Aug. 23, 2006
Aug. 25, 2006

Aug. 24, 2006



Yesterday's stem cell news adds a new wrinkle to the debate. Well, sort of new. If, in fact, it's possible to extract stem cells from pre-implanted embryos without destroying or noticeably changing the embryo, does that mean that scientists really have found an approach to this research to which almost no one would morally object? I think it's worth waiting awhile before drawing that conclusion. These so-called breakthroughs also have a way of breaking down.

* * *



Yes, yes, I know. We've been too serious around here for too long. So it's faith-joke break time today. Unless you're a Visigoth and are commemorating the ransacking of Rome on this date in 410 by the Visigoths, in which case you'd be in a good mood already. But for the rest of you, enjoy:

* * *


1. There is a story about a monastery perched high on a cliff several hundred feet in the air. The only way to reach the monastery was to be suspended in a basket which was pulled to the top by several monks who pulled and tugged with all their strength. Obviously the ride up the steep cliff in that basket was terrifying.

One tourist got exceedingly nervous about half-way up as he noticed that the rope by which he was suspended was old and frayed. With trembling voice, he asked the monk who was riding with him in the basket how often they changed the rope.

The monk thought for a moment and answered brusquely, "Whenever it breaks."

* * *

2. A woman told a friend: We’ve been letting our six-year-old go to sleep listening to the radio, and I’m beginning to wonder if it’s a good idea. Last night he said his prayers and wound up with: “And God bless Mommy and Daddy and Sister. Amen—and FM!”

* * *

3. "Is it proper for a man to profit from the mistakes of another?" a parishioner asked his minister.

"Definitely not," was the preacher's answer.

"Are you absolutely certain?"

"Yes, my son, absolutely."

"Okay. In that case, I wonder if you'd mind returning that $75 I gave you after my wedding last year?"
* * *

4. The Sunday school teacher was carefully explaining the story of Elijah the prophet and the false prophets of Baal. She explained how Elijah built the altar, put wood upon it, cut the steer in pieces and laid it upon the altar.

And then Elijah commanded the people of God to fill four barrels of water and pour it over the altar. He had them do this four times.

"Now, said the teacher, "can anyone in the class tell me why the Lord would have Elijah pour water over the steer on the altar?"

A little girl in the back of the room raised her hand with great enthusiasm. "To make the gravy," came her enthusiastic reply.
* * *

5. A student went to his meditation teacher and said, "My meditation is horrible! I feel so distracted, or my legs ache, or I'm constantly falling asleep. It's just horrible!"

"It will pass," the teacher said matter-of-factly. A week later, the student came back to his teacher. "My meditation is wonderful! I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive! It's just wonderful!"

"It will pass," the teacher replied matter-of-factly.

* * *

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.



Jesus came upon a small crowd who had cornered a young woman they believed to be an adulteress. They were preparing to stone her to death.

To calm the situation, Jesus said: "Whoever is without sin among you, let them cast the first stone."

Suddenly, an old lady at the back of the crowd picked up a huge rock and lobbed it at the young woman, scoring a direct hit on her head.

The unfortunate young lady collapsed dead on the spot.

Jesus looked over towards the old lady and said: "Do you know, Mother, sometimes you really piss me off."


A Classic: The Big Flood

It had been raining for days and days, and a terrible flood had come over the land. The waters rose so high that one man was forced to climb onto the roof of his house.

As the waters rose higher and higher, a man in a rowboat appeared, and told him to get in. "No," replied the man on the roof. "I have faith in the Lord; the Lord will save me." So the man in the rowboat went away. The man on the roof prayed for God to save him.

The waters rose higher and higher, and suddenly a speedboat appeared. "Climb in!" shouted a man in the boat. "No," replied the man on the roof. "I have faith in the Lord; the Lord will save me." So the man in the speedboat went away. The man on the roof prayed for God to save him.

The waters continued to rise. A helicopter appeared and over the loudspeaker, the pilot announced he would lower a rope to the man on the roof. "No," replied the man on the roof. "I have faith in the Lord; the Lord will save me." So the helicopter went away. The man on the roof prayed for God to save him.

The waters rose higher and higher, and eventually they rose so high that the man on the roof was washed away, and alas, the poor man drowned.

