Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Trifecta: ANT - "Brain Death" - Ensoulment



William B. Hurlbut fertilizes an egg with the nucleus of somatic cell (SCNT) having “silenced” one gene necessary for becoming an organism/person. The assumption is that you need all the parts at once to reach the level of being an organism/person. But that is a philosophic prejudice called mechanism, i.e. the whole is reducible to the sum of its parts. Hurlbut assumes that the fertilized egg cannot be an organism, and therefore, not a person, because there is a “part” missing (the silenced gene).

There must be a time sequence (3-4 days) between fertilization (reception of a full chromosomal complement [supplied by interpersonal spousal self-gift] from a donor somatic cell) and the structural collapse provoked by the altered gene, in order to develop stem cells. During this interval there is, in fact, a defective organism that will contain stem cells, but an organism indistinguishable from a zygote and therefore a person. Hurlbut does not consider this a true organism (albeit a source of stem cells), and therefore not a person, because of the philosophic prejudice that all the parts (genes) must be present.

Adrian Walker points out that Hurlbut’s ANT (Altered Nuclear Transfer) is indistinguishable from human cloning which is a subset of IVF. This latter (IVF) is morally objectionable because the human person, image and likeness of the Trinitarian Persons, must be engendered by a loving interpersonal self-gift of husband and wife. The transfer of the 46 chromosomes is the replacement of a loving spousal giftedness by technology and therefore de-personalized and immoral.


Alan Shewmon, appearing as expert on “brain death” before a White Paper Committee including William B. Hurlbut, offers what appears to be a parallel scenario in the case of declaring a person “dead” according to the criterion of “brain death.” It would be a case of making a parallel case of the silenced gene with the brain death. Shewmon makes a powerful case for the inadequacy of so-called “brain death” as criterion for real death, and it is most suggestive that it could be compared and applied to the case of Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) and Altered Nuclear Transfer (ANT). That is, the person is not reducible to the sum of the structural parts. Shewmon offers the apposite analogy of a pianist sitting before a piano with all the strings cut: “you get no music out but you still have a pianist. And even if permanently he’s not able to manifest that pianism, he’s still a pianist.”


Ensoulment: The above being so, could we have person before ensoulment, the soul being a “part” in the development of the person? Consider that the Church has never spoken magisterially on the presence of soul in the zygote/embryo/foetus, yet having always insisted on the inviolability of the personal status of same. More to come!

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