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Body decomposition video (“Body Farm”) to help round out your Halloween 👻

Curious about what kinds of physical changes happen post mortem? The video below will fill in many blanks. Of greater concern to you is likely how and when you’ll shuffle off this mortal coil. Naturally, most of us prefer to “stage left” with as little pain and discomfort as possible, something medical science has make more certain than was true long ago. But die we must. The larger question is what lies afterwards – click to read.  First, satisfy your curiosity about what becomes of your “earth suit” after death and then read what follows below.

 

So you know what’s coming: You die and then face judgment. It is natural to think “Well, OK, I  think my good deeds outweigh my bad so I am good to go, right?” Wrong.  Ahem, dead wrong. The penalty for sin either must be paid by you or by someone qualified to pay it for you. The trick is there is only one individual who qualified to pay the penalty for your sins which he did. However, like a gift certificate purchased for you by a benefactor, you have to claim or redeem it and then follow the directions that come with it to preserve it. So how do you learn about this gift and how to claim it? The best way in my opinion is to hear from someone who has done it. In this vein, I heartily recommend you watch this video featuring scholar Dr. Michael Brown in which he shares how he went from hell bound to redeemed:  https://askdrbrown.org/about/personal-testimony/

 

© 2015 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved

Ashley Madison as a wake-up call for would be and real life cheaters

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By

Anthony G. Payne

By now just about everyone who keeps up with the news has read something about the hacking theft and now publication of the Ashley Madison “Life is short. Have an Affair®” database. If you somehow missed it here is a summary article that appeared today, Thursday, August 20, 2015: Hacker’s Ashley Madison data dump threatens marriages, reputations

In an article that also appeared today titled The Ashley Madison hack will have a mixed result for those involved, the writer shared this:

I had joined out of curiosity and for research purposes when I was Townsville’s premier dating columnist. And it’s safe to say that I am not alone in being a relatively ‘innocent’ Ashley Madison user.

teenage depression - teen woman sitting thinking isolated on white

I somehow suspect that more than a few individuals who joined Ashley Madison did so just to see who’d respond to the (no doubt inflated or totally fake) profile they posted.

In the same article, a computer security expert by the name of Graham Cluley shared this:

“For one thing, being a member of a dating site, even a somewhat seedy one like Ashley Madison, is no evidence that you have cheated on your partner,” he wrote.

“…if your email address is in the Ashley Madison database it means nothing. The owner of that email address may never have even visited the Ashley Madison site.”

It is also noted by Cluley that “It turns out Ashley Madison didn’t require users to verify their email address in order to use the website.”

“Put simply, people could enter any email and have access to the free features of the website.”

With all this said, a computer programmer created a simple search feature anyone can use to see if an email address appears in the Ashley Madison database. It is at https://ashley.cynic.al/

There are, of course, some high profile people who set up one or more Ashley Madison accounts and left a trail that leaves little doubt about who is responsible. One that is in the news is Josh “19 Kids” Duggar whose alleged connection to AM is discussed in this article EXPOSED: Josh Duggar revealed as having ‘paid almost $1,000 for multiple Ashley Madison accounts’ as 37 million would-be love-cheats are named by hackers who stole Ashley Madison accounts

As you might expect, articles now abound which offer advice as to what folks listed in the AM database should do next. Predictably this advice runs the gamut albeit most advise “fessin’ up” and dealing with the fallout head on. Naturally, lawyers, marriage therapists, psychologists and others are likely to see an upswing in couples visits in which one party cheated through Ashley Madison and was exposed after the AM database came to light.

Of course, there really isn’t anything all that shocking in all this. After all, a day hardly passes in which some prominent politician, religious figure, television personality, high ranking military officer or such gets caught up in scandal after an affair comes to light or some other dark sexual pursuit comes to light.

I get human weakness. And the fact that people (perhaps men especially) are predisposed by their nature (evolutionary biology) and upbringing to have wondering eyes. Throw in lots of free time and the ease of reaching others anonymously through the Internet and you wind up with the current situation: Married people flocking to date sites, sex chat sites, cheating sites, porn sites and all the rest.

Of course, people who have considerable influence, power or wealth seem even more vulnerable, if only because they attract those seeking solace or sex or money or what-have-you. Some feel “entitled to cheat” due to their special station in life or the challenges they must deal with.

If you are reading this and happen to be cheating on your significant other be it an emotional, sexual, or cyber affair, and feel shameful, guilty or troubled, then there is hope for you. How so? Ask yourself this: When people do immoral or unethical things and feel no guilt or shame about this, what happens when their dark pursuits are exposed? Typically, rationalizations and arguments surface that place the blame on the victim.

So if you are cheating in some way and feel bad about this, you have a conscience and know you are doing wrong. I now have another question to ask you: Why are you cheating?

Bored? Looking for missing passion? Lonely? Lust-filled and unfulfilled? Emotionally isolated or adrift? Feeling misunderstood by your significant other or ignored by him or her? Getting older and feel you need the attention of another to validate your good looks or worth? Overwhelmed in some way and feel you can’t look to your mate or family for help? Think there are things about yourself that if revealed are so dark or loathsome that only a stranger or new love interest could brush it aside and love or desire you anyway?

