Friday, May 28, 2021
It's Friday, May 28th, 2021.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
“A Thicket of Ethical Issues” Surround New Policy on Experimentation on Human Embryos: How Far Will Humans Dare to Go in the Name of Science?
Of what value is a human embryo? What interest does humanity have in respecting a human embryo? All that comes into the forefront of a big story. And the big story comes down to the fact that the international organization known as the International Society for Stem Cell Research in the last few days released new guidelines indicating that it is abandoning its long held policy that it would be unethical and in many jurisdictions unlawful to continue research on human embryos beyond 14 days. That 14 day limit has been in place since 1979. And what we are facing in this situation is that this international group has just decided unilaterally that it will change its guidelines.
Now what's going on here has human dignity and the sanctity of human life at the forefront, but we're also looking at a very ominous development in terms of the totality of the society. For one thing, we're looking at the rise here of scientism, the worldview that says that science is the ultimate authority and that scientists alone get to establish the rules by which science will be made legitimate and will be conducted. And what we are also witnessing here is the fact that the human embryo is being treated as nothing more than a laboratory object. There's some very ominous logic here. We need to look at it very closely. For example, National Public Radio's Rob Stein reported, "For decades, scientists have been prohibited from keeping human embryos alive in their labs for more than 14 days. The prohibition was aimed at avoiding a thicket of ethical issues that would be raised by doing experiments on living human embryos as they continued to develop."
But he reports on Wednesday of this week, and I quote, "An influential scientific society recommended scrapping that blanket taboo known as the 14 day rule. Now we're also told that the guidance is going to be considered by regulatory bodies in each country, but it is the organization itself that has unilaterally changed the rules." By the way, looking at the headlines and at the coverage inside the scientific community, you see statements that are tantamount to the fact that whatever this organization has decided is basically what science has decided and that's the last word. Looking just at the release, coming out from the scientists, for example, in that NPR coverage by Rob Stein, you see a very, very dangerous moral argument being made, but it's one that's so dangerous we really need to look at it face-to-face.
The argument is being made by the chairperson of this International Committee for Stem Cell Research. And that is Robin Lovell-Badge of the Crick Institute in England. He said this and listen to it very carefully. "When you ask, is this ethically bad? Well, you also have to put the opposite, are there ethical issues for not doing research in that period? In many ways you could argue it would be unethical not to do it." Now you listen to that argument and you say, "Well, that's an argument about morality, but what morality is implied here?" Well, remember, we're talking about unborn human embryos. We're talking about them being used in laboratory research. We're talking about what you have in the NPR report described as an intense thicket of ethical issues, but you also have more than that. Here you have the argument that it's really not so morally important to ask, is this bad or is this good?
You should ask, would not be doing this good or bad? He goes on to say, clearly in his mind, you could argue it would be unethical not to do it. Well, what's the moral argument there? It is that good medical treatments, medical knowledge, even just the quest for understanding the development of the human embryo, that's a moral demand, but notice what's being sacrificed. Any notion of human dignity, any notion to the sanctity of any human life. What you have here is an outright assertion being made by the very person who's formulating this policy. At times, by the way, in the media, he even uses the first person singular saying I not even saying we. Here you have someone who's saying, "No, the real ethical issue is, is there anything that might be good that would come out of any experiment?" That therefore would mean it would be unethical not to do it?
Now, just consider what that would make legitimate. It would make legitimate virtually the entirety of the grotesqueness of the Nazi medical experiments on human beings. It would make just about anything legitimate because it is the ultimate end that justifies the means argument. It's extremely dangerous, but it's made here baldly and you can understand why many people in this society would say, "No, that's absolutely right. You might be able to have someday a pig growing a human heart that could be used in human transplantation. That would be a good thing, but what might be justified along the way? What moral horrors with thus be justified, made legitimate, even made policy by scientists as we move forward?"
I mentioned scientism. What is scientism? Scientism is the worldview, and it's a rival worldview to Christianity, that says that there is only one ultimate epistemic avenue. There's only one ultimate source of truth and that's whatever comes out of the scientific worldview, the scientific method, or even what scientists call science. Now, if you're looking at the rise of this worldview, it wasn't really possible until the 20th century. It really took the rise of modern science to bring this about. But then it came very quickly. There were prophetic voices against scientism. Most importantly, in the Christian world, voices, such as J.R.R Tolkien and CS Lewis. They warned that scientism was inherently dehumanizing. That human beings would do anything and justify virtually anything in the name of science. The 20th century proved that to be horrifyingly true. But scientism has not receded.
