Wednesday, October 22, 2008

An Update On Organ Trading In Singapore


Not too long ago in February 2007, “MOH says 'no' to sale of human organs.” Channel NewsAsia wrote, “Singapore is standing firm against organ trading, even if it may save more lives, said Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan.”

But within slightly more than a year’s time, Singapore seems determined to liberalize the sales of organ, or at least to begin acting upon such an idea. In Time, Peter Ritter elucidated in his article, “Legalizing the Organ Trade?” concerning the organ-trade situation in Singapore:

During a recent parliamentary hearing on two organ-selling cases, including the one allegedly involving Tang, Singapore's health minister Khaw Boon Wan said the city-state should consider legalizing the payment of kidney donors. "We should not reject any idea just because it is radical or controversial," he said. "We may be able to find an acceptable way to allow a meaningful compensation for some living, unrelated kidney donors without breaching ethical principles or hurting the sensitivities of others."

Singapore hasn't taken any definitive steps in that direction since Khaw aired the idea in late July. And though Khaw has said he was only bringing the subject up for discussion, his radical suggestion quickly provoked debate in Singapore's medical community. "It is not a good idea to legalize payment for organ donors as such payment institutionalizes the belief that the wealthy ill have property rights to the body parts of the poor," says Professor A. Vathsala, director of the adult renal transplantation program and head of nephrology at Singapore's National University Hospital. The Singapore Medical Association has also come out against such payment. …

Yet the idea of compensating living kidney donors also has prominent proponents in Singapore, who say that it could help solve a severe shortage — the waiting list for a kidney transplant in Singapore is up to nine years. Lee Wei Ling, director of the National Neuroscience Institute and daughter of Singapore founder Lee Kuan Yew, last year proposed legalizing organ trading, arguing that if the donor was properly cared for and "if monetary incentive makes a potential living donor more willing to save another life, what is wrong in allowing that?"

The Singapore Medical Association has organized an ethics convention for medical practitioners in Singapore to “hammer out” the issue. It might be interesting to see how the “powers that be” fight it out in this convention.

Singapore Medical Association (SMA) Ethics Convention 2008
PROFESSIONAL FORUM: “COMPENSATION OR INCENTIVES FOR DONORS IN ORGAN TRANSPLANTS: POSSIBILITIES & PITFALLS”
DATE/TIME: WEDNESDAY, 12 NOVEMBER 2008, 5.00 PM TO 8.00 PM
VENUE: KKH AUDITORIUM, 100 BUKIT TIMAH ROAD, S229899

SMA claimed that, “A panel of distinguished local and overseas experts will share their views on the topic and address queries.” I wonder what “address” means. I only wish that there would be an uncensored, unbridled, and lively debate on this topic – which is really the tip of the bioethics iceberg in Singapore.

Although the event is held on a weekday, I do hope my Christian colleagues would attend the meeting and be able to contribute their viewpoints in accordance with the sanctity of human life and good medical ethics.

If bioethical practices were to continue to be liberalized in Singapore, the following concern voiced by Ritter might become an unwelcomed reality:

Given that influx of wealth foreign patients seeking treatment, critics worry that legalizing the payment of organ donors could open a market for transplant tourism. "That sounds like a nightmare," says WHO's Noel. "I seriously do not think Singapore would like to create this image. They don't want to be the place where you can obtain the parts of another person."

PS: I had a very busy month, and had been trying to make ends meet. Besides, my academic term is starting very soon and I have much preparation to do. So blogging might not be my top few priorities in October 2008. Please do excuse my sluggish blogging.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Waning Authority Of Christ In The Churches

By Aiden Wilson Tozer

"The causes back of the decline in our Lord's authority are many. I name only two. One is the power of custom, precedent and tradition within the older religious groups. … The second cause is the revival of intellectualism among the evangelicals. This, if I sense the situation correctly, is not so much a thirst for learning as a desire for a reputation of being learned. … All religious activities, from the simplest act of an individual Christian to the ponderous and expensive operations of a whole denomination, may be proved by the answer to the question, Is Jesus Christ Lord in this act? Whether our works prove to be wood, hay and stubble or gold and silver and precious stones in that great day will depend upon the right answer to that question."

HERE IS THE BURDEN of my heart; and while I claim for myself no special inspiration I yet feel that this is also the burden of the Spirit.

If I know my own heart it is love alone that moves me to write this. What I write here is not the sour ferment of a mind agitated by contentions with my fellow Christians. There have been no such contentions. I have not been abused, mistreated or attacked by anyone. Nor have these observations grown out of any unpleasant experiences that I have had in my association with others. My relations with my own church as well as with Christians of other denominations have been friendly, courteous and pleasant. My grief is simply the result of a condition which I believe to be almost universally prevalent among the churches.

I think also that I should acknowledge that I am myself very much involved in the situation I here deplore. As Ezra in his mighty prayer of intercession included himself among the wrongdoers, so do I. "0 my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens." Any hard word spoken here against others must in simple honesty return upon my own head. I too have been guilty. This is written with the hope that we all may turn unto the Lord our God and sin no more against Him.

Let me state the cause of my burden. It is this: Jesus Christ has today almost no authority at all among the groups that call themselves by His name. By these I mean not the Roman Catholics nor the liberals, nor the various quasi-Christian cults. I do mean Protestant churches generally, and I include those that protest the loudest that they are in spiritual descent from our Lord and His apostles, namely, the evangelicals.

It is a basic doctrine of the New Testament that after His resurrection the Man Jesus was declared by God to be both Lord and Christ, and that He was invested by the Father with absolute Lordship over the church which is His Body. All authority is His in heaven and in earth. In His own proper time He will exert it to the full, but during this period in history He allows this authority to be challenged or ignored. And just now it is being challenged by the world and ignored by the church.

The present position of Christ in the gospel churches may be likened to that of a king in a limited, constitutional monarchy. The king (sometimes depersonalized by the term "the Crown") is in such a country no more than a traditional rallying point, a pleasant symbol of unity and loyalty much like a flag or a national anthem. He is lauded, feted and supported, but his real authority is small. Nominally he is head over all, but in every crisis someone else makes the decisions. On formal occasions he appears in his royal attire to deliver the tame, colorless speech put into his mouth by the real rulers of the country. The whole thing may be no more than good-natured make-believe, but it is rooted in antiquity, it is a lot of fun and no one wants to give it up.

Among the gospel churches Christ is now in fact little more than a beloved symbol. "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" is the church's national anthem and the cross is her official flag, but in the week-by-week services of the church and the day-by-day conduct of her members someone else, not Christ, makes the decisions. Under proper circumstances Christ is allowed to say "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden" or "Let not your heart be troubled," but when the speech is finished someone else takes over. Those in actual authority decide the moral standards of the church, as well as all objectives and all methods employed to achieve them. Because of long and meticulous organization it is now possible for the youngest pastor just out of seminary to have more actual authority in a church than Jesus Christ has.

Not only does Christ have little or no authority; His influence also is becoming less and less. I would not say that He has none, only that it is small and diminishing. A fair parallel would be the influence of Abraham Lincoln over the American people. Honest Abe is still the idol of the country. The likeness of his kind, rugged face, so homely that it is beautiful, appears everywhere. It is easy to grow misty-eyed over him. Children are brought up on stories of his love, his honesty and his humility.

But after we have gotten control over our tender emotions what have we left? No more than a good example which, as it recedes into the past, becomes more and more unreal and exercises less and less real influence. Every scoundrel is ready to wrap Lincoln's long black coat around him. In the cold light of political facts in the United States the constant appeal to Lincoln by the politicians is a cynical joke.

The Lordship of Jesus is not quite forgotten among Christians, but it has been relegated to the hymnal where all responsibility toward it may be comfortably discharged in a glow of pleasant religious emotion. Or if it is taught as a theory in the classroom it is rarely applied to practical living. The idea that the Man Christ Jesus has absolute and final authority over the whole church and over all of its members in every detail of their lives is simply not now accepted as true by the rank and file of evangelical Christians.

What we do is this: We accept the Christianity of our group as being identical with that of Christ and His apostles. The beliefs, the practices, the ethics, the activities of our group are equated with the Christianity of the New Testament. Whatever the group thinks or says or does is scriptural, no questions asked. It is assumed that all our Lord expects of us is that we busy ourselves with the activities of the group. In so doing we are keeping the commandments of Christ.

To avoid the hard necessity of either obeying or rejecting the plain instructions of our Lord in the New Testament we take refuge in a liberal interpretation of them. Casuistry is not the possession of Roman Catholic theologians alone. We evangelicals also know how to avoid the sharp point of obedience by means of fine and intricate explanations. These are tailor-made for the flesh. They excuse disobedience, comfort carnality and make the words of Christ of none effect. And the essence of it all is that Christ simply could not have meant what He said. His teachings are accepted even theoretically only after they have been weakened by interpretation.

Yet Christ is consulted by increasing numbers of persons with "problems" and sought after by those who long for peace of mind. He is widely recommended as a kind of spiritual psychiatrist with remarkable powers to straighten people out. He is able to deliver them from their guilt complexes and to help them to avoid serious psychic traumas by making a smooth and easy adjustment to society and to their own ids. Of course this strange Christ has no relation whatever to the Christ of the New Testament. The true Christ is also Lord, but this accommodating Christ is little more than the servant of the people.

