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11.09.2005    |    Blood libel
No, not the one about how Jews use the blood of Christian children to bake their Passover matzo. On a recent CSI, one of the crimes touched on the adoption of "spare" embryos. And how such an embryo wasn't a human being yet, because it hadn't been infused with blood.

Naturally, the show took some (but not too much, I thought) pain to show that, life does not begin at conception. Hence the notion of adopting embryos was, by inference, bizarre. Look, CSI is only a television show, and should not be taken too seriously. The trouble is, this particular episode had one of the good guys (the CSI team) arguing that the Catholic Church used to define the beginning of human life as when the mother could feel the baby moving (the "quickening", I suppose, although this term wasn't used).

Later in the espisode, Gil Grissom, the CSI team honcho, remarked that Leviticus 17:11 should be considered definitive if one argues about human life from a theological point of view. Roll tape, er, copy and paste from Bible Gateway:
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.
Hence, life only begins when blood infuses the embryo, which is several days after conception. At least, the Grissom character says something to this effect. Well, that must be that, eh campers?

Well, I'm no theologian, but I can read, and the context for Leviticus 17:11 is to show that human life does, of course, depend on blood; can't exist without it. Hence the prohibition on eating blood, because of its symbolic linkage with human life. This, of course, is reversed with the atoning blood of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

So, blood is necessary for human life. Does this mean that an embryo, just prior to the natural infusion of blood from the mother, is not a human life? Perhaps. But only if human life is defined narrowly as a sack of living tissue, meat. Here's where belief comes into play.

If one believes that there is a soul, then the question is, at what point in the development of the baby does he or she gain a soul? Given that our cells are programmed by something (dare I call it intelligent design?), isn't it possible that that something, that driving force, already has programmed within its wet (biological) microcircuitry that which God grants us and we call the soul?

I believe it not just possible, but a near certainty. I understand those who are skeptical, but this is my belief. Call it God's way of making us in His own image. And hence my belief, shared by the Catholic Church and many other Christians, that each unique human being is created at the moment of conception. Not before. Not a nanosecond after. At that moment.

Despite what Gil Grissom of the Las Vegas Crime Lab might say in dialogue.

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2 Comments:

Blogger The Un-Apologetic Atheist said...

Well, you know I think Intelligent Design is absolute bunk as do the overwhelming OVERWHELMING majority of biological scientists... but your point about blood is quite correct.

I suspect, for my part, that the error/gap lies not in the design but in the fact that those writing the Bible were not being directly dictated to by God when they wrote-- they did the best they could. By their primitive observations, blood simply seemed to be the source of life-- after all, when you bled out you died. Thus, the animal sacrifices always involving the blood of the animal (not just Judean, but also Zoroastrian, Chaldean, and Sumerian sacrifices followed this idea). There is no way any of them could have known about he "infusion of the blood" in a developing embryo, as you mention, because the science of embryology was... well, in its infancy. Heh heh.

As far as the inherent microcircuitry, I think you're ignoring (accidentally) a huge HUGE element of our genetic development-- that our pattern is NOT set at conception. Only our primary DNA pattern is set... quite a bit of our DNA depends on being 'switched on' during various stages of development, and those stages are completely dependent upon the chemical environment in which that developing DNA-pattern finds itself. That's why it's so important for a mother-to-be not to smoke, drink, etc.

Good article though!

11:31 AM, November 10, 2005  
Anonymous John Luke said...

Un-apologetic atheist notes that I ignored the fact that "our pattern" is very much affected by our in-utero environment. Guilty as charged. My sense is that how our DNA knits us together, at the molecular level, is of course in play. Hence the sometimes obvious defects imposed by certain pre-birth habits of the mother, and the attempt to provide good nutrition and minimize poisons (like tobacco). But, most definitely not including the dubious notion on the part of some parents that by playing Mozart the kid will become cultured before he's born.

However, the boundaries for pattern shifting, i.e. genetic changes in-utero due to environmental factors, must be set by the initial coding, i.e. the combination of unique DNA from each biological parent. That is, our parameters can only operate within given perimeters.

I believe that those boundaries, and the possibilities for changes within them, however myriad, support the idea that we are unique human beings from the moment of conception. That our environment in-utero further differentiates us is true but does not change this. The analogy might be with any two siblings, who obviously share most of the "boundaries", i.e. the DNA contributions from each biological parent. After they are born, it is usual that two siblings, even identical twins, will develop quite differently, to the point that they are unique individuals by the time they are but a few years old.

2:21 PM, November 10, 2005  

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About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.