Our Reproductive Future?

“We are approaching a biotechnological breakthrough. Ectogenesis, the invention of a complete external womb, could completely change the nature of human reproduction.”

–  Helen Sedgwick

Read an article recently that I was more than normally conflicted about, I was in awe as I read it, and I didn’t know whether to be intellectually fascinated or morally shocked. Either way, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, it seems every new scientific advance inspires both meanings of the word “awesome” (admiration and fear); admiration of our ability to discover or do something that might somehow supremely benefit humankind, fear that whatever it is could irreparably change life for the worse. Like everthing that happens in life, there’s an upside and a downside and, thus, my confliction.

Sedgwick should have said, “We have” (instead of “We are approaching”) a breakthrough, and, “will” (instead of “could”) change the nature of human reproduction, because the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has invented the “biobag”, the artificial womb.

They have grown in this invention lambs, from the gestational age equivalent to human fetuses of 22-24 weeks, culminating in live births, with the oldest lamb now a year old.

Not to be outdone, Cambridge University in England is working on actual human embyros. Using a mixture of nutrients, they’ve successfully grown one to the age of 13 days. It may well have fully gown into a fetus if they weren’t prohibited by the legal maximun of 14 days that an embryo can be kept in a lab.

You can read all about it at:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/sep/04/artifical-womb-women-ectogenesis-baby-fertility? 

The article (written by the quoted author above) cites examples of benefits: “[I]t could save the lives of premature babies, help infertile couples, give gay and trans people new fertility options and enable older parents to have children. It could offer a safer alternative to traditional pregnancy and childbirth and provide a healthier environment for the foetus by eliminating the risks of drugs or alcohol [use by the mother] and providing an ideal balance of nutrients, temperature, movement and sound…”

It also cites examples of the dangers: “[Who] would have the power to decide how, when and for whose benefit it is used. It could be the state or private insurance companies trying to avoid the unpredictable costs of traditional childbirth. Or, it could become yet another advantage available only to the privileged, with traditional pregnancies becoming associated with poverty, or with a particular class or race. Would babies gestated externally have advantages over those born via the human body? Or, if artificial gestation turns out to be cheaper than ordinary pregnancy, could it become an economic necessity forced on some?” And, “Who decides which type of pregnancy is ‘best’ – women or men? Doctors? Religious leaders? Employers?” Consider : “…the possibility of pro-life activists welcoming this process as an alternative to abortion – with, in the worst case, women being forced to have their foetuses extracted and gestated outside their bodies.”

That’s a lot to think about. It could be a good thing. Or a veritable Pandora’s Box, not unlike the legal controversies and wrangling that have already occured over whether the mother or the father has legal rights to ownership of their frozen embyros in a divorce case, or the question over the rights/privileges of a surrogate mother’s “rent-a-womb” or the biological mother or father in adoptions?

Setting aside the moral and ethical problems involved, I personally think further research should not be allowed involving humans until all the dangerous legal issues quoted above are throughly assessed and debated and resolved first.

And, setting aside the sometimes unfortunate outcomes of conception and pregnancies, I have to ask…

What’s so bad about how we’ve always reproduced?

– Bill

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Behaving Like An Adult

“[A]dolescents… as a group… take themselves far too seriously. Moreover, appearance is everything for the adolescent. I suppose it’s a form of play-acting. The adolescent knows that the child is lurking under the surface, but he’d sooner die than let it out…

Most people go through this stage and outgrow it. Many, however, do not. The pose becomes more important than reality, and these poor creatures become hollow people, forever striving to fit themselves into an impossible mold.” ― David Eddington

And…

“Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you’re grown up. Growing up means being patient, holding your temper, cutting out the self-pity, and quitting with the righteous indignation.

Why do so many people seem to love righteous indignation?

Because if you can prove you’re a victim, all rules are off. You can lash out at people. You don’t have to be accountable for anything.” ― Brandon Stanton

Wow. Reading those two quotes together made me realize how much adolescent behavior there is in our society. There always has been some, but there seems to be a whole lot more these days and, in my opinion, the behavior (re-read quotes above) of the current occupant of the White House seems to have given license to act like an adolescent to those who might otherwise not, for fear of public ridicule.