Maybe it’s one of these things or many of them or all of them or none of them. Let’s set aside the “why” for now and look at the fruits of cheating: Betrayal, disloyalty, a violation of sacred commitments, and, yes, cruelty. Does bad fruit bear a good crop? You don’t have to be a farmer or horticulturist to answer this question.

In our age of “I’m spiritual and not religious” there is a tendency to replace the 7th Commandment with platitudes that allow and excuse latitude; to forget, ignore, dismiss or downplay the fact that infidelity is sin; to gloss over the fact it offends the Almighty and has both spiritual and real world consequences.

The good news is that if you recognize you are sinning, forgiveness is a simple matter of changing your mind about what you are doing and asking forgiveness (A process called repentance or teshuvah), and then marrying right actions to your beliefs and commitment to do the right thing.

For most of you reading this, admitting your sin and seeking forgiveness is actually the easy part. The real knockdown, drag out part is breaking free of the pull of sinful pleasure and surmounting the temptation to backslide or (to use modern parlance) relapse. Triggers and lures abound and many find themselves so weak and overwhelmed by the almost drug-like pull of pleasurable sin that they can’t hold a straight course.

I get this too. To put it in familiar, Star Trekkian terms, your shuttle craft is caught in a powerful tractor beam and you have burned out your engines trying to break free or in the process of burning them out. Or so it seems.

The good news is that you actually can break free and achieve and maintain a moral course. Now for the nuts and bolts of how to “make this so”.

First, of course, there is the simple act of calling sin, sin and turning your back on it. I assume if you’ve read this far you either have made up your mind to do this or will seriously consider doing so soon.

Now the part that trips up so many people: Bringing conduct into conformity with their wishes, convictions and beliefs. The hard part which actually isn’t IF you do something most folks fear doing: Run to God rather than from him and ask that he do whatever is needed to redeem and change your sexual nature and its expression.

Whoa…say what?!?

Ask yourself this: What is the natural thing for people to do with bad habits and sin? Of course, hide them from man and God. Think about when you were a child and did something wrong and you feared your Mum or Dad would find out. Did you run to them and confess your wrong doing and seek help? No, you most likely hid the cookie crumbs or broken vase or what-have-you and lied. Then you grew up and stopped doing this with respect to a lot (maybe most) of your mistakes, sins and such, at least with respect to trusted others and intimates in your orbit. But when it comes to especially grievous sins did you run to or from God? And if you ran to God, did you do so without any real deep desire that he actually do whatever it takes to, well, straighten you out. Too scary eh, like opening yourself up to a spanking as a child?!?

Now let me show you what really turning something like lust and sexual weakness completely over to God’s keeping consists of (Again, this is the key to moving towards the obedience and holiness God demands if we are to live decent, happy, genuinely fulfilling lives):

In dealing with men who are cheating on their wives or did so and are tempted to do so again, I invariably walk them through admission of their sin and repentance, and then ask them if they are ready to marry actions to their intentions and beliefs. Once they say “yes” to this, I ask them if their sex drive or fantasies or memories or such seem to ruling them and undermining their resolution to do what’s right. For those that signal this or something like it is making mincemeat of their commitment to change, I hand them this challenge (This is a condensed version of what I tell them):

I want you to trust God completely with all you are including your sexuality. Your prayer to him is for resolution and empowerment, not a band aid that fits what you want or think will work. You need help and power to be obedient and do what the Rabbi from Nazareth said to sinners he encountered which is ‘Go and sin no more’. You’ve told me that your sexual needs are not being meet and your sex drive is overwhelming. What you are really saying is ‘God, help me but don’t mess with my sexual needs and drive’. I am telling you now that this is exactly what you must surrender to his keeping. And now comes the test of your desire to be holy as he is holy: are you willing to ask the Lord to diminish or even remove your sexual desires if it takes this for a time to free you to get into him and his Word and become conformed to what he would have you be sexually?

I call this “radical surrender” and for good reason! It isn’t for the faint-of-heart or insincere but I think it within the reach of every person who sees sin in him- or her- self and wants to do a 180 about and live in obedience to (and dependence on) God and his revealed Word (The kind of active faith that produces holiness). And, by the way, it works.

Can this be done without fingering underlying issues and dealing with them? I’ve seen some people do a turnaround that unleashed God’s power in their lives which effected change in them that resolved previously unresolved issues and weaknesses and the like. Others needed to identify their problems and issues, typically in therapy with their significant other, in order to get resolution and set specific goals and objectives for themselves and their relationship.

For those that need some guidance and tools to identify unfulfilled needs and “relationship busting” habits and behaviors and weaknesses, I heartily suggest heading on over to “Marriage Builders®” at http://www.marriagebuilders.com/. This website is filled with tests, article, guidelines and such.