Upon arriving in heaven, the man marched straight over to God. "Heavenly Father," he said, "I had faith in you, I prayed to you to save me, and yet you did nothing. Why?" God gave him a puzzled look, and replied "I sent you two boats and a helicopter, what more did you expect?"


If the New York Times is correct, then this will not sway the Whitehouse.

".....Emily Lawrimore, a White House spokeswoman, suggested that the new procedure would not satisfy the objections of Mr. Bush,.......'Any use of human embryos for research purposes raises serious ethical questions. This technique does not resolve those concerns.'"

It's a pity.


There are still many reasons to object to this stem cell extraction procedure. First of all, it is unethical on its face. Who are we to take 1/8 of someone else's body without their consent, especially when most of these procedures end up on the demise of the embryo? This will come to nothing. But it is interesting to see pro embryonic stem cell persons cotton to this. It indicates they have an underlying uneasiness of the clone and kill procedure they are used to defending.


I think that many of us have no doubt of the moral superiority of taking cells that would otherwise go in the trash or die unused in a body and save lives with them. We are talking about waste cells, that will never become "somebody".

Our attitude about the new procedure doesn't come from unease. It comes from a hope that it will somehow breach the barrier of those who say that they are pro-life but who follow false prophets.

Just Thinking

This is my favorite religious joke, but I was disappointed to find out that it is an urban legend. It's believable enough to be true.

ACTUAL transcript of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October, 1995. This radio conversation was released by the Chief of Naval Operations on 10-10-95.

Americans: "Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision."

Canadians: "Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision."

Americans: "This is the captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course."

Canadians: "No, I say again, you divert YOUR course."


Canadians: "This is a lighthouse. Your call."


No matter what the US government decides regarding embryonic stem cells, research using this method by private US labs and foreign countries can proceed at full-speed. Therefore, this entire argument is a tempest in a teapot.

Just Thinking

I like this joke, too
One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had
come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one
scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him.

The scientist walked up to God and said, "God, we've decided that we
no longer need you. We're to the point that we can clone people and
do many miraculous things, so why don't you just go on and get lost."

God listened very patiently and kindly to the man and after the
scientist was done talking, God said, "Very well, how about this,
let's say we have a man making contest." To which the scientist
replied, "OK, great!"

But God added, "Now, we're going to do this just like I did back in
the old days with Adam."

The scientist said, "Sure, no problem" and bent down and grabbed
himself a handful of dirt.

God just looked at him and said, "No, no, no. You go get your own

Just Thinking

Here's another
A few minutes before the church services started, the townspeople were
sitting in their pews and talking. Suddenly, at the front of the church, in
a flash of fire and brimstone, appears Lucifer! Red skin, cloven hooves,
horns, and for those who aren't convinced, a palpable aura of absolute evil. Everyone started screaming and running for the front entrance, trampling each other in a frantic effort to get away from evil incarnate.

Soon everyone had exited the church except for one elderly gentleman who sat calmly in his pew without moving, seeming oblivious to the fact that God's ultimate enemy was in his presence. So Lucifer walked up to the old man and said..........."Don't you know who I am?"

"Yep, sure do."

"Aren't you afraid of me?"

"Nope, sure ain't."

"Don't you realize I can kill you with a word?"

"Don't doubt it for a minute."

"Did you know that I could cause you profound, horrifying, physical AGONY for all eternity??"

"Yep," was the calm reply.

"And you're still not afraid??" asked Satan.


More than a little perturbed, Satan asked, "Well, why aren't you afraid of

"Why should I be? I've been married to your sister for over 48 years.."


OK, JT. So is it our puzzle for the day to call the ships and the lighthouse a religious joke?

Just Thinking

Hahaha, I forgot that the interpretation is not all that standard. I heard that story on Christian radio once. Sometimes we just refuse to adjust our course, just because we think we're important or entitled. God is the real lighthouse and He's not moving or changing.

SC in KC

Regarding stem cell development...

At first blush, this looks like a promising opportunity. I would still like to see the results of two lines of inquiry, however.

First, what is the injury/mortality rate of embryos that have had a blastomere removed, including later developmental problems? If a significant risk is involved, then it's just not worth it.

Second, does the harvested blastomere have the potential to develop into a new embryo? If so, we're back to the same issues as cloning human babies just to harvest their stem cells.

Until these questions can be answered, I think we're jumping the gun by heralding this as a great triumph. It does, however, look promising. I will certainly pray for God's wisdom and discernment to be with the scientists who seek the answers to these questions.