It’s much easier to stay in adolescence. Much harder to grow up and be an adult. Much easier to complain about life, much harder to accept life as it is. And to be honest, I, too, struggle at times to control my sometime urge to act or speak foolishly, childishly. We all do, if truth be told. But it’s not who I am, on the whole. Unlike many these days, it seems.

So much in the news today is this or that person/group protesting/rioting/going to war/texting a tirade over some perceived personal affront by the “majority”, the dominate culture.  It doesn’t matter how real or how imagined. They…feel…indignant that…they!…have suffered…and are angry…and will not be patient (if they ever were) any longer.

I’ve tried to empathize. Failing that, I’ve tried to sympathize. Failing that, I have grown tired of trying to deal with it, trying to understand…

Understand why there are some people (and it seems like more than fewer these days) that feel – feel, mind you  – that everybody owes them. Owes them…what? Owes them for who…what…they are? Where life has taken them? The circumstances they find themselves to be in? Unfair it is that life – their life – life in general – didn’t turn out as they thought it would…wanted it to…be?

I don’t want to be insensitive. Honestly, I don’t.

But it’s hard. Hard to give a damn.

Hard to feel…anything for them…except pity. 

Pity, because…if they feel the “victim”, it is because they have…allowed…themselves…to feel…abused, dominated…taken advantage of…by others. They’ve voluntarily – maybe unconsciously – surrendered their self-worth…their self-esteem…their personhood…to someone else…and feel – abused, denigrated, neglected, demeaned – a victim.

And, yes, they are the victim. The victim of their own selves, their own…what? Anger that they are not the center of the world? Angry that life is “unfair”? Angry that no one cares about their lot in life? Angry that no one is listening to their “righteous” indignation as they protest life’s “unfairness”?

I, and in my life, am better off than many. I, and in my life, am worse off than many. The same can be said of anyone…said about you. But there isn’t one living soul in America or any other 1st world nation  – regardless of their circumstances in life – that isn’t 10 times – 100 times – better off than the vast majority of humanity.

Fact of life. 

When I was a child, I didn’t understand that. But I grew up, put aside the pose of righteousness indignation over life’s inequities and accepted the responsibilities of adulthood – responsibility for no one but myself – and made a life for myself and my family. I quickly learned no one owed me anything, no one really cared (other than immediate family) if I succeeded or failed. I understood that. And I accepted that. 

I grew up. I became an adult.

I learned that the world and everyone in it owes me nothing, I am responsible for my own lot in life, my own happiness, there’s no gain in feeling sorry for myself if my life it isn’t what I’d dreamt it would be, and “righteous indignation” is just so much self-pity and an admission of personal failure. 

I feel at times like some in society are telling me I should feel guilty because I’m not…”feeling”…like everyone else…like a victim.

But I reject that. That’s a feeling I don’t need. I’m no longer an adolescent. I outgrew it. I am an adult.

I just wish everyone else was.

– Bill

Caught in a World of Soap Operas

“[Your] favorite daytime drama was on the telly. It was always the same…. Before long [you were]… totally hooked, and deep into the intricate plots and… goings-on. And afterwards, [you] just felt drained.”

― Elizabeth Jane Howard

“What’s new, Bill?” I asked upon meeting an acquaintance of mine.

“Oh, just another one of those ‘Days of our lives’,” he said.

“Excuse me?”

“You know, all the drama. Political intrigue, sex, conflict, egos run amok, greed! All the stuff that happens ‘As the world turns’.”

“Why do you watch it if it really bothers you?” I asked, curiously.

“Well, can’t really avoid it, you know. How can I? It’s on TV every time I turn it on. But my real concern is for ‘All my children’.”

“How so?” I prodded, now curious.

“Well, they’re so much the ‘Bold and the beautiful’, too much the ‘Young and restless’, full of ‘Passions’ as they ‘Search for tomorrow’. I see no ‘Clear Horizon’ for them, just ‘Dark shadows’. It’s like ‘The edge of night’. What a sorry thing it is that they only have ‘One life to live’, and this is all there is?”

“Bill, you sound more than a little depressed over things. I think you need some help,” I suggested.

“Maybe you’re right. Maybe I should go and see ‘The doctors’ or ‘General Hospital’.”

“Maybe you should stop watching all those daily soap operas?” I offered.