But I suppose I should offer some concrete proof to support my charge that Christ has little or no authority today among the churches. Well, let me put a few questions and let the answers be the evidence.

What church board consults our Lord's words to decide matters under discussion? Let anyone reading this who has had experience on a church board try to recall the times or time when any board member read from the Scriptures to make a point, or when any chairman suggested that the brethren should see what instructions the Lord had for them on a particular question. Board meetings are habitually opened with a formal prayer or "a season of prayer"; after that the Head of the Church is respectfully silent while the real rulers take over. Let anyone who denies this bring forth evidence to refute it. I for one will be glad to hear it.

What Sunday school committee goes to the Word for directions? Do not the members invariably assume that they already know what they are supposed to do and that their only problem is to find effective means to get it done? Plans, rules, "operations" and new methodological techniques absorb all their time and attention. The prayer before the meeting is for divine help to carry out their plans. Apparently the idea that the Lord might have some instructions for them never so much as enters their heads.

Who remembers when a conference chairman brought his Bible to the table with him for the purpose of using it? Minutes, regulations, rules of order, yes. The sacred commandments of the Lord, no. An absolute dichotomy exists between the devotional period and the business session. The first has no relation to the second.

What foreign mission board actually seeks to follow the guidance of the Lord as provided by His Word and His Spirit? They all think they do, but what they do in fact is to assume the scripturalness of their ends and then ask for help to find ways to achieve them. They may pray all night for God to give success to their enterprises, but Christ is desired as their helper, not as their Lord. Human means are devised to achieve ends assumed to be divine. These harden into policy, and thereafter the Lord doesn't even have a vote.

In the conduct of our public worship where is the authority of Christ to be found? The truth is that today the Lord rarely controls a service, and the influence He exerts is very small. We sing of Him and preach about Him, but He must not interfere; we worship our way, and it must be right because we have always done it that way, as have the other churches in our group.

What Christian when faced with a moral problem goes straight to the Sermon on the Mount or other New Testament Scripture for the authoritative answer? Who lets the words of Christ be final on giving, birth control, the bringing up of a family, personal habits, tithing, entertainment, buying, selling and other such important matters?

What theological school, from the lowly Bible institute up, could continue to operate if it were to make Christ Lord of its every policy? There may be some, and I hope there are, but I believe I am right when I say that most such schools" to stay in business are forced to adopt procedures which find no justification in the Bible they profess to teach. So we have this strange anomaly: the authority of Christ is ignored in order to maintain a school to teach among other things the authority of Christ.

The causes back of the decline in our Lord's authority are many. I name only two. One is the power of custom, precedent and tradition within the older religious groups. These like gravitation affect every particle of religious practice within the group, exerting a steady and constant pressure in one direction. Of course that direction is toward conformity to the status quo. Not Christ but custom is lord in this situation. And the same thing has passed over (possibly to a slightly lesser degree) into the other groups such as the full gospel tabernacles, the holiness churches, the pentecostal and fundamental churches and the many independent and undenominational churches found everywhere throughout the North American continent.

The second cause is the revival of intellectualism among the evangelicals. This, if I sense the situation correctly, is not so much a thirst for learning as a desire for a reputation of being learned. Because of it good men who ought to know better are being put in the position of collaborating with the enemy. I'll explain.

Our evangelical faith (which I believe to be the true faith of Christ and His apostles) is being attacked these days from many different directions. In the Western world the enemy has forsworn violence. He comes against us no more with sword and fagot; he now comes smiling, bearing gifts. He raises his eyes to heaven and swears that he too believes in the faith of our fathers, but his real purpose is to destroy that faith, or at least to modify it to such an extent that it is no longer the supernatural thing it once was. He comes in the name of philosophy or psychology or anthropology, and with sweet reasonableness urges us to rethink our historic position, to be less rigid, more tolerant, more broadly understanding.

He speaks in the sacred jargon of the schools, and many of our half-educated evangelicals run to fawn on him. He tosses academic degrees to the scrambling sons of the prophets as Rockefeller used to toss dimes to the children of the peasants. The evangelicals who, with some justification, have been accused of lacking true scholarship, now grab for these status symbols with shining eyes, and when they get them they are scarcely able to believe their eyes. They walk about in a kind of ecstatic unbelief, much as the soloist of the neighborhood church choir might were she to be invited to sing at La Scala.

For the true Christian the one supreme test for the present soundness and ultimate worth of everything religious must be the place our Lord occupies in it. Is He Lord or symbol? Is He in charge of the project or merely one of the crew? Does He decide things or only help to carry out the plans of others? All religious activities, from the simplest act of an individual Christian to the ponderous and expensive operations of a whole denomination, may be proved by the answer to the question, Is Jesus Christ Lord in this act? Whether our works prove to be wood, hay and stubble or gold and silver and precious stones in that great day will depend upon the right answer to that question.

What, then, are we to do? Each one of us must decide, and there are at least three possible choices. One is to rise up in shocked indignation and accuse me of irresponsible reporting. Another is to nod general agreement with what is written here but take comfort in the fact that there are exceptions and we are among the exceptions. The other is to go down in meek humility and confess that we have grieved the Spirit and dishonored our Lord in failing to give Him the place His Father has given Him as Head and Lord of the Church.

Either the first or the second will but confirm the wrong. The third if carried out to its conclusion can remove the curse. The decision lies with us.

PS: Churches today would do well to heed his warning. May the Spirit of God search our hearts today.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Transcendental Argument For the Existence Of God


Introduction: The following scene relates a continuing discussion between a Christian math teacher and his student. The student had asked the teacher for evidence for the existence of God in the previous scene.

Act One, Scene 2

The teacher and student sat down with a cup of coffee.

Teacher (T): Have you thought about our previous discussion concerning the concept of numbers, and the logical conclusion that an immutable, eternal, and transcendent Mind exists?

Student (S): I think that’s an interesting argument you have there, but I am not really convinced that simply because the concept of numbers exists, and therefore, God exists. I can understand that such a Mind would explain the existence of the concept of numbers, but I would require a stronger argument than that to convince me.

T: I wouldn’t say that what I have to discuss with you today is a ‘stronger’ argument, but I guess most of my friends find it easier to understand. Besides, the gist of the argument is quite similar to the previous one.

S: Oh well, you can try me.

T: Right from the beginning of this discussion, I would like to emphasize that no amount of rationalizing and reasoning can make a person “Christian.” It literally takes a miracle from God to change that person’s mind concerning Him. Nevertheless, my objective in presenting such arguments for God’s existence is to show you the consistency or inconsistency of your worldview as compared to mine. For instance, there are several assumptions we usually take for granted in our day-to-day living. However, we do not really take the time to think things through, that is, to consider if those assumptions we make about life are consistent with our beliefs concerning God, eternity, time, and space.

S: Can you give me an example with regard to this alleged consistency or inconsistency?

T: Take for example, the existence of truth.

S: What do you mean by ‘the existence of truth?’

T: Do allow me to present my first point in this discussion: Truth exists. Your memory belief that you had eaten meatballs today at 1:22pm Singapore time at Parkway Parade’s Pastamania is considered as truth by you. If you really did eat meatballs today at 1:22pm Singapore time at Parkway Parade’s Pastamania, then that is the truth irrespective of what people thinks.

S: What if I didn’t eat meatballs, but burgers?

T: Then the proposition that P, that you had eaten meatballs today at 1:22pm Singapore time at Parkway Parade’s Pastamania, is false. But if you really did eat meatballs at that time and place, then P is the truth. Your memory furnishes you with the belief that P. If you are not cognitively disabled, or mad, or demented, or comatose, your memory should serve you well, and that P is the truth concerning what, when and where you ate today.

S: I am not really sure if Truth truly exists. I mean, in this day and age where post-modernism is the reigning philosophy, what is true for me may not be true for you.

T: Why don’t you elaborate a little on what you mean by this?

S: I am a college sophomore, and having read biology at an advance level, I sincerely believe that humans are the products of evolution from a monkey-like-ancestor. My grandmother does not believe that, but I do. So what is true for me is not true for her.

T: But what is the truth concerning the origin of Man? Either man came from monkeys, or they didn’t. If God created Man, then that is the truth. It does not matter what you believe, because what you believe does not change the truth.

S: I still think that there is no absolute truth.

T: Is that belief of yours absolutely true?

S: Yeah, I think so.

T: If you claim that absolute truth does not exist, then that is the truth for you. Ironically, any attempt by you to deny the truth would serve as an affirmation of my first point: truth exists. Truth truly exists, even if the only truth that exists is, “There is no absolute truth.”

S: OK, I get it. So truth exists. And I think it is true that I ate meatballs today at 1:22pm Singapore time at Parkway Parade’s Pastamania.

T: My next claim is that “Truth is immutable.” In other words, truth cannot change. If it is true that P, or that “you had eaten meatballs today at 1:22pm Singapore time at Parkway Parade’s Pastamania,” then that truth cannot be changed.

S: Are you trying to say that if something is true, then it is always true?

T: Yes. Truth is always the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

S: But the truth that “my dog is pregnant” cannot be always true.

T: So when was your dog pregnant?

S: My dog was pregnant last winter, and she had since given birth to three healthy pups.

T: So let us say that, “your dog gave birth on 25th December 2007, 1:22pm Singapore time to three healthy pups at your home.”

S: That is right.

T: So how is that not always true?

S: That seems to be true no matter when you look at it.

