Sunday, July 23, 2006

catholics are murderers.

* newscientist via simbaud:
"The range of birth control choices may have become narrower for couples that believe the sanctity of life begins when sperm meets egg. The rhythm method, a philosopher claims, may compromise millions of embryos.

“Even a policy of practising condom usage and having an abortion in case of failure would cause less embryonic deaths than the rhythm method,” writes Luc Bovens, of the London School of Economics, in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

With other methods of contraception banned by the Catholic church, the rhythm method has been one of the few options available to millions . . . .

Now Bovens suggests that for those concerned about embryo loss, the rhythm method may be a bad idea. He argues that, because couples are having sex on the fringes of the fertile period, they are more likely to conceive embryos that are incapable of surviving.

As many as 50% of conceptions may not survive long enough even to disrupt menstruation, Bovens says. It is reasonable to assume then, he adds, that embryos created from sperm that has been sitting for days within the female's reproductive tract before ovulation may be disadvantaged.


Bovens calculates that, if the rhythm method is 90% effective, and if conceptions outside the fertile period are about twice as likely to fail as to survive, then “millions of rhythm method cycles per year globally depend for their success on massive embryonic death”"
catholics are murderers.


Anonymous said...

Hey Luke, here's an opposing point of view and some factual claims to back it up. Check it out for yourself: NFP is not the "rhythm method", it's 99% effective, it doesn't require big-pharma-concocted hormone treatments that are correlated with increased breast cancer incidence (the pill), and the data we have does not support Boven's supposition passed off as science. Be careful trusting and parroting.

A meta-point: Catholics should be considered allies of the anti-war left, anti-war right, and anti-war libertarians. Given the power of the enemy, we all need to hang together. War, the warfare state, and the very bad people profiting from, fomenting, and promoting war are the common enemy of humanity, including a lot of non-fundamentalist, non-millenialist-evangelical Christians, especially including the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches.

The rest of the issues of the day after war can be sorted out later according to conscience and (I can dream, can't I?) ordered liberty. So take it easy on the Church, ok?

The New Anti-Life Counter-Attack
By Joseph A. D’Agostino

Perhaps due to deepening desperation as pro-life attitudes continue to gain traction in America and other English-speaking countries, the New York Times has seized upon a novel weapon in this culture war. The old Grey Lady and the many pundits, politicians, bloggers, and ordinary Americans who take their lead from it have a brand-new stick with which to beat their least favorite people, faithful Catholics. To be fair, some of them might dislike radical Muslims even more, but I cannot prove this.

The unfortunately influential NYT took up the argument of Luc Bovens, a philosopher at the well-respected London School of Economics (LSE). Bovens argues in the Journal of Medical Ethics (JME) that couples who use the “rhythm method” may cause the deaths of more embryos than those who use condoms as a method of birth control. Since pro-life people consider life to begin at conception, such a charge is highly valuable in undermining their morale, credibility, and the case against artificial contraception. Of course, the rhythm method went out decades ago, but Bovens claims his argument can apply to any couple that attempts to avoid relations during the woman’s fertile periods, and that includes practitioners of natural family planning (NFP). Continued use of the term "rhythm method" is meant to focus attention on that practice's mediocre success rate and obscure the much better one of contemporary NFP.

The NYT’s Amanda Schaffer wrote June 13 that Bovens says that “couples who try to prevent pregnancy by avoiding sex during the woman's most fertile time of month may be more likely to produce embryos that do not develop or implant in the womb. If this is correct, he writes, then ‘millions of rhythm method cycles per year globally depend for their success on massive embryonic death.’ Those who worry about early embryonic death should be as concerned about the rhythm method as they are about other forms of contraception, like Plan B, and about embryonic stem cell research, he asserts.” Note the continued dishonest labeling of Plan B, the brand name for the morning-after pill, as “contraception” when, in fact, it acts after conception to prevent implantation.

Bovens’ argument hinges on the empirical question of whether embryos conceived at the very beginning or very end of a woman’s fertile period, using an “old” ovum or “old” seed, are less likely to survive than those conceived in the middle. If so, he theorizes that NFP practitioners are more likely to conceive such unborn children because they time their relations to coincide with the ends of the cycles, when a day’s error could lead to such a conception. Those using condoms, not to mention those not seeking to avoid conception, typically do not time their sexual relations in such a fashion.

A woman’s body can store a man’s seed for up to five days, so “old” seed can fertilize an egg several days after relations toward the beginning of a woman’s fertile period. At the other end of the period, an “old” ovum that has been waiting can then be fertilized once the couple resume sexual activity. Relations during the middle of the period, in contrast, are likely to result in the uniting of young seed and a young ovum. Also, there may be variations in the viability of embryos conceived during a fertile period of normal length and one of abnormal length; the latter could result in the couple’s misjudging the proper time for intercourse, making conception during periods of abnormal length more common among NFP practitioners than among those who use condoms.