“Soap operas? What soap operas? I’m talking about the nightly news!”

“Oh! Sorry,” I apologized, as I made my excuses to get up and leave. “But, don’t give up all hope, out there – trust me – there’s a ‘Guiding light’ where people like you can find a different take on things, and find a ‘Love of life’.”

“God, I hope so!” He retorted.

“God, indeed,” I thought to myself.

For some reason, I felt drained, yet knowing the “Bright promise” of “Another world” to come, I felt confident Bill would find that “Loving” peace his spirit so sorely needs.

– Bill

Milk Does a (Young) Body Good

“Everything gets better with milk.”

― Debasish Mridha

Well, some things, anyway.

Cow Sap, Chalk Water, Udder Honey, Moo Juice. By any name, it’s cow’s milk, and over the decades the dairy farmers and milk producers have caught our attention through advertisements with, what are now, iconic catch-phrases like, “Got Milk?” and “Milk – It does a body good”.

I’ve written and posted in the past on most of the top 10 beverages consumed world-wide according to their popularity, #1 – coffee (“Caffeinate Me” and “Caffeinate Me – A Follow-up”), #2 – tea (“If Not Coffee, Then Tea?”), #4 – beer (“On Beer and Health”), #6 – wine (“A Little Wine Is More Than Fine (For Your Health)”), and #7 – vodka (“The Virtues of Vodka”), and listed all their healthful and beneficial properties. I’ve skipped over #3 – orange juice (whose health properties need no discussion), #5 – Coca Cola (that has no redeeming health benefits I can find), #8 – sports drinks (that I’m uninterested in and the jury is out on whether they are of any good), #9 – soups (fairly obvious they’re healthful), and #10 – breast milk (which I gave up long ago). 

Conspicuously missing from the top 10 is cow’s milk, and I’ve wondered why: Is it not as good for us as advertised, or is there some other reason people just don’t drink it? As babies, virtually every one of us was nurished on our mother’s (or surrogate’s) breast and I suppose that’s why breast milk made into the top 10. (Did you know that the mammal breast is simply a specialized sweat gland? But that’s off-topic.) 

And, just for the record, I have no financial or other interest in any milk producer or purveyor.

A little research shows that the reason milk is not in the top 10 is lactose, a sugar compound found in milk that, after the age of 2-4, 65% of the global population cannot process (it causes a number of off-putting physical side-effects). Lactose intolerance varies from less than 10% in Northern Europe to as high as 95% in parts of Asia and Africa. But a little more research shows that children, after age 2-4, for those whose genes allow them to process lactose, cow milk is a good thing to consume.

It can make for a taller child, a taller adult.

Many parents are not willing to find out if their child is lactose intolerant, or believe non-dairy milk (almond, soy, coconut, or some other) is healthier, and forego cow’s milk. However, a 2017 article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition cited a Canadian study of children that found a difference between cow milk drinkers and those who drank non-dairy milk. Over the years, there were no appreciable differences between the groups of children, except for height. Every daily cup of non-cow milk was linked to a height difference of 0.4 centimeter; children who drank three cups of cow milk (versus non-dairy milk) a day were 1.5 centimeters – around 1/2″ – taller. 

Now, that may not seem a lot to an adult, but it’s a huge difference to children in how they perceive themselves when they unconsciouly measure themselves against their peers (it can be disheartening, ego-wise, to be the shortie, unless parents provide the positive reinforcement that personality, intelligence, and talent are far more important.) Especially among boys, where inches matter in many diverse ways, psychologically.

Cow milk proteins, casein and whey, have been linked to an increase in size and milk’s insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), helps form bone and cartilage, thus greater height, and plant-based milks do not contain them or as much protein and fat; children who don’t drink cow’s milk don’t get these benefits needed for greater height.

So, milk does do a young body good. And as for adults, if you have no intestinal problems with it, it’s a good source of calcium and vitamins A and D. Just stay away from whole milk, it’s chock full of fat, specifically saturated fat. But assuming you have a complete, healthy diet otherwise, you don’t need it.

But what other than a tall glass of ice-cold milk can one dunk one’s Oreos?