And what you see here is the fact that this entire argument is based upon the idea that science is the ultimate way of human knowledge. That whatever science must do is driven by the morality of ever increasing scientific knowledge. All other moral issues have to take a back seat. But you're also looking at something else and that is the outright claim that only scientists can determine what science is and what scientists can do. Now, if you're thinking about that for a moment, you might say, "Well, isn't it true that in formulating this policy, there's some opportunity for public input?" Now, as a subset of this, I have to say that public input doesn't matter much, because generally the scientific bodies don't really care what people outside think. But at least in the past it's been policy that they have to ask people. Even people outside of science, what would be their moral concerns about this policy. But in this case, the head of this new policy, Robin Lovell-Badge of England, he says that that public comment was just something that he considered too expensive. It was too complicated, thus, they didn't do it.
The journal Nature very much a part of that scientific establishment wrote this, "Lovell-Badge acknowledges that the review and redrafting steps did not include public engagement exercises, in part, because of the cost and time involved." The report goes on to say, "Also, an international public comment period would probably receive varied responses from different jurisdictions." He says, "You'd have to make it a huge exercise and we can't do that." No. The moral concerns, the concerns of people outside science, no, actually we're not even going to give the pretense that we care about that any longer. Who are those little people who dare to ask whether scientists should be in absolute control of the world? But then again, what about this new policy? If the limitation is not 14 days, then what is it? Well brace yourselves, there now is no limit.
This policy doesn't call for any limit. And once again, we go back to scientist Lovell-Badge who said using the first person note, the pronoun here is I, "I felt it would be both difficult and a little pointless to propose any new limit, which would be arbitrary much like 14 days." Now that's just another way of saying, "I decided all the rules are off." There are at least some scientists who are saying out loud that this is a disaster. Dr. Daniel Sulmasy, a bioethicist at Georgetown University, got right to the point when he said, "I think it's deeply troubling. Now, any sign of respect for the human embryo is gone." Just hear that. Any sign of respect for the human embryo is gone. It is now just evaporated.
Lovell-Badge responds that it's no great disaster. He says, "There's very good reasons for doing this research and people shouldn't be scared about it if there are robust mechanisms of review and oversight." Once again, that just comes down to trust us, by the way, we're going to be moving the goalpost but trust us. By the way, we're going to be creating chimeras, that would be embryos that share animal and human genetic material, but just trust us. It means that these researchers have also created so-called embryoids, which aren't exactly embryos, but aren't exactly not. And even as they have just been developed in recent years, they are now also celebrated for research and this policy but again, just trust us. Even as scientists in these reports indicate they aren't even sure what beings these are.
Now in the 21st century, we see a very dark form of scientism emerging here. And you'll notice that people are going to be making the assumption, "Well, something good can come out of this, so why worry about the human embryo?" Which raises, before we leave this issue, the most basic Christian concern here. There should be no destruction of human embryos. Every single human being at every point of development must be respected or all of human life and the dignity of every single human life is subverted and that's exactly what's going on here. It's not an accident that this happens just about the same time as the announcement of the experiments on chimeras. It's not an accident that this is coming at the very same time that calls for euthanasia and physician assisted suicide are now increasing in jurisdictions all over the world.
It's not an accident that human beings are being turned increasingly into things, into instruments, into not beings to be respected, but things now to be experimented upon. Christians understand that the entire enterprise of human embryonic stem cell research implies that at least in some conditions, human life can be the object of experimentation, not a human life to be respected. This is one of those news stories that's going to be of interest to people around the country who may hear the news, or they may read something about it but they're likely to turn the page rather quickly without understanding the true magnitude of this news. Folks, this is really big and it's really bad news. And what we see in the coverage, even in the reports coming out from this international organization is brazen. It is forthright.
It isn't even evasive. This is a straight forward affirmation of scientism at the expense of human dignity. It isn't the first, but it is big. And it will not be the last.