Have read a couple of articles and heard a scientist on PBS explain that, because this is a common procedure to find the best embryos to accept implantation (he explained that not all embryos have the same capacity for successful implantation) that they had good research on the fact that it does not harm nor hurt at all the potential for an actual pregnancy. The number of successful implants is the same with or without the procedure. This is a procedure that has been practiced for some time, the new discovery is the ability to get the stem cells from the blastomere.

The blastomere has no potential to create an embryo. Although I don't know if they have ever sought to manipulate it through experimentation so as to find a way that it could.

Incidentally, there are thousands of embryos destroyed daily. Since the ownership is by the couple seeking a successful pregnancy, they decide what will happen to any that are not implanted. I read a lawyer's summation that said that meant that they had the choice of: destroying, making available for adoptive implantation, willing to science, or paying about $500 a year to store in perpetuity. I have the impression that there are storage bills left unpaid, which may mean auto-destruction and account for the numbers.

Adoption is not a common choice. There are only a handful of pregnancies resulting from that process.


I have a contrary view. Stem cell research can progress, but much more slowly without the support of government funding for more lines.

We also have the issue of private firms being concerned about investing in the research facilities, if they aren't sure that it will be legal to pursue the research in a given state.


I have a moral dilemma for you. I ask not for the sake of argument, but because I am curious about the answers.

If stem cell research that you disapproved of or your church banned, was to produce a cure for a fatal disease; would you deny yourself, your child, or loved one the cure?


There are two things that have concerned me about this issue - neither being religious based.

First, some proposed or considered legislation would not only prohibit the use of embryonic stem-cells for research, but would prohibit someone living in Missouri to travel elsewhere (ostensibly where the research was legal) to obtain treatment via an embryonic stem-cell derivation. That, to me, is wrong. Denying anyone legal medical treatment of any kind simply based on residency is abhorrent.

Next, while we twiddle our thumbs on this issue in the United States, other countries are continuing their research. I can clearly see a day when the citizens of the US could be held Medically Hostage to an outside government...much like a lot of the Third World currently is held medically hostage to the developed countries. Imagine a hostile government in whose country a Cure for Alzheimer's has been developed. How would the citizens of the US react to being denied this for themselves or their loved ones? My father has severe Parkinson's....go tell him that he can't have a treatment because he lives in the wrong state, or the wrong country. I can't.


Good and scary points, D.A.

Some have suggested that there would be an Exodus from MO. I know that I would leave, as I would leave if ID was adopted by the school system.

If you want to take the "what ifs" down the whole logical chain:
what if several states adopt similar laws;
what if there is Exodus from those states, leaving Christian Conservative states and Progressive states and probably some in the middle.

Would this lead to civil war? Could the issue of science vs. religion become the new abolition vs. slavery?

I don't believe that people in power much care about merely using this as a political issue to manipulate demographic groups, as people of means would always be able to go elsewhere and receive treatment. It would be the middle-class and poor who would suffer the inequity.

As it is, I am deeply concerned about the education of children in the state. Science is being cowed and classes gutted. We are losing our edge nationally.

Just Thinking

It's okay to talk about possible chains of consequences of a decision. This is known as the Slippery Slope. It may or may not be a logical fallacy when used to argue a case for something. It all depends on whethrer or not the forseen consequences are inevitable or not.


Just Thinking,

No offense here, but I don't think we're talking about the Slippery Slope here - and I am reasonably well versed in properly constructed logical argument.

The first situation is The language considered in the Missouri legislature would have made it a criminal offense for you to leave the state to seek embryonic stem-cell based remedy in another state or another country. Draw your own conclusions from that notion, my opinion of the matter was noted.

The second situation already exists as well. The "West" holds many Third World countries "hostage" to our medical technologies and resources. Access to medicine and advanced medical care is part and parcel of the political dealings with particular nations. Just as food is, just as armament is. The "Nuclear" nations hold the rest of the world "hostage" with this techonology.


JT, I agree with DA. You don't fully grasp Slippery Slope. Slippery Slope leads to forgone conclusions. In other words, you slide down the slippery slope and there is no avoiding what's at the bottom.

To ruminate on what could happen or proposing hypotheticals or "asking the questions", is not the same as defining what definitely would or will happen.