– Bill

The Dichotomy Between Law and Behavior

“In every…society…laws [are enacted to] make people live [a certain way if they want] having rights and privileges as [participants] of that [society].”

― Sunday Adelaja

“This is what happens when the [law] intervenes in a person’s private life; it creates two separate personas. It compels you…to lead two separate lives…[and] to violate what’s imposed on you when the [law] isn’t looking.”

― Manal Al-Sharif

It is the human predisposition towards self-desire and want, I believe, that makes it necessary for laws to keep self-only interests in check. It is also, I believe, the same human predisposition of self-interest to rebel against such laws. Thus the dichotomy, two mutually contradictory beliefs, that society can dictate to individuals acceptable standards of behavior if they want to belong, and that individuals should be free to act on their own self-interests without social constraints. And we can see this conflict in many mundane areas:

• In most residential developments where there is a homeowners association, one is told what color(s) one may or may not paint their front door. Or what plants one may or may not have in front of the house or in the window (if any). Or how many cars one may have and where one must or must not park them, and for how long a time. But that’s just a partial list.

• In most workplaces, one is told what articles of attire one must or must not wear. Or that tatoos are not allowed. Or that one may not express any personal opinions on politics, religion, or social issues contrary to the company policy. But that’s just a partial list.

• In most religions, to be accepted as an active participant, one is told not only what they must do, but also what they mustn’t. Jews must not eat pork, Muslims must not drink alcohol, Christians must not speak evil towards others. But that’s just a partial list.

Now, it can be reasonably argued that one has the option to live or find a job somewhere else, or find a religion, that allows one to do as one wants in order to indulge one’s self-interests, but it is problematic  – every locality has laws forbidding certain things you can do on or with your property, all employers have the right to fire or not hire, every religion has the right to discipline or excommunicate. And sometimes, some places, it isn’t possible (financially or other) to escape, there are no options to avoid limited housing choices, a town with only one major employer, a nation under a theocracy.

So it follows, that people are forced to live two separate lives – one of public obeyance, and one of private indulgence. We rebel by finding a way around the law and violate it where the law isn’t looking. A homeowner finds a color not on either the approved or unapproved list, an employee gets a tatoo but keeps it hidden, a Jew pigs out (pun intended) on bacon for breakfast or a Muslim has a martini (or two) before dinner (secretly, in their homes), or a Christian (quietly, only amongst like-minded others) denegrates other religions (or races, or whoever). All when or where the “law” of their society isn’t looking.

Except for those legal or religious paragons who would never, ever, violate any ordinance and willingly subordinate every personal desire to the dominate demands of their society, we are all hypocrites, living two lives. Living a lie.

Some find a way to accomodate the dichotomy, they compartmentalize their public and private persona. Others break under the strain of the conflicting demands because they can’t justify being a hypocrite.

No wonder the world is in such a mess. We can’t find our way through the conflict between the wants of society and individuals. Society demands compliance; individuals demand freedom from compliance.

– Bill

Move Forward, Let Racism Go

“No white person alive today [in America] ever owned a slave. No black person alive today [in America] was ever a slave. We can’t move forward if people want to keep living in the past.”

– unknown

Saw the above quote on Facebook the other day. Don’t know who originally authored it, that’s why I ascribed it to “unknown”. I’ve inserted in the quote above the bracketed “in America” to reflect what I believe is the author’s intent. Reading it gave me pause. I’ve reflected on it, mulled it over, and can’t escape the truth in it and what it said to me between the lines. Especially now, what with all the todo over the Civil War that was fought 152 years ago.

No white person born and alive [in America] today has ever owned a slave. And no white person today ever will, so if you wish you could, forget it, stop deluding yourself. Let it go. 

Or, if you have in your family’s history anyone who did own slaves and you feel guilty and feel the need to atone for those ancestors, what they did is not your fault, the wrong of it lies dead and buried with them. Let it go.

And, if your ancestors never owned slaves, don’t be smug about it and condemn those that have forefathers who did. Odds are in your family’s past there was something just as reprehensible, and whatever it was lies dead and buried with them. Let it go.

No black person born and alive [in America] today was ever a slave. And if you feel as if you are, you’re not, stop deluding yourself. Let it go. 