The Vast Cultural Conspiracy Against Reality: USA Today Makes News by Deeming the Word “Male” as “Hurtful Language”
But next we're going to speak about another issue that is tied to human dignity. Ontology. That means being. It means that human beings are real. We are not just socially constructed selves, we're biological, and that's a part of God's design. And a part of that biological design is being made male and female. We're seeing not only the subversion of human dignity when it comes to biomedical experimentation, we're seeing an outright revolt against human dignity when it comes to the transgender revolution. But if you want to look at just one barometer of that revolution, look no further than the newspaper USA Today.
USA Today has basically become the ideological champion and engine of the transgender revolution. It's generally that way when it comes to the entire array of LGBTQ issues. USA Today, can't now publish a sports section without implying that the most important issue in sports is the dimension of LGBTQ. It can't write an entertainment article. It can't publish a financial page without constantly trying to push this issue. But sometimes it shows up in an unexpected way and this one ought not to escape us. Just a few days ago, the newspaper actually ran a piece against its own editorial position. In this case, it was written by Chelsea Mitchell. And if you know that name it's because she is one of the young women suing in the State of Connecticut to allow women's sports to continue as women's sports, to allow girls' sports to continue as girls' sports.
The headline in her article was this, "I Was the Fastest Girl in Connecticut, but Transgender Athletes Made it an Unfair Fight." Now the article is a big story, but wait just a minute, hold on. The story about the story turns out to be even bigger. Chelsea Mitchell did write this piece. USA Today did publish it online a few days ago. She writes about February 2020, "I'm crouched at the starting line of the high school girls 55 meter indoor race. This should be one of the best days of my life. I'm running in the state championship, and I'm ranked the fastest high school female in the 55 meter dash in the state. I should be feeling confident. I should know that I have a strong shot at winning. Instead," she writes, "all I can think about is how all my training, everything I've done to maximize my performance might not be enough simply because there's a runner on the line with an enormous physical advantage, a male body."
Now listen to this. She wrote, "I won that race, and I'm grateful. But time after time I have lost. I've lost four women's state championship titles, two All New England awards and numerous other spots on the podium to male runners. I was bumped to third place in the 55 meter dash in 2019 behind two male runners. With every loss, it gets harder and harder to try again. Later in this article, Chelsea Mitchell writes about the organization in Connecticut that governs the rules here, Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, or CIAC. She says, "The CIAC allows biological males to compete in girls and women's sports. As a result, two males began racing in girl's track in 2017. In the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons alone, these males took 15 women's state track championship titles." Later explaining what happened, she writes, "That's because males have massive physical advantages. Their bodies are simply bigger and stronger on average than female bodies. It's obvious to every single girl on the track."
Then this key paragraph, "But Connecticut officials are determined to ignore the obvious. And unfortunately, a federal district court recently dismissed our case. The court's decision to do so tells women and girls that their feelings and opportunities don't matter and that they can't expect anyone to stand up for their dignity and that's right. That's wrong," she says, "and it chips away at women's confidence and our belief in our own abilities. It's happened to me over and over. Every time I walk up to the starting line, I try to tell myself that I can overcome the unfair odds, I can win, even though the race is stacked against me." Well, the point that she is making here is very clearly that it is unfair, it's not right.
It's just categorically not right for high school girls to have to compete against high school boys effectively in male bodies who are now presenting as females when it comes to girls sport. And even though there are many people on the left who keep telling us, and USA Today has been a part of telling us it's really not a big deal, these things really don't happen. In Chelsea Mitchell's case, she is very clear about documenting exactly what has been lost by girls to biological males just in the State of Connecticut and in New England. But I told you this isn't even the big story, of course it should be. But in terms of urgency, that's not the biggest story. The biggest story is this. It turns out that after public pressure, after pressure from the LGBTQ community and the transgender community in particular, USA Today, retroactively changed the text of Chelsea Mitchell's article.
The word male was removed because it was said, USA Today acknowledged, that there were those who felt that the use of the word "males" here was harmful. And instead, where male had appeared in Chelsea Mitchell's article the word transgender now emerges. But notice what's lost here. There is no understanding using the word transgender of the entire point that Chelsea Mitchell was making. And so, what we're seeing here is, again, a vast cultural conspiracy to deny the obvious. Chelsea Mitchell's article was all straightforwardly about acknowledging the obvious. Just if you take biological reality, just if you take two bodies, one male and one female, they are biologically, physically different. And yes, that makes a difference in sport. That is why you actually have boys teams and girls teams, boys competition, girls competition, men and women.