Bovens’ article rests upon more than one empirical question. One is the assertion that NFP practitioners are more likely to conceive children at the ends of a woman’s fertile period. Another, very problematic one: Bovens himself clearly states that his assertions depend on whether an embryo conceived at one of the ends of a fertile period is more likely to die. In a response to critics of his original article, Bovens wrote June 12, “For my argument to work, it must be the case that the probability of viability given that a conception occurs with ageing sperm or ovum or during an atypical cycle is lower than the probability of viability given that a conception occurs with fresh sperm and a fresh ovum and during a typical cycle.”

Dr. Mark Whitty of Dublin wrote a letter to the JME criticizing the science behind Bovens’ argument. “Any conception is as viable as the next, barring a fatal genetic or developmental defect; there is no truth to the old ‘old sperm’ or ‘old ovum’ speculation, or its ‘twice as likely to be viable,’ ‘lack resilience’ and ‘reduced survival chances’ assumption,” he wrote. He also noted that the high rate of embryonic death and spontaneous abortion often cited by experts could be phony. “Bovens' first assumption that 50% of natural human conceptions are lost is an often-repeated figure based on problematic research in 1956 using histological analysis of hysterectomies where intercourse was encouraged prior to surgery,” he said. “The higher figure of 78% often quoted rests on a 1975 analysis of an hypothesis based on a series of weak assumptions. Animal studies commonly give percentages in single figures.”

In other words, no one knows what proportion of human embryos are naturally lost after conception, but among animals, it is less than 10%. And nobody knows if “old” seed or an “old” egg is really less likely to produce a conceived child who survives than “fresh” specimens, as even Bovens indicates when read closely.

“Tarin et al. (2000) review a fifty-year literature not only on the effect of ageing gametes on pre-menstruation embryonic loss, but also on fertilization, spontaneous abortions and the pathology of the offspring. A range of studies is reviewed of in vivo and in vitro fertilizations with ageing gametes, involving humans, non-human mammalians, and non-mammalians. These studies are not always univocal,” Bovens admits. “Furthermore, we often have to extrapolate from non-human animal populations, in vitro contexts, and patients with a history of infertility to what might be happening in human populations of normal fertility in in vivo contexts. Sometimes the best we can do is to guess what would provide the best explanation for experimental results. Nonetheless, I do think that there is a trend present which supports the idea that viability given conception may vary with the age of the ovum, the age of the sperm and whether the cycle is or is not typical.”

So there is “trend” that “supports” the notion that viability “may” vary. We’ll have to wait for solid evidence.

Of course, none of the above affects the moral distinction between NFP, which works with the human body by using its natural cycles and demands self-discipline, and condoms, which work against the body and encourage self-indulgence. Nor does it elevate the moral status of oral contraceptives, which kill millions of unborn embryonic children a year in this country alone. And, to be fair, the falsity of Bovens' argument doesn’t justify the use of NFP as “Catholic birth control” by selfish couples.

In his June 12 defense, Bovens concedes, “So far I have tried to defend the assumptions that come into the model. But of course, it is another thing to check whether the predictions of the model hold true in the real world. Clearly we know too little to fill in the values of all the parameters.” He suggests an expensive study that could shed light on this question, but then says, “This would be one step forward, but it would still not yield information about pre-implantation embryonic loss. . . .” So even his proposal wouldn’t resolve the question. Perhaps it is not meant to be resolved, but only to discredit pro-life people.

Joseph A. D'Agostino is Vice President for Communications at the
Population Research Institute.

lukery said...

thnx for your thoughts.

yeah - i hope that the catholics stand up and try to counter some of the evil war-mongers and the crazy christopaths.


Anonymous said...

The Church is not going to flame the fundies or left-behind types in uncharitable terms, but it has always taught and spoken clearly against the heretical dispensationalism underlying the rapture belief (

On Lebanon, Pope Benedict XVI sided with the G8 proposal ( About the best that can be expected at the moment.

lukery said...

ok - i hope that the catholic church can be more brave than standing with the g8 - altho i do appreciate their calls for a ceasefire (and I have actually posted that twice in the last 2 weeks.) perhaps they could do with a better PR machine.

as for denouncing the rapture, evolution and condoms in afrika, i'm less than impressed.

Anonymous said...

> as for denouncing the rapture, evolution and condoms in afrika, i'm less than impressed.

Two out of three ain't bad :-/.

Seriously, agree to disagree on condoms, but help forge a broad anti-war alliance including religious non-fundamentalists, if you can stand it. I'm doing my part among all sane Catholics in the states are aren't talk-radio-controlled hatebots.

We should talk about "AIDS" in Africa some time, but I'm too heartsick from the latest from Lebanon.

lukery said...

you've got me.

all sane catholics are welcome at my place :-)

and i'm desperately anti-war. heck, i'd even vote repuglican if they promised to stop all of these bloody wars.