Or, if in your family’s history there were slaves and you feel anger, don’t aim it at those who have never owned a slave. Your ancestors and their owners, and the injustice done, lies dead and buried with them. Be glad it can’t happen to you. Let it go.

And, if your forefathers were always free and never enslaved in this country, don’t pretend you “identify” with those people who were slaves. That would be a construct outside your family’s experience and a lie. Whatever good fortune your ancestors experienced lies dead and buried with them. Let it go.

We can’t move forward if people want to keep living in the past. The question is begged: Why would anyone want to live in the past of slavery?

There isn’t a people – be it a tribe, nation, or race – on Earth whose ancestors weren’t persecuted or enslaved by some other, at some time or other, often more than once, even by their own kind. Including all the white peoples throughout history. All of us have blood connections to those who once were. 

That past has taught us where we did wrong and why we don’t allow it today and won’t in the future.

And that is where we should focus. For whatever happened in the past, if we let it go, not allow it to be in our present, it will not be in our future.

There are no slave owners, there are no slaves, in America today or tomorrow.

Move forward from whatever was, back when.

And for those who refuse to…well…don’t look to me for understanding, or acceptance or sympathy. You are a racist, be you white or black.

Having said what I have, I haven’t any more interest, time nor energy to waste on the subject. I’m moving forward.

– Bill

The Pot and the Kettle in America

“We also need to remember that it is possible to have deep and passionately held convictions without seeking to have those convictions imposed… on fellow citizens who do not share them and may have opposite convictions which are equally deep and passionately held.”

― Fr Iggy O’Donovan

There’s this hoary expression, “The pot calling the kettle black” (black in that they are both blackened by the fire they are both suspended over) still in use that describes obvious irony when one criticizes someone else about something one is equally guilty of: to say another is while arguing you’re not is pure hypocrisy.

And there’s really isn’t much of – if any real – difference between a pot and a kettle, they have shared characteristics and can both be used for the same purpose.

Beneath the pot and the kettle of politics or religion is what I call “correctness”, referring to what is “right” and “wrong” as to the attitude, beliefs or actions of others. To go against the dogma of religious correctness is to be called an apostate. To go against prevailing political correctness is to be called non-PC (not politically correct).

For some reason, some people work themselves into a lather over the religion thing, and for the same reasons people get bent all out of shape over politics – what others believe, especially if they publically refer to (or act) on their beliefs – that offends them.

To be offended by someone else’s expression of their religion or politics, and then get upset when they find yours just as obnoxious is, frankly, disingenious and hypocritical in America, at least given our Constitutionally guaranteed right to practice the religion of one’s choice (or none whatsoever) and free speech (including “representative” speech, such as acts in lieu of words). Thus, to say my religion or politics has preference over yours, and you are wrong to express yours, is inherently indefensible.

In the Letters to the Editor in our local paper recently were two illustrative examples: 

1) “Engineer shamed by PC police – And another one bites the dust, thanks to political correctness. Google software engineer James Damore…dared to question Google’s anti-gender bias dogma, so he was…fired.”

2) “No flag salute, no NFL for sitters – I am writing about the Oakland Raiders football player, Marshawn Lynch, sitting down on a cooler while his teammates are standing with their hands over their hearts for the National Anthem. He said he is supporting Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the anthem last season to protest a pattern of police mistreatment. Both of these guys are soft in the head. This is the NFL that they are taking on. If they don’t stand and support our flag, then they shouldn’t play inthe NFL.”

In both instances, Damore and Lynch/Kaepernick have the right to express their beliefs. Google and the NFL are employers who have the right to punish or remove employees from employment for disagreeing with their policies.

But to say (as in letter #1) that someone voicing his conservative opinion shouldn’t have been fired by his liberal employer, and then to say it’s wrong (as in letter #2) for someone voicing his liberal opinion should be fired by his conservative employer?

It’s okay for Damore to express his beliefs, but it’s wrong if Lynch/Kaepernick express theirs?

Isn’t that not hypocritical “correctness”? Are not the conservatives just as guilty by their insistence on their definition of what is politically correct as are the liberals?

And here is the tie-in with religion. Today in America we’ve elavated social issues to a form of religion, where those who don’t believe as we do should be publically shamed and/or excommunicated, or otherwise charactistically burned at the stake, charred black.

Pot and kettle black.

– Bill