That is why, by the way, the entire structure of law supporting women's equality in this country and particularly in sports, say Title IX in higher education, it is all about the fact that girls play on girls' teams and in girls’ sports and boys play on boys teams. Males are males, females are females, and yes, it makes a difference. And not only by the way, of course, does it make a difference when it comes to athletics, even physical structure, it makes a difference when it comes to, oh, shall we just give a hint at this? Human reproduction. It does matter, just ask a baby. But again, we are looking at this vast cultural conspiracy and it's a conspiracy against reality, against ontology, against creation order, against logic, against physics, against biology, against medicine.
Everything though has to give way now to the unrelenting pressure of the transgender revolution and the larger revolution in morality and sexuality of which it is a part. But before leaving this, lets understand that the editors at USA Today decided they had to acknowledge that changes have been made, after all, they're trying to please the community that demanded the changes. And so, an editor's note now precedes Chelsea Mitchell's reedited column. "This column has been updated to reflect the USA Today's standards and style guidelines." The next sentence in the editor's, "We regret that hurtful language was used." Wait just a minute, wait just a minute. What hurtful language? Was their name calling in that article? No, no, no. What hurtful language?
It was the language of one single word, "male." Yes, folks, we're now living in a society in which the words, male and female can be dismissed as no longer useful and worse than that, as hurtful language. In this case, USA Today not only publishes what it calls the news, it made news. It should be big news and we should all be talking about it. It really does tell us something that one of the best known media brands in this country thinks that the words, male and presumably also, female can now be words of harm. Let's just state this clearly, on the other side of this, there is absolutely no moral sanity.
The Sobering Memories of Memorial Day: A People Who Does Not Honor Those Who Died for Liberty Does Not Deserve That Liberty
But finally, as America gets ready for this weekend, of course, Monday is Memorial Day in the United States. It has a contested history. There are many locations in the United States that claim to have had the first Decoration Day or Memorial Day.
What's it all about? Well, it's about originally the decoration of graves of those who have fallen in America's wars in honor of their sacrifice for the nation. It was called Decoration Day because there was the bringing of flowers and other decorations to honor the war dead, Americans who laid down their lives for the cause of liberty. Come down to the 20th century, and it is Memorial Day, a national holiday observed for a long time, nationally on May the 30th, but now on the last Monday of the month of May. One thing that Christians need to recognize is that even as we may be living in a time in which there's a war against creation, a war against morality, a war against reality, ontology, there is a sobering reality to death.
There is a sobering message that is found in a cemetery. That cemetery has a very important word to say. And how we honor those who are dead says not so much about them as it does about us. A nation that doesn't have gratitude in its heart toward those who, especially, on the front lines gave up their lives for the cause of liberty is a nation that no longer deserves that liberty. We're living in a time of such rampant confusion and a part of that confusion comes down to whether or not wars are even worth fighting. But even beyond that controversy, there's an understanding of our own history that at times, wars were absolutely necessary, and in a fallen world, it is unlikely to say the very least that war will not be made necessary again. And war is indeed a form of orchestrated violence, of state-legitimated violence, people die.
And when soldiers and sailors and airmen and other in the American uniform die and they die in the cause of liberty and in the defense of this nation, it is then a test of the nation as to whether or not they are honored and remembered, their sacrifice documented and at times, yes, even their graves decorated on Decoration Day. We are, indeed, a society that is losing moral sanity, but there's at least some sanity perhaps that is recovered in a cemetery. When there's a solemnity and a sense of gravity, death making a very clear statement that Christians fully understand and representing an accountability that must be met not only by individuals, but in the larger sense of Memorial Day by the nation as well.
A nation that is not grateful for those who have died in its service is, again, a nation that doesn't deserve that service nor the liberty that was thereby purchased and defended.
May we all have observe a respectful and meaningful Memorial Day. And because of that, we'll return next Tuesday with The Briefing.
Thanks for listening. For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again next Tuesday for The Briefing.