Just Thinking

The part which is not inevitable is that we will find new cures that only embryonic stem-cell based research will produce. Honestly, I doubt that point.


I know that there are others who feel the way you do, JT.

I happen to think there's great scientific evidence to support the possibility that it will lead to some lessening of human suffering. However, I will be the first to acknowledge that it is no forgone conclusion nor done deal, by the mere fact that it hasn't happened.

I see no harm whatsoever in using what is now waste product to try to find a means to alleviate human suffering in any arena that offers any level of promise. One that holds good to great promise should have the backing of our federal monies.

Just Thinking

Hi Patricia,

I have not offered a position, but am only looking at the arguments. I encourage you to look at the Wikipedia entry for Slippery Slope. Slippery Slope is not necessarily bad, it's just a bad name. Some slippery slopes are very real and very dangerous.

I have only suggested that the consequences may not follow because whatever we develop that requires embryonic cells may well be possible using adult cells instead.

The next point I would make is that using words like "waste" adds nothing to an argument of this kind either. One could always question how it became waste and what else we will encourage to become labeled as waste once this becomes big business. That would be another slippery slope which could be good or bad.

"I see no harm whatsoever" is the beginning of a logical fallacy called the "argument of ignorance." Just because you cannot see something being bad does not mean it is not.


Am familiar with SS from debate, JT. What exactly is it that you think the argument and conclusion are? You are not making yourself clear.

I am not a scientist nor an expert but I trust those very legit scientists that I have talked to who don't share your opinion of adult stem cells vs. embryonic.

I think that your argument about using the term waste is like saying, "Today we will pick up and toss the trash on the street without recycling. If we recycled it into useful things, it might not only negate the fact that it was produced because of gluttony, but encourage people to produce more trash, just so that we can have more to recycle. in the meantime, we waste, instead of making useful."

I think that you are too wrapped up in conspiracy theories of stem cell research. Every time I hear someone run on about the embryo factories or people cloning, or what could happen, I want to shake you and make you look at what IS happening now. There are embryos that can be saved from destruction in order to permit research and there is promising research. And there's a whole line of people suffering who need efforts being made to cure them.

Waste is a highly appropriate term when embryonic materials are being destroyed and they could instead be used for promising research. How incredibly wasteful!

"I see no harm whatsoever" is the beginning of a logical fallacy called the "argument of ignorance. Just because you cannot see something being bad does not mean it is not."

No. This is not an argument FROM ignorance because in order to make it so, one must assume that there is an inherent truth to the harm that can be caused by experimenting on embryos. Instead, there is only the harm THAT YOU BELIEVE exists.

Look. I understand your basic dislike of the word waste, but that, in large part, is what this is about. It's also about thinking in terms of greater good. When I enter old age, it will be with a lot of unused or wasted eggs, having already had all the children I intend to have. I would be thrilled they could somehow be taken and experimented on or somehow used to save someone's child.

Just Thinking

The real issue is what you consider to be life. Your decision there determines most everything else.

Some people believe that an embryo is life. Others believe that a baby is not life until it can survive outside the womb. Others think that a baby which is partially born, just far enough, can have it's head drilled and brains swished around until it is dead, and that is okay. It all depends on your point of view, does it not?

If you believe that an embryo is a life, then "waste" is an inappropriate term because you would never consider throwing out a life as "waste." And justifying using an embryo because it was being thrown out is no justification at all. If an embryonic life is sacred to you, then it is absurd to think that the cells of that embryo would become sacred only in death, and yet never when it was alive. Suddenly the life no longer exists and now the cells are worth fighting for?

To you, that embryo was not a life and you can consider it the dead embryo as trash.

The term "argument of ignorance" is a very specific term that is the name of a logical fallacy. Again, don't get too hung up on the name. It simply means you are arguing for something and justifying it in part because you cannot think of a reason not to justify it. To someone who thinks that embryonic life is sacred, they see something wrong:

The Nazis did a great deal of research on Jews in concentration camps. How much of this research should be used? Some feel that using such research helps justify what was done to the Jews and they want no part of it. Others feel that it is okay if it saves lives. Can you understand why some people could see something wrong even though you might not? When they hold the embryonic life sacred, then using the cells of that embryo for research can look very, very wrong to them.

These are the basic reasons why some people object very strongly to embryonic stem-cell research. This is not as clear cut to everyone as it is to you.

The real issue is what you consider to be life.

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