T: The problem with your previous proposition – “My dog is pregnant” – is that no specific timeframe was given. Obviously your dog cannot be pregnant all the time. But if you were to specify the time, date, and place, the event is specifically described. Such a proposition is true even if that event has not taken place, but is yet to take place. In other words, the truth is always true, and is eternally true. What is more, truth is eternal in nature.

S: Eternal truth? It makes sense that the truth is immutable or unchangeable, but to say that truth is eternal seems to be stretching it a little. What if the world ceases to exist?

T: Then is it true that, “The world ceases to exist on a certain date and time.” This truth would abide even if the world were to be destroyed.

S: And if the entire universe ceases to exist?

T: Then the truth would be, “The universe ceases to exist at this time and on this date.” This truth would be true even if the universe were destroyed.

S: But what if truth itself should perish?

T: Then you are saying, “Truth perishes on this date and time.” That would be the truth. Again, any denial of the eternity of truth turns out to be an affirmation of its eternity. To put it simply, truth is transcendent – truth is not dependent upon time, place or people.

S: Please explain the concept of transcendence further.

T: The proposition that P, that “you ate meatballs today at 1:22pm Singapore time at Parkway Parade’s Pastamania,” is true even if you were to travel a million light-years to another planet; it is true on that planet and on planet Earth. That P is also true even if you were to travel a million years, via a time machine, into the past or future. Furthermore, that P is true even if all the people in the universe were to deny its truth. And if all humans were to cease to exist, that P is also true. In other words, truth is not dependent upon the existence of people, and neither is it the product of any human minds. That is, even if all human minds were destroyed, truth still exists, and that P – which belongs to what is known as truth – is still true.

S: OK, I’m starting to grasp what “transcendent” means.

T: That is not all. Truth being transcendent also means that truth is not dependent upon the physical world or matter. Truth is not composed of atoms, electrons, neutrons or molecules. You cannot ‘capture’ truth with a document, and destroy it by burning up that document. You cannot isolate truth in a safe deposit box, or keep it stored away with an electronic storage method. The existence of truth is not dependent upon any form of physical existence. So, even if the physical universe were to be destroyed, truth will continue to exist.

S: I understand it now. Truth is eternal because it is transcendent in nature. It is beyond time, space, matter and people.

T: This brings me to my next point, which should be familiar to you from our previous discussion: Truth is mental. In other words, truth exists in the mind, and truth presupposes the existence of minds. I shall now show you how the existence of truth is incompatible with any materialistic view of Man. We have previously agreed that truth – take for example, the laws of logic – is not dependent upon the physical body or the brain. Some neurobiologists believe that thoughts are the products of random chemical reactions and biochemical phenomenon within the physical brain. But we know that random chemical reactions cannot be true or false; the laws of logic cannot be the product of biochemical reactions.

S: I am losing you here. Why can’t the laws of logic or for that matter, truth, be the product of biochemical reactions in the brain?

T: Do allow us to use a very simple example – mathematical logic. “1+1 = 2” is true not because certain biochemical reactions decide to make “1+1 = 2” true. Most 3 years old children putting two stones together would see that there are 2 stones, not 1 or 3 stones. Mathematical logic transcends human experiences and the physical world. If such logical laws of addition are due to random molecular bombardments or neurochemistry within the brain, then each brain can have its own random molecular changes and therefore, its own “laws” of addition. Some random molecular changes would perceive “1+1 = 3,” while others might even understand “1+1 = 100,000.” Physiological changes and random chemical reactions can be neither true nor false. One set of biochemical reactions cannot be truer than another.

S: So what is your point here?

T: My point is: a truth, a thought or a proposition can only be conceived by a mind. Truth is not physical; it is not composed of atoms and molecules. Truth is mental or conceptual in nature. Truth exists in a mind or minds. Therefore, if there is no mind, there can be no truth. But we have seen that truth exists. Hence, materialism cannot be true.

S: OK, so your point is “truth exists in a mind.” I can buy that.

T: Thus far, we have argued that truth is immutable, eternal, transcendent, and mental. Furthermore, truth is superior to the human mind. Truth by its very nature cannot be subjective and individualistic. Again, let us take for example, mathematical logic. The laws of logic judge our reasoning, and not vice versa. Even though beliefs vary from one person to another, truth itself cannot change. The laws of logic cannot change. The truth of the proposition that P, that “you ate meatballs today at 1:22pm Singapore time at Parkway Parade’s Pastamania,” cannot change. We do not judge the truth, but truth judges our reasoning and beliefs.

S: But since you argued that truth is immutable, eternal, and transcendent in nature, how can truth exist in human minds since the human mind is finite, mutable, and prone to error?

T: It is true that truth must exist in a mind, but it must also exist within an immutable, eternal, and transcendent mind since truth is itself immutable, eternal, and transcendent.

S: Are you telling me that this Mind is God?

T: It follows that, since only God has these attributes of immutability, eternality, and transcendence, this Mind is the Mind of God. As Christian Apologist Dr Gordon Clark has said,

“Is all this any more than the assertion that there is an eternal, immutable Mind, as Supreme Reason, a personal, living God? The truths or propositions that may be known are the thoughts of God, the eternal thoughts of God. And insofar as man knows anything he is in contact with God’s mind. Since further, God’s mind is God, we may … say, we have a vision of God.” [Gordon Clark, A Christian View of Men and Things (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952), 321.]

End of Scene 2

Reference:

Adapted from Gordon Clark’s transcendental argument in A Christian View of Men and Things (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952), 318ff.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Religious Harmony With Religious Diversity Is A Possibility - Another Reply To Yap Kim Hao


I submitted this letter to the Straits Times Forum Editor today, but I guess they wouldn't publish it. Yap Kim Hao's interfaith agenda is too important for them.


Religious Harmony With Religious Diversity Is A Possibility


I refer to Dr Yap Kim Hao’s Straits Times Forum letter dated 6 September 2008, “Issue of inter-faith talks must be addressed.”

While I agree with Dr Yap that the various religious groups in Singapore should promote religious harmony in our multi-religious society, there are a number of points in his letter that I would like to highlight.
In his letter, Dr Yap states that, “there is no one Absolute Truth. No one Sacred Text contains all the truths. No one religion has the monopoly of Truth.” In addition, he emphasizes that “there will be different roads to God,” and that “we have to lay aside our exclusive truth claims and admit we do not possess all the truth.”
If Dr Yap is so certain that “there is no one Absolute Truth,” my question would be, “Is his belief - that there is “no one Absolute Truth” - absolutely true?”
Is it, then, the “Absolute Truth” that “there will be different roads to God?” Should Dr Yap likewise “lay aside [his] exclusive truth claims and admit [that he does] not possess all the truth?” If Dr Yap does not possess “all the truth,” and if “there is no one Absolute Truth,” why is Dr Yap making the exclusive truth claim that “there will be different roads to God?” How is Dr Yap so absolutely sure about this claim of his?
If Dr Yap is right that “no one religion has the monopoly of Truth,” and that “there is no one Absolute Truth,” then he should realize that whatever religious beliefs he has cannot be the “Absolute Truth.” Surely Dr Yap is not claiming that he has “the monopoly on Truth.”
The key to religious harmony within a multi-religious context is not to deny these religious groups the right to hold differing, albeit exclusive, truth claims. Harmony between two groups of people with different beliefs can be achieved with mutual understanding, empathy, and common goals. For example, two nations with differing political ideologies and economic agenda can live in harmony without giving up any of their distinctiveness or exclusive beliefs.
In contrast, the demand for religions to forsake their exclusive truth claims could be perceived as an attempt to undermine their faith. This might result in unnecessary religious tensions, and widen the gap between liberal and conservative religionists in Singapore.
While interfaith dialogues might lead to better understanding between the various religious groups, there is no necessity for these religions to forsake their exclusive beliefs in order to achieve societal harmony. As long as Singaporeans are willing to set aside their differences to build a harmonious and cohesive society, Singapore will continue to be a peaceful and prosperous country.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Can Mere Numbers Prove The Existence Of God?


Introduction: The following scene relates a discussion between a Christian math teacher and his student. The student had asked the teacher for evidence for the existence of God. The teacher, being a dutiful Christian and a budding apologist, decides to explain the concept of “numbers” to the student.


Act One, Scene 1

The teacher wrote the number 1 on the white board.

Teacher (T): What is the number I have just written on the board?

Student (S): Eh, I don’t really know what you are driving at, but I guess it is obvious even to my pet parrot that this is the number 1.

T: Are you sure that this is the number 1?

S: Why? Yes, I’m dead sure.

T: So if I rub away the number 1 from this board, the number 1 has ceased to exist?

S: I don’t understand you there.

T: You claimed that this is the number 1. So, if I were to use the cleaner and rub away this number 1, does the number 1 cease to exist?

S: Eh, no.

T: So this is not the number 1?

S: Eh, no. But I don’t know how to put it across to you.

T: You see, what is on the board is not the number 1. It is merely a reference to the number 1.

S: You mean that what you wrote on the board merely represents the number 1?

T: Yes. The number 1 is a concept, an abstract idea to be exact. Numbers cannot exist in the material or naturalistic plane of existence.

S: So where do numbers exist?

T: Isn’t it strange that many mathematicians never ask this question, “What really are numbers?” You see, numbers are ideas or concepts, and ideas or concepts can only exist in minds.

