bed sheets the last time you left your wife home alone.

City Troll said...

ooooo I'm impressed I thought you would have used it all up jerking off as you lay there all alone solving the worlds problems with your great intillect LOL

oh and if your going to try and insult me on my blog at least try read the post.

Toad734 said...

OK, I try read post

Tarzan like Jane

Allan said...

Well, as was mentioned before, if you base someone's humanity on how developed their system is, why do you draw the line at this point since all the DNA for that system is contained in that blastocyst? BTW - a watermelon is, like, 90% water and a watermelon is an extremely simple thing relative to the rest of the natural world, so having only 90% of our DNA in common with a cow is pretty significant. Besides, what is your point - you're saying we share 90% of our DNA with a cow during all levels of development, so are you saying that we're NEVER human?? That's ludicrous.
Back to the point - that clump of cells DOES have all those things - they're simply underdeveloped at this point.
One may say "yeah but a clump of dirt contains the necessary materials for a plant but that doesn't make it a plant." Problem is, that clump of dirt does not 100% specifically contain only the absolute necessary ingredients to create that one plant and that one plant alone.
Also, since one can not with absolute certainty ascertain whether or not any human (or blastocyst) contains a soul, it can't be stated that it doesn't (or does). So if the killing of a possible human is in question, erring on the side of "non-caution" is, I think, the wrong choice. But have fun.

My question to you is, "at what point of development do you draw the line of humanity?" How big does someone's brain, liver, heart, lung, etc. need to be before they're human. What if they're missing only one lung. What about one lung and a portion of the brain?

Toad734 said...

They just have to have a brain,liver, heart etc.. Contrary to your beliefs, the photos have none of these.

Butterscotch said...

It is nice to know that there are people out there who like to talk about things outside of the weather.