S: I am beginning to understand what you are driving at. You are telling me that numbers can exist in minds, and I presume “minds” include the minds of men or human beings.

T: That is correct. Numbers can be conceived by the minds of men, but not only by the minds of men. If there are other intelligent beings with minds, numbers can likewise exist or be conceived by such other minds.

S: Alright. So numbers are ideas, and they can only exist in minds. So where is the evidence for God?

T: Be patient, my friend. Numbers are not only ideas or concepts, but are also immutable ideas/concepts.

S: Immutable as in unchangeable? Why so?

T: Take the number 1 as an example. If number 1 changes in any manner i.e. quantitatively, it ceases to be 1. The concept of number 1 has to be absolutely unchanging, and what references to the number 1 we use in math (e.g. the number 1 we write on paper or key into the calculator) has to refer to the perfect form of the number 1. The number 1 we write, which represents the concept of the number 1, cannot be referring to any other number other than 1. If the concept of 1 changes, then it is impossible to do math. In such cases, 1 might become 2, and 2 becomes 3, and so on.

S: So I accept that numbers are immutable concepts.

T: Furthermore, numbers are also eternal concepts.

S: This is difficult for me to grasp.

T: Let us imagine the very first man who used the number 1. Let us call him Dumbo. Dumbo was the very first man who wrote the number 1 onto the walls of caves. In fact, he did that to count the number of animals he had hunted thus far. Each time he killed an animal on a hunt, he went home and wrote a “1” on the wall. He didn’t know the numerical representation of the numbers 2, 3, or even 4, but he did know how to write 1. He added the “1”s up using mental arithmetic. Obviously, the concepts or ideas of numbers 2, 3, or even 4 were known to him. If not, he wouldn’t be able to add the “1”s up.

S: So how does that explain to me that numbers are eternal concepts?

T: If Dumbo was the first man who used the number 1, does that mean that the concept or idea of 1 didn’t exist prior to the existence of Dumbo?

S: Obviously not. The concept of the number 1 seems to exist apart from the mind of Dumbo.

T: You’re right. Although the number 1 as a concept did exist in Dumbo’s mind even as he used the number 1 to calculate his kills, the number 1 was not restricted to Dumbo’s mind. Even if Dumbo’s mind was destroyed - say, eaten by a Tyrannosaurus Rex - the number 1 will continue to exist. In other words, the number 1 is a transcendent concept or idea. It exists not only outside of Dumbo’s mind, but also outside of this physical world (matter), and beyond space-time.

S: So number 1 existed prior to Dumbo?

T: Not only that. The number 1 exists outside of this world and prior to the existence of any mind in this world. More correctly, the concept of numbers exists outside of the space-time continuum.

S: So how do we know if the number 1 exists outside of this world? How do we know if the number 1 exists outside of this space-time continuum?

T: Well, if you were to destroy all minds (or all humans with minds) in this world, would the concept of number 1 continue to exist?

S: Eh, intuitively yes.

T: And if this world and this universe (or all matter) were to be destroyed, would the concept of number 1 continue to exist?

S: I believe so.

T: Or if space and time were to end now, would the concept of number 1 continue to exist?

S: Again, intuitively yes. Obviously the Big Bang didn’t “create” the concept of numbers. It seems reasonable to say that the concept of numbers existed prior to the beginning of space and time.

T: If the concept of numbers ceases to exist, mathematical logic such as "1+1 = 2" will also cease to exist.

S: Sounds reasonable to me.

T: We also recall that numbers are concepts or ideas, and can only exist in minds.

S: So if all the minds in this world are destroyed, how can the number 1 continue to exist?

T: As I had explained to you, numbers are immutable, eternal concepts that exist outside of and beyond this world, prior to the existence of minds in this world. Intuitively, you have agreed that even if all minds were to be destroyed in this world, the concept of numbers (e.g. 1, 2, 3 etc) will continue to exist, and that the concept of numbers only exists within a mind.

S: Yes, I think that even if all minds in this world were to be destroyed, the concept of numbers should continue to exist, just as math (e.g. "1+1=2") will continue to exist. But how is that possible; in what mind does the concept of numbers continue to exist?

T: If numbers are immutable, eternal concepts that exist outside of and beyond this world, and if numbers only exist in minds, it follows that numbers exist in an immutable, eternal mind that is outside of and beyond this world i.e. a transcendent mind.

S: So what is this immutable, eternal, and transcendent mind?

T: I submit to you that this is the Mind of God, an immutable, eternal mind that exists outside of and beyond this world. And numbers are concepts or ideas that exist in this Mind of God. This philosophical explanation makes the most sense when explaining the concept of numbers.

S: This is a difficult thing to grasp, but let me think about it, and I’ll get back to you tomorrow.

T: Well, if you can come up with a better explanation for the concept of numbers, do let me know. At least I have given you evidence for the existence of God - an immutable, eternal, and transcendent Being. Without the existence of this immutable, eternal, and transcendent Mind of God, one cannot explain the existence of such numerical concepts in Mathematics.
End of Scene 1

Note:

Definition of “Transcendent”: A transcendent concept or idea is not dependent upon space, time, people, or matter. For example, the concept of numbers is outside of and beyond the world, of or relating to a spiritual or nonphysical realm.
This post is also posted on another blog.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Problems of Functional Definitions for Personhood


An Introduction to Personhood

A myriad of ethical problems is contingent upon the definition or understanding of what constitutes a person. From an embryological or biological point of view, there is no doubt that human life begins at conception.(1) However, following the footsteps of John Locke, some ethicists make a distinction between a human being and a human person. (2) According to Locke, “person” and “human” are distinct categories. That is, not all humans are persons, and perhaps not all persons are human. Locke defined a person as, “A thinking intelligent being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself, the same thinking thing, in different times and places.” It seems that Locke is furnishing us with a functional definition of personhood, which describes a person as one who is capable of rationality and self-consciousness.

Similar functional definitions of personhood are likewise described by contemporary ethicists and moral philosophers. Some had argued that the early detection of fetal brain waves is the key to defining the beginning of personhood, which is positioned roughly at 40 to 43 days gestation. (3) Still others define a person as a being who can engage in cognitive acts such as sophisticated communication, consciousness, reasoning or the ability to solve complex problems, self-motivated activity, and having a self-concept plus self-awareness. (4) Apparently, this would place the unborn child outside the class of persons, and would even justify infanticide. L. W. Sumner, however, argues that the fetus is not a person until it is sentient and possesses the ability to feel and sense as a conscious being. This generally occurs during the middle of the second trimester of pregnancy, and undeniably by the end of that trimester. (5)

While the criteria for personhood varies from ethicist to ethicist, functional definitions for personhood share a common denominator: each definition states that if and only if an organism functions in a particular manner as defined by the criterion of personhood, we are otherwise not warranted to call that organism a person. In other words, unless the fetus (be it born or unborn) acquires a set of functions - be it sentience, consciousness or brain waves - it is not entitled to be called a person. These ethicists do not deny that fetuses or embryos are alive and are human beings, but they reject the claim that fetuses or embryos are persons according to some arbitrary criteria.Thus, fetuses and embryos are denied moral status.

Some Problems of Functional Definitions for Personhood

Let us arbitrarily take a personhood criterion for the purpose of our discussion here. For example, Mary Anne Warren defines a person as a being who can engage in cognitive acts such as sophisticated communication, consciousness, solving complex problems or the ability to reason, self-motivated activity, and having a self-concept. (6)

In her essay, Warren does not argue that each of her five conditions is individually sufficient for personhood. (7) She thinks that some of them may be, and that the conjunction of these three - consciousness, reasoning, and self-motivated activity - is probably sufficient for personhood. In other words, it is probably true that if a being is conscious, able to reason, and engages in self-motivated activity, then that being is a person. The fulfillment of all three of these conditions is sufficient for being a person.

It must be noted that Warren does not maintain that any of her five conditions is individually necessary. (8) But she does insist that the disjunction of the five conditions is necessary; that is, a necessary condition for personhood is that something satisfy at least one of these five conditions. She argues that if none of these five conditions is true of something, then that being is not a person. This criterion is controversial at best, as we would discover below.

For the sake of our discussion, we would look at Warren’s criterion logically, albeit simplistically. Putting her criterion into a conditional statement, we have:

If A then B.

Where A = “A being can engage in cognitive acts such as sophisticated communication, consciousness, solving complex problems, self-motivated activity and having a self-concept,” and;

B = “It is a person.”

Therefore, according to Warren, if “a being can engage in cognitive acts such as sophisticated communication, consciousness, solving complex problems, self-motivated activity and having a self-concept,” then it is “a person” (also known as modus ponens). Here, we give Warren the benefit of doubt that her criterion in modus ponens is valid.

Perhaps Warren is saying that A is a sufficient condition for B. But this does not mean that A is a necessary condition for B. Although it is considered a given (for the sake of argument) that certain “cognitive acts” are sufficient to define a person, it does not follow that those “cognitive acts” are necessary conditions for personhood. Furthermore, they might be other criteria that suffice as conditions for personhood without even resorting to the identification of cognitive abilities.

In other words, “cognitive acts” might constitute a part of a set of conditions that are (jointly) sufficient without being individually necessary for personhood. In view of this distinction between sufficient and necessary conditions, “if not A, then not B” is a logical fallacy (called denying the antecedent). It does not mean that, if “a being cannot engage in cognitive acts such as sophisticated communication, consciousness, solving complex problems, self-motivated activity and having a self-concept,” then it is “not a person.” There might be another criterion that qualifies the being as a person even though it cannot perform cognitive acts. My Uncle Sam might be sleeping (or even comatose) and cannot, in that particular state, perform cognitive acts. It does not follow that he is consequently not a person.

This fallacy must be further differentiated from its valid counterpart, modus tollens:

“Not B, therefore not A,” i.e. it is “not a person,” therefore, it “cannot engage in cognitive acts such as sophisticated communication, consciousness, solving complex problems, self-motivated activity and having a self-concept” is valid logically. For example, the table is not a person, therefore, it “cannot engage in cognitive acts such as sophisticated communication, consciousness, solving complex problems, self-motivated activity and having a self-concept.”

Another common fallacy we encounter in bioethics debates is the converse error:

If A, then B.

B,

Therefore A.

To put it within the context of Warren’s criterion for personhood, it is not true that:

“It is a person,” therefore, “it can engage in cognitive acts such as sophisticated communication, consciousness, solving complex problems, self-motivated activity and having a self-concept.”

As hinted before, my Uncle Sam (who is arguably a person) could have been hit on the head with a baseball bat by a vicious burglar, and for a period of two weeks lost consciousness and all cognitive abilities. Intuitively, he did not cease to be a person when he was comatose. Eventually, he woke up fully functional, and gleefully free from any cognitive disabilities. Intelligibly, we ought to think that Uncle Sam was the same Uncle Sam before and after the period of coma. If this is what we think, than we should assume that Uncle Sam continued to exist as a person even during his period of coma. If we deny this, then Uncle Sam would have ceased to exist as a person upon going into a coma, and a new person (who looked, sounded, felt, and smelt like Uncle Sam) had popped into existence upon his recovery. Obviously, the latter thesis is quite absurd. If Uncle Sam have existed prior to, during, and after his coma, then his personhood (and his existence as a person) is not dependent upon his ability to perform those cognitive abilities stated by Warren. But if one were to adhere to Warren’s criterion of personhood, then it would be difficult to see why it would be wrong for physicians to kill Uncle Sam while he is in a coma.

Now let us take this example a little further. Suppose we argue that Uncle Sam’s life is valuable because he functioned as a person prior to his coma, and he most probably will continue to do so after his recovery from his comatose state (c.f. a fetus who has never been cognitively-abled). But what if Uncle Sam wakes up from the coma with severe disabilities e.g. losing all his past memories, language skills, and rational thought? In this case, he might never recover his cognitive abilities, although it might be possible that he recovers them eventually. The point is: in his comatose state, Uncle Sam is like a fetus in his mother’s womb - devoid of any past memories and cognitive abilities as defined by Warren, while retaining a potential to develop these functions upon recovery. Would it then be justified to kill Uncle Sam?

Or suppose Uncle Sam had a his twin brother, Ham. Sam was born, attained full self-consciousness, but subsequently lapsed into a coma; he recovered ten years later. Ham, however, never attained self-consciousness; he lapsed into a coma, and recovered at the same time as Sam did. Using the functional definitions of personhood, Sam was a person before he became comatose, whereas Ham was not. Sam had at one time achieved personhood (according to functional definitions), but his twin brother did not. Would it then be permissible to kill Ham but not Sam while they were both in a comatose state?

Ontological and Logical Problems

The aforementioned examples only serve to emphasize the fact that functional definitions do not even begin to elucidate the depth and breadth of the sufficient and/or necessary conditions for personhood. They fail to capture the full meaning and true essence of a person who deserves moral status and protection from harm.

The problems with the methodology of using functional definitions for personhood are both ontological and logical in nature.

1) Ontological Problems

Intuitively, the functions of a human being do not make him a person; a human person does not come into existence simply because certain functions are being demonstrated or attained. Rather, he is a person, and therefore, he exhibits certain functions. More specifically, it seems correct to think that it is the being of a person (or him being a person), and not his or her functions, that confers moral status.

Every living organism or substance has a nature (essence) that enables the organism to attain certain functions or abilities in the future. It is the nature or essence of the human being that makes certain functions or abilities possible. According to Moreland, “A substance’s inner nature is its ordered structural unity of ultimate capacities. A substance cannot change in its ultimate capacities; that is, it cannot lose its ultimate nature and continue to exist.” (9) Take for example the tiger cub. Because of the tiger nature or essence present in the tiger cub, it has the capacity to develop the abilities of hunting and roaring. The baby tiger might die before full maturity, and might never acquire the ability to hunt or roar, but it is still a tiger. On the other hand, we do not say that a chipmunk lacks something if it cannot roar like the tiger, for the chipmunk nature in it does not anticipate the development of such an ability. Nevertheless a tiger that cannot roar, perhaps due to some laryngeal pathology, is still a tiger because of its nature or essence.

Likewise, we can envisage a human person who lacks much cognitive abilities. A paranoid schizophrenic called Adam Hitler might have lost all sense of reality. He lacks all sense of social inhibitions (like controlling his carnal urges), is not aware of self, is unable to communicate, is not able to make rational decisions or any form of reasoning, and is rambling unintelligibly day in and day out. He develops hyperpyrexia and goes to bed after taking some paracetamol - presumably fed to him by his cognitively-abled mother. This places him within the category of being “unconscious.” According to Warren’s criterion of personhood, Adam Hitler is not a person. Does that mean that he has no moral status, and is therefore not entitled to the rights of personhood? Would it then be justified for the mother to kill Adam Hitler, as he is not a person by definition, and would his mother be not guilty of homicide if she were to kill him? Intuitively, killing Adam - before, during or after the period of his high fever - is to be regarded as homicide. Adam deserves moral status, not because of his abilities or disabilities, but by virtue of his being.

Let us take this example a little further. What if there is a robot that qualifies for personhood according to some functional definitions? Perhaps passing the Turing Test would be considered a sufficient, though not a necessary, condition for “personhood.” If so, then it would be morally right to kill a comatose human or an Adam Hitler, while it would be morally wrong to destroy a robot which passes the test.

A human being deserves moral status; a human being has a human nature that allows him to have the “ultimate capacities” of a human person. You were once a zygote, then a fetus, then a neonate, then an infant, a toddler, a teenager, and eventually an adult. It is obvious that you have changed physically, mentally, and psychologically. But it is still you - whoever you are and whatever your identity - who have changed; you have remained you throughout all these years of development. If you have moral status now, yesterday, and the day before, it seems extremely arbitrary and unreasonable to say that the same you have no moral status as a fetus or as a zygote some years ago.

2) Logical Problems

Furthermore, those who deny moral status to certain human beings by saying that these humans do not qualify as persons according to some arbitrary criteria of personhood, however well argued, seem to be committing the fallacy of reification. In reality, the concept of personhood is an artificial category or idea in the mind, and it obviously does not have the metaphysical property of existence in nature. There is no single occasion in time where the fetus or conceptus becomes a person. Such a moment cannot be pinpointed or observed because the event does not literally happen. I would even argue that there seems to be no valid distinction between the terms “human being” and “human person,” and such a distinction is apparently arbitrary and unnecessary.

Finally, from our discussion thus far, functional definitions (and cognitive theories) do not justify the apparent distinction between a “human being” and a “human person.” Beauchamp has aptly perceived that, “Cognitive theories all fail to capture the depth of commitments embedded in using the language of "person." It is more assumed than demonstrated in these theories that nonhuman animals lack a relevant form of self-consciousness or its functional equivalent. Although nonhuman animals are not plausible candidates for moral personhood, humans too fail to qualify as moral persons if they lack one or more of the conditions of moral personhood. If moral personhood were the sole basis of moral rights, then these humans would lack rights - and precisely for the reasons that nonhuman animals would.” (10)

References

1. See my previous post.
2. John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, ed. R. Woolhouse (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1997), II. xxvii.
3. See Baruch Brody, Abortion and the Sanctity of Human Life: A Philosophical View (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1975).
4. See Mary Anne Warren, "On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion," in Do the Right Thing: A Philosophical Dialogue on the Moral and Social Issues of Our Time, ed. Francis J. Beckwith (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1996), 171-175.
5. See L. W. Sumner, Abortion and Moral Theory (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981).
6. Warren, “On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion,” 171-175.
7. Definition of sufficient: A condition A is said to be sufficient for a condition B, if (and only if) the truth (/existence /occurrence) [as the case may be] of A guarantees (or brings about) the truth (/existence /occurrence) of B.
8. Definition of necessary: A condition A is said to be necessary for a condition B, if (and only if) the falsity (/nonexistence /non-occurrence) [as the case may be] of A guarantees (or brings about) the falsity (/nonexistence /non-occurrence) of B.
9. J.P. Moreland, “Humanness, Personhood, and the Right to Die,” Faith and Philosophy 12.1 (1995): 101.
10. Tom L. Beauchamp, “The Failure of Theories of Personhood,” Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 9, Number 4 (December 1999): 309-324.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Based upon the Sciences of Embryology and Cell Biology, Human Life does Begin at Conception


It is an established fact in cell biology that living organisms perform vital biological functions such as nutrition, transport, respiration, synthesis, assimilation, growth, excretion, regulation, reproduction, and metabolism. Incontrovertibly, the human embryo performs similar life functions which are analogous to that of humans in later developmental stages, and should be regarded as a living organism. More precisely, the human embryo is not only a living organism, but also the earliest developmental form of a unique human being. As the late Professor Hymie Gordon of Mayo Clinic has aptly commented, “By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception.” (1)

Furthermore, medical students are taught in embryology that life beings at conception, that is, the time when the female oocyte is fertilized by the male sperm. A non-exhaustive perusal of contemporary embryology textbooks would shed more light in this matter.

Bruce Carlson, the Professor Emeritus of Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of Michigan, explains, “Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote) ... The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual.” (2) Likewise, Sadler believes that the developmental human begins with fertilization, “The development of a human begins with fertilization, a process by which the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote.” (3)

Concerning the embryo as an unique individual, embryologists Moore and Persuad emphasize, “Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm ... unites with a female gamete or oocyte ... to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” (4) In another textbook, the same authors describe the zygote as the beginning of a human being, “This cell, formed by the union of an ovum and a sperm (Gr. zyg tos, yoked together), represents the beginning of a human being. The common expression 'fertilized ovum' refers to the zygote.” (5)

Finally, we read from O'Rahilly and Müller’s textbook that a distinct human is formed at conception, "Although life is a continuous process, fertilization (which, incidentally, is not a 'moment') is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte." (6)

From the aforementioned examples, it is therefore apparent that embryologists are in general agreement that human life begins at conception, and not after an arbitrary period following fertilization.

In an attempt to minimize the personhood of the early embryo, the term “pre-embryo” was coined in 1979 by the frog embryologist Clifford Grobstein. This term has not only been unanimously rejected by Clinical Embryologists, but also dismissed by the Nomenclature Committee of the American Association of Anatomists for inclusion in the official lexicon of Anatomical Terminology, Terminologia Embryologica. All scientific evidence point to the presence of a living, unique person at the moment of conception. In fact, this developmental individual exhibits a cline or continuum of human development which continues throughout life until death. (7)

Consequently, it is of no surprise that the late Dr. Jerome LeJune, Professor of Genetics at the University of Descartes in Paris, testified to a US judicial subcommittee in 1981 that, “After fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being. It is no longer a matter of taste or opinion, and not a metaphysical contention; it is plain experimental evidence." (8)

The conviction that human life begins at conception is therefore a scientific, rather than a religious, belief. The Hippocratic Oath (470-360 B.C.), in its explicit respect for the sanctity of human life, is consistent with the findings of contemporary embryology when it states, “I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. With purity and holiness I will pass my life and practise my art.” Correspondingly, the Declaration of Geneva (1948) Physician's Oath of the World Medical Association expresses a similar reverence for human life at conception, “I will maintain the utmost respect for human life, from the time of its conception, even under threat. I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity.”

Since current embryological evidence points to the conceptus as a distinct, albeit developing, human being, it seems that the moral quandary in the current abortion debate is ultimately this, “Should the law continue to sanction the abortion of a preborn child, which is unequivocally recognized by embryologists as human life, so as to improve the convenience, financial status, and perhaps the overall wellness of the woman based upon her choice?”

In view of the biological and embryological evidence that the early embryo is actual human life, I beseech Parliament to take this fact into account when the abortion law is eventually reviewed.

References:

1. Report, Subcommittee on Separation of Powers to Sen, Judiciary Committee S-158, 97th Congress, 1st Session 1981.
2. Bruce M. Carlson, Patten's Foundations of Embryology, 6th edition (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996), 3.
3. T. W. Sadler, Langman's Medical Embryology, 7th edition (Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins 1995), 3.
4. Keith L. Moore and T. V. N. Persaud, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 6th edition (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1998), 18.
5. Keith L. Moore and T. V. N. Persaud, Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology and Birth Defects, 4th edition (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1993), 1.
6. Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Müller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd edition (New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001), 8.
7. See Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Müller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd edition (New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001), p. 88 for embryological reasons for rejecting the terminology “pre-embryo.”
8. Report, Subcommittee on Separation of Powers to Sen, Judiciary Committee S-158, 97th Congress, 1st Session 1981.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Banning Abortion Will Create More Problems? A Brief Logical Analysis.

The following is an informal reply to Dr Phua Dong Haur’s letter in Straits Times forum, “Banning abortion will create more problems (Aug 1).” The original writings of Dr Phua is in italics.

I REFER to Ms Tan Seow Hon's comments in 'Time for Singapore to relook abortion law' (July 24).

I refer to Dr Phua Dong Haur’s letter, “Banning abortion will create more problems (Aug 1).”

Although it is true that some legislation should be examined periodically to assess its current relevance, Ms Tan's arguments as to why we should relook the abortion law is one sided.

Fallacy of poisoning the well. You should show how her argument is “one-sided.” Disagreeing with your point of view does not imply that she is being “one-sided.” Isn’t your emphasis on the mother’s choice (i.e. pro-choice or pro-termination) extremely parochial and one-sided as well? (And the one-sidedness of which I will show in the following paragraphs).

She acknowledged that backstreet abortions are dangerous but stated that this reason does not justify legalising abortion. I would like to point out that the danger of backstreet abortion is one of the central issues in legalising abortion.

The key issue here is whether non-therapeutic abortion “simpliciter” is morally/ethically right or wrong. If non-therapeutic abortion is morally wrong, then both backstreet and “legalized” abortions for non-lifesaving reasons are wrong. This is the key issue which you should address first. Avoiding the relevant ethics of abortion only makes one’s arguments (if any) appear fatuous and misinformed.

Likewise, the danger or existence of backstreet euthanasia doesn’t make euthanasia morally right, right? Do we legalize euthanasia simply because they are patients doing it illegally (and of course, with the adherent or accompanying risks of therapeutic failure and complications)?

Dear Dr Phua, the fallacy you have committed is called the ignoratio elenchi. Your argument (thus far) does not even begin to address the central ethical issue of abortion; you have merely argued for its utilitarian value for the mother alone.

Backstreet abortions are done using dangerous techniques or oral ingestion, and they often result in injuries or death to the woman. If medically supervised abortions are banned or made difficult to access, women who want or need an abortion and are unable to travel overseas to do it, will inadvertently turn to backstreet abortions. The result will be tragic.

Your argument fails even the most simplistic of informal logic; therefore, I will not take the time here to discuss utilitarianism with you.

Your syllogism is as follow:

Form of your argument - If A, Then B.

“If medically supervised abortions are banned or made difficult to access (A), then women will inadvertently turn to backstreet abortions (B).” (If A, then B).

Valid forms include – A, therefore B.

It, however, does not follow that - not A, therefore, not B (a logical fallacy called “denying the antecedent”). That is, it does not follow that the following statement is logically true:

“If medically supervised abortions are not banned or made difficult to access (not A), then women will inadvertently not turn to backstreet abortions (not B).”

While there is evidence to suggest that life begins at conception, and various major religions hold similar views, we cannot justify endangering the life of a woman by forcing her to seek backstreet abortions, just to protect the life of the foetus. Similarly, the life of the foetus needs to be protected.

So is it justified that we deny the “right to life” to a child in order to satisfy the whims of the mother? Your statement begs the question, “Why does the mother want an abortion in the first place? Is the requirement therapeutic in nature i.e. to save the mother’s life” She would not be endangered in any way if she chooses not to have an abortion for whimsical reasons. Also, is non-therapeutic abortion ethical for any reason at all?

What so perplexes me is your apparent duplicity in arguing for the denial of the “right to life” of the child, and in the same breath, claimed that “the life of the fetus needs to be protected.” How so? By dismembering the child via abortive techniques? Indeed, the child needs to be protected from paralogisms originating from illogical minds.

Hence, I would argue that the decision to go for an abortion or not, should be left to the woman and the woman alone. This is because she is the one who has to bear the emotional and physical burden, and responsibility of either the pregnancy or abortion. It is not anyone else's place to decide for her, as long as she is mentally competent to make such a decision.

A non sequitur. If an action is inherently unethical or immoral, then society has the right to administer judgment and the necessary legislation. The autonomy of an individual cannot be divorced from societal considerations.

The “right to life” of a child (or any patient) must always be considered in such ethical debates. In the same vein, the “mental competence” reasoning can be used to justify all forms of voluntary euthanasia – it is, after all, the dying/suffering patient who has to bear the main “emotional and physical burden” of the illness/sufferings.

Autonomy must be subjected to and balanced with the other guiding principles of medical ethics - justice, beneficence and non-maleficence. And one of the responsibilities of being a doctor is to save life, not destroy it. This is basic “non-maleficence” as stated in the Hippocratic Oath, “I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone. To please no one will I prescribe a deadly drug nor give advice which may cause his death. Nor will I give a woman a pessary to procure abortion.” I guess the Oath is now only repeated as a lip-service to your alma mater. Besides, most abortions are not performed to save a patient’s life.

In the case of therapeutic abortions, most cases of eclampsia/pre-eclampsia and other life-threatening obstetric conditions occur after 20 weeks of gestation, and medical technology today can maintain the life of most 20 plus weeks old children till maturity. Thus, abortion (i.e. to kill the child) even for most life-threatening obstetric conditions is unnecessary.

The rational approach to the dilemma of abortion is not to disallow women to make their own choice, but to educate the public on proper methods of birth control, and alternative avenues other than abortion in an unwanted pregnancy, for example, adoption.

But what if that choice is unethical and causes harm to the unborn child? Furthermore, two wrongs do not make a right. The failure to practice birth control and the consequential unwanted pregnancy does not make abortion (or more precisely, the killing of the unborn child) morally right. We shouldn’t be correcting a “mistake” (i.e. the unwanted pregnancy) with another “mistake” – that of taking the life of the unborn child.

The approach to reducing abortion rates is in education and not legislation.

A false dilemma. The approach to reducing abortion rates is in education AND legislation (and many other means).

Finally, I would like to add that relooking the abortion law is not the method we should adopt to increase the birth rate. The idea is to make people want to have more children and enjoy having more children.

How does the legalization of abortion enable people to desire or enjoy having more children? Have I misunderstood the fact that it is exactly because such people do not desire or enjoy having that child that they chose to abort him or her (at least in most cases today)?

Making abortion illegal or difficult to access certainly does not increase the desire or enjoyment of having more children.

As an analogy, do you mean that making euthanasia illegal likewise does not increase the desire or enjoyment of taking care of our incapacitated parents? Should we therefore legalize euthanasia such that, whenever the care of our severely handicapped parents becomes an overwhelming burden or torment to our physical or mental health, we can have the option to “abort” them? And this (i.e. legalization of euthanasia) is alleged to increase the desire and enjoyment of taking care of our incapacitated parents?

What about the “right to life” of every human being which you have so conveniently ignored in this discussion?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Non-Existent Objects and Russell’s Theory of Description


Certain philosophers (e.g. Colin McGinn) defend the view that there are non-existent objects. McGinn follows Austrian philosopher, Alexius Meinong, who espoused the doctrine of the non-existent. Beginning with the philosophy of mind, particularly with Brentano’s thesis of intentionality, Meinong worked towards a theory of objects that embraces possible objects (e.g. the golden unicorn), impossible objects (e.g. the round square), and incomplete objects (e.g. something tall). Meinong argued that any subject of a true predicate is an object. So, for Meinong, “the round square is square” is true and meaningful, so there is a round square. These objects, including the round square, are mind-independent, yet are all potential objects of thought.

From the mere fact that a subject term is meaningful, and is featured in true, meaningful sentences, it does not follow that it refers to something. Russell writes:

“It is argued, e.g., by Meinong, that we can speak about ‘the golden mountain’, ‘the round square’, and so on; we can make true propositions of which these are the subjects; hence they must have some kind of logical being, since otherwise the propositions in which they occur would be meaningless. In such theories, it seems to me, there is a failure of that feeling for reality which ought to be preserved even in the most abstract studies. Logic, I should maintain, must no more admit a unicorn than zoology can; for logic is concerned with the real world just as truly as zoology, though with its more abstract and general features. To say that unicorns have an existence in heraldry, or in literature, or in imagination, is a most pitiful and paltry evasion.” Bertrand Russell, “Descriptions” in Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1961), 169.

Thus, Russell rejects the view that meaning is reference. For Russell, there is a restricted range of genuine singular terms which serves as referring terms (e.g. the first person pronoun “I”). The meaningful use of these terms, also known as logical proper names, guarantees that they have reference. According to Russell, other grammatical subject terms such as ordinary proper names and definite descriptions, are impostors.

Take for example the definite description (i.e. phrases of the form “the so-and-so”):

(1) The average 18th month old child speaks 10 words.

Grammatically, this is a subject-predicate (of the form “Fa,” where “a” is the subject term and “F” the predicate). Nevertheless, the subject term “the average 18th month old child” is a dummy singular term. That is, its function is not to refer to a particular 18th month old child who speaks exactly 10 words. Here, it is apparent that the grammatical structure and logical structure come apart.

The logical structure of (1) is elucidated by:

(2) The number of words spoken by 18th month old children divided by the number of 18th month old children = 10

Thus, the logical structure of (1) is of the form “a/b = c,” and not “Fa.” (1) is just a simpler and shorter way of expressing (2). The “average 18th month old child,” although grammatically a subject term, is not a genuine referring term. Hence, meaning does not guarantee reference (contra Meinong).

Russell’s theory of description argues that descriptions are merely disguised existential quantifiers. No description, be it definite or indefinite, is a genuine referring term. The grammatical structure of sentences containing descriptions is not their logical structure.

For example, the logical structure of “An A is B” is expressed as ∃x(Ax and Bx), that is, something is both A and B. “The A is B” can likewise be expressed as ∃x(Ax and (y)(if Ay then x = y) and Bx), that is, there is an x which is A, and uniquely so, and x is B. This analysis shows that, although the descriptions appear grammatically in the sentences as Fa, the logical structure reveals that the descriptions only function as existential quantifiers (e.g. “there is”). No object corresponds to “an F” or “the F” in the analysis.

In conclusion, certain terms which appear as referring terms turn out to function logically as quantifiers, and we know that quantifiers are not referring terms. When I tell you that “there is a surgeon in the operating theatre,” I am not referring to any particular surgeon, and what I say is true only if there is indeed a surgeon in the operating theatre. If Tom is in the operating theatre, and he happens to be a surgeon, then what I said is true. But if someone else i.e. Harry is in the operating theatre, and he is likewise a surgeon, then what I said is also true. Therefore, quantified sentences are satisfied, or not, by objects. In contrast, a sentence containing a genuine singular term (i.e. a logical proper name) is made true or false only by the states and doings of the object of reference. How things are with other objects is irrelevant.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Dialogue on Ethical Issues of Life and Death - Abortion

Brief Review of "A Dialogue on Ethical Issues of Life and Death."

This book is written by Rocco J. Gennaro, an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. It attempts to approach the applied ethical problems of euthanasia, abortion, animal rights and capital punishment from the varied viewpoints of four fictional characters (Larry, Maria, Mark, and Carol). This approach is a refreshing and accessible method for beginning readers of applied ethics to acquire a “bird’s eye view” of what the key issues actually are.

The first chapter offers an introduction to the common ethical theories relevant to ethics. It discusses ethical egoism, utilitarianism (with the distinction between act and rule-utilitarianism), the Kantian categorical imperative, God’s command theory, and ethical relativism.

The author seems to hold a moderate view on the various ethical issues, but is nevertheless vocal against the religious conservative. Gennaro tries to be fair when evaluating the various positions. His attempt at fairness, however, does not translate to an equal treatment of all views. Although it is understandable that Gennaro has his preferred viewpoint, the reader will appreciate the fact that he does not actively promote a particular position. It would be nice to see a more balanced treatment of the minority positions, no matter how politically unsavory they seem to be.

The ethical issue of abortion gets the most detailed treatment in this book when compared to the other issues. Gennaro is right in stating that the concept of person in ethics is the crux of the problem. This book presents the person as one who has consciousness, reasoning ability, self-motivated or voluntary behavior, the ability to communicate, and self-consciousness. But such a concept of person would easily be repudiated with reductio ad absurdum. For example, some patients with severe dementia, mental retardation, or in a coma would not qualify as “person.” Hence, they do not have the right to life, and the killing of such patients would not tantamount to murder. Surely the law and conscience (and many bioethicists) would not agree with such a conclusion. Gennaro makes the distinction between genetic humans and persons, as well as potential and actual persons. He also briefly addresses the problem of rape and incest, and discusses abortion within the guiding principles of autonomy and beneficence.

From the Christian perspective, it is clear from Scripture that life begins at conception with the zygote (also known as conceptionalism; cf. Psalm 139:13-16, Jer. 1:5). From God’s perspective, the zygote is a person with both body - albeit not fully developed - and soul. From such theological reasoning alone, the Christian reader ought to understand that the right to life begins with conception. Of course, the obvious theological or pastoral dilemma lies in the clinical decision to abort the conceptus in order to save the mother’s life. Even so, as John Frame has rightly commented, “Is it in fact justifiable to kill one human being to save the life of another? This question is one which I cannot now resolve. At any rate, our decision even in such a case must be based on the as­sumption that the child is indeed a human being.” And I, too, will not pretend to have any answers to that clinical dilemma at this moment in time.

In any case, it would be troubling at best to know that a particular Christian doctor has approved of, or even performed, abortion. If abortion is rightly called murder in the eyes of God, then the Christian doctor or mother who has willfully aborted the child cannot escape the judgment of Scripture.

I would advise my Christian friends to get hold of this book, and to familiarize themselves with the common philosophical and secular arguments for and against abortion. Finally, I would like to urge all my Christian colleagues and friends to support relevant bioethical, political and legal decisions that is consistent with their faith in the Bible as the Word of God.

PS: This book is available in the libraries belonging to National Library Board of Singapore.


A Presentation on Abortion at the Various Trimesters of Pregnancy


by Sword and Spirit

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Get Off Your Dead Horse, Moral Arguments a Necessity


Logical Fallacies Rampant in Bioethics Debate on Organ Trading

An essay which was recently published in the Straits Times is an excellent example of such logical fallacies. The article, written by Michelle Tan Su May, is entitled, "Get Off Your High Horse, Moral Arguments a Luxury." As the title insinuates, when it comes to certain dire circumstances in life, we are justified in putting our moral values aside. Worse, such moral or ethical arguments are not even relevant to the bioethical issue at hand. Tan Su May wrote, "Moral arguments are a luxury that healthy people indulge in before misfortune befalls them too." This is one of the most ridiculous statements made in any bioethics debate in organ trading.

The writer's original words are in italics; my comments follow each paragraph of Tan's writings.


Get Off Your High Horse, Moral Arguments a Luxury
by Michelle Tan Su May

(The writer is a businesswoman in her mid-30s. A lawyer by training, she runs a property investment firm and owns an antiques shop. She is married with two children.

This article was first published in The Sunday Times on July 6, 2008.)

I am so sick and tired of hearing people who truly know nothing about the situation debate this issue in a vacuum, in principle, in theory, as a hypothetical ethics essay.

Comments: This is an ethical issue, and moral philosophers have to address the bioethical aspects of organ trading. Morality is about right and wrong. If morality has nothing to do with organ trading, then there is nothing right or wrong about it. Why, then, are you complaining about the status quo? There is nothing right or wrong (amoral) about the status quo then.

I was 14 when my dad's kidneys started to fail. It was the realisation of our worst fears, the culmination of a lifetime of worrying.

Comments: Not to sound too callous, but what has your father’s Chronic Kidney Disease to do with the question, “Is Organ Trading Moral or Immoral?” Aren’t you appealing to pity (argumentum ad misericordiam)?

My whole childhood was filled with fear that my dad would die. Having been a diabetic since he was 20 years old, potential loss of sight, loss of his limbs and subsequent kidney failure were the perennial phantoms that lurked in the shadows of his entire adult life, and thus my whole childhood.

Comments: I sympathize with your childhood fear. Perhaps you could have seen a child counsellor or psychiatrist. But again, what has your “fear” to do with the question at hand, “Is Organ Trading Moral or Immoral?” Could you be attempting to sway public opinion on this issue by appealing to the sympathy of the readers (playing the victimization card)?

His burden of daily injections of insulin, never being able to eat anything sweet and a strictly restricted diet were suddenly compounded by kidney failure. Now, in addition to no sugar, he could not take any salt or water. His daily quota of water was only two tiny shot glasses a day - and these small mouthfuls had to wash down more than 10 pills daily.

Comments: What has your father’s insulin usage, daily dose of secretagogues, and low eGFR to do with the question, “Is Organ Trading Moral or Immoral?”

The simple things that we take so much for granted became unattainable luxuries to him. Drinking, eating, walking without assistance, being able to urinate normally, being able to see your kids finish their O levels or PSLE (my younger brother).

Comments: Argumentum ad misericordiam, again.

He was only 39 at the time. He went on the two types of dialysis available to cleanse his blood of toxins. The first type (peritonial dialysis), which involved having a tube dangling out of a hole cut into his tummy, worked quite well for him but because of his diabetic condition, the hole kept becoming infected. So after a few months, he had to go on the more tedious type - hemodialysis. This involved him being hooked up to a machine daily for up to three hours at a time after having metal tubes the size of knitting needles inserted into his arm.

Comments: Again, for the umpteenth time, what has your father’s dialysis experience to do with the question, “Is Organ Trading Moral or Immoral?”

This did not work for him. So the symptoms of kidney failure returned full force. Constant retching, yellowed eyeballs, constant weakness, the inability to walk without assistance, and the inability to work. He was a Simex trader, and an outgoing man.

Comments: We get the picture. So he was a retching Simex trader with jaundice and uremia. What is the point?

After a few months, we were given the bad news and the worse news. The bad news was that the dialysis was not working for him and he needed a transplant. The worse news: Because he had diabetes as well, he was not eligible to be placed on the Singapore organ waiting list! Without dialysis or a transplant, he would die within months. The doctor was basically delivering the news of a death sentence.

Comments: Do you know the clinical reasons which made him ineligible for waiting list placement?

Fortunately, we were informed that it was possible to find a donor in India and have a transplant operation carried out there. After months of blood tests and groundwork, my dad flew to Mumbai to have the transplant. Despite putting on a brave front, he was terrified that he would not survive the operation. He told me later that he had brought extra money, 'in case I had to come home in a box'. I can only imagine what it feels like to say goodbye to your children at the airport thinking it may be the last time you ever see them.

Comments: An appeal to consequence.

So, getting a new lease of life via organ trading makes organ trading morally right?

The donor was a poor young man with a young family from India. He earned approximately $30,000 for his kidney. He used the money to buy a shop and start a business to support his young family. This young man and my dad gave each other a new lease of life.

Comments: Again, appeal to consequence

So, earning $30,000 morally justifies organ trading, right?

My dad lived for seven years after that transplant. He died aged only 49, but he lived to see my brother turn 20 and to attend my university graduation. Never a day went by that he wasn't grateful for this second chance at life. Seven years is a lifetime when you have faced death and managed to get a second chance. Going through all that has also made me a stronger person today.

Comments: Appeal to emotions. So what has that got to do with the question, “Is Organ Trading Moral or Immoral?” We are not wondering if organ trading brings great dividends, or if organ trading can lend you seven more years to see the kids grow up. Is organ trading moral or immoral?

Madam Lam Yar Ee, in The Straits Times Forum page, said: 'The Health Ministry should discipline Singaporeans who return after participating in organ trading.' I say she should visit the homes of dying people who have no other option before she spouts such nonsense. She should look into the eyes of their loved ones, their young children, and get off her high horse.

Comments: Appeal to emotions; argumentum ad odium.

What “nonsense” are you referring to? What if Madam Lam is promoting that which is moral?

You mean, if we look into the eyes of our loved ones, we will find the impetus to do that which is immoral?

Mr Jeffrey Chan said organ sales are wrong because they are 'exploitation of the poor'. Let me ask him this: If you were told that you could have someone abandon their children for years to come and live in your house and to wash your dirty underwear, to wait on you hand and foot, and to clean up your bedridden relatives' faeces, for up to 16 hours a day at 60 cents an hour, wouldn't you think such a situation sounded inhumane and unacceptable? Yet that is what our foreign domestic workers are forced to accept by coming here to work in Singapore.

Comments: OK. So two wrongs make a right? Does the alleged "exploitation" of the domestic helper justifies your exploitation of the poor in organ trading?

Plus fallacies of fake precision & dicto simpliciter.

You mean all maids clean feces for 16 hours each day? You mean every one who employs a maid employs them to clean feces 16 hours each day? You mean every maid in Singapore is married with children?

Do they like it? No.

Comments: How do you know that? Are you omniscient? Emotional appeal and victimization card.

Do they have a choice? Yes and no. They could stay at home and have nothing to feed their children. Or they could come over here in the hope of a better future eventually for their children. Yes, they are poor. Yes, they are desperate. By the same token, Mr Chan would have to argue that we ban the use of domestic workers because it is also exploitation of the poor.

Comments: False dilemma (false choice).

You sure those maids come to Singapore simply because they have nothing to feed their children with (oh, and how do you know if all of them have children?)?

And how do you know if their children would have a better future in Singapore? Aren't these statements mere bare assertions?

It is time to wake up. The world is unfair, life is unfair. It is unfair that some people can live in good health until their 90s, while others like my father die at 49 or earlier. It is unfair that we get to be surrounded by our children and loved ones, while people like my Indonesian maid (whom we treat as part of our family and pay $500 a month instead of the standard $350) have to leave their kids for years in order to eke out a living in a foreign land so their children won't starve.

Comments: So what has this apparent unfairness to do with the question, “Is Organ Trading Moral or Immoral?”

Inequality is a fact of life. Therefore, the role of a sophisticated society should be to regulate all dealings to ensure that the poor, the unhealthy and the desperate know their rights, and their risks versus their potential returns before they embark on any life-changing decisions. Taking the choice out of their hands in the name of protecting them is paternalistic and patronising. Being poor does not equal being stupid.

Comments: But taking that Hobson’s choice out of their hands is to protect them (the poor) from exploitation by moneyed patients like yourself. Since inequality is a fact of life, all the more we should see to it that distributive justice is upheld. That means that donor kidneys should not come only from the poor.

I wonder, did your kidney matched your father’s MHC complex? Never considered that option, yes?

My stance is: 'Get off your high horse.' Till something terrible happens to you, you don't know what you would do to survive.

Comments: Again, an appeal to consequence. Oh, if something terrible happens to me, it justifies my immoral dealings, whatever that might be.

Life is unfair. Poverty is unfair. Ill health is unfair. But we can do something to alleviate the misfortunes of those who are unlucky by allowing them the freedom of choice to save a life and better their own at the same time.

Comments: You mean we ought to "alleviate the misfortunes" by doing something inherently immoral? That’s fantastic advice from a mother of two. No wonder Singaporean kids are behaving like demons.

Freedom of choice results in human beings maintaining their dignity.

Comments: Dignity in what? In doing something immoral? So you gain your “dignity” by performing immoral acts with your autonomous “free” choice?

The dying man who can buy a little more time, and the poor man who can better his family's life by selling an organ that he will be perfectly healthy without - they can both regain some dignity by entering into such a transaction with their eyes wide open and being well-informed of their rights.

Comments: Finally, how does that answer the question, “Is Organ Trading Moral or Immoral?”

Moral arguments are a luxury that healthy people indulge in before misfortune befalls them too.

Comments: Logical fallacies ad infinitum ad nauseam. This is a scare tactic and argumentum ad metum (appeal to fear).

They are some who choose to do that which is morally right even when “misfortune” befalls them. Your statement reminds me of that doctor who hides at home during the SARS crisis.

By ignoring the morality of one’s actions, one becomes a cancer of society, a tumor that seeks to justify its own evil with pragmatic considerations and financial incentives divorced from ethics, altruism and justice. Surely no civilized society wants to be part of that tumor.