Readers might also want to take this 5 minute online “Attachment Style” test which was developed by university researchers: http://www.web-research-design.net/cgi-bin/crq/crq.pl. Certain attachment styles are detrimental to intimacy with God and significant others and need to be addressed.

In this regard, check out Problems relating well to God & your fellow man? Your attachment style may be a major contributor

In addition, you’ll find many other free online tests covering personality, moral foundations and such here on my personal blog site: https://biotheorist.wordpress.com/2011/11/26/know-yourself-better-free-on-line-tests-empathy-systemizing-attachment-style-moral-foundation-implicit-biases-etc/. “Knowing yourself” better may reveal areas that need healing or shoring up.

And now for some “meat not milk” spiritual help (Evangelical in orientation but nonetheless brimming over with insights gleamed from Biblical truths and principles):

But let me add this caveat: A lot of Christian theology and beliefs (including portions of the books above) draw on the very flawed letters (epistles) of Paul (Saul of Tarsus). It is therefore important that you also acquire the knowledge and insight to identify what is edifying and true from what is not. These two free, online resources will help you mightily in this regard:

http://www.judaismvschristianity.com/

Jesus’ Words Only (Second Edition 2007) (Free online in its entirety) by Douglas J. Del Tondo, Esq.

If you are one of the people listed on the Ashley Madison database and were or are cheating, or cheated or are cheating without the use of any club or service or forum, consider the AM hacking scandal your wake-up call; your invitation to repent, turn your back on infidelity, and do what’s needed to “go and sin no more”.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Anthony G. Payne, whose American Indian name is “Summer Cloud”, is a native born Texan and an American Indian (Bureau of Indian Affairs CDIB card holder) and member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Despite having grown up in the “reddest parts” of North Texas, Tennessee and Louisiana, he is a political liberal who embraced democratic socialism in the 1980s. He is also a religious and moral conservative but no friend of fundamentalism/creationism or those pet beliefs of evangelical Christians that run contrary to what the Rabbi from Nazareth advocated and lived. Dr. Payne is a married monk in the Knights of Prayer Monastic Order and is in service as a monk to several other religious communities & monastic organizations which are part of the New Monasticism movement. Readers and seekers can readily reach him at nativescienceguy@gmail.com.

© 2015 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

Sexting, Sex Tapes & Sexual Exhibitionism: Why have so many folks thrown caution to the wind?

VIDEO CAMERA - FREE MSCELL PHONE - Free MSTime flies. If you were around to see the debut of the classic comedy “Animal House” 35 years ago you are likely feeling a tad old. But like so many great movies, Animal House managed to both reflect and illuminate certain aspects of our culture. And in light of today’s headlines one is tempted to think some of our political leaders have been running their lives as though they live in the Delta Tau Chi fraternity house.

Who can forget Dean Vernon Wormer’s pointed comment to Faber College freshman & Delta Tau Chi member Kent Dorfman that “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son”.

Given the middle-aged shenanigans of more than a few prominent politicians just in the past few years one can’t help but picture them standing in front of Dean Wormer and hearing:

“Old, horny and reckless is no way to go through life, son”

What gives with all these indiscretions? And let’s not just focus on big name powerhouse figures.  I mean, why are so many people of all ages, sexes and ethnicities posting sexually explicit photos and videos on the Web? I’m no prude by any means, but there is something deeply weird and unsettling about the seeming endless stream of people photographing and videotaping what they do behind closed doors and sharing it with the world.

Most are hardly adult movie star material and yet seem almost proud of their (ahem) shortcomings and imperfections. And while some might say it’s a good thing to strike a blow against the Madison Avenue world of plastic smiles & plastic bodies, I somehow do not think the antidote is for people to toss modesty to the wind and share themselves “warts and all”.  I’m sure some do what they do because they think highly of their “performance” and “mentally inflate” their assets. I suspect many if not most have become the butt of cruel putdowns and heartless jokes by Web browsers. I’m also sure some come to deeply regret their actions especially when confronted by a child, grandchild or other relative concerning something explicit they posted long ago and had hoped would somehow disappear with the passage of time (Apparently nothing posted on the Web ever does).

No doubt some of these self-styled sex performers suffer from body image & performance misperceptions if not delusions, but beyond this I have to wonder what else bedevils them. I’m not saying they all have personality defects or struggle with emotional or mental problems or sex addiction, but even so I am pretty sure at least a segment of them do what they do as an expression of narcissism, an attachment style disorder or mood disorder.

One expert on relationships and how reckless sexual behavior can endanger and even derail them, Rabbi Shmuel “Shmuley” Boteach, wrote this in a 2011 Examiner article concerning the sexual antics of Anthony Weiner and Bill Clinton:

These are all men who live with an unending craving for love and incessant need for attention, forever proving themselves, and therefore despising their very existence which involves an eternal feeling of inadequacy and unworthiness. Men who hate themselves this much and strive eternally for the validation of others harbor a secret wish that, in way or another, the inner torment will cease. That’s why they play Russian Roulette with their lives. Anything to dull the pain.

I think in some instances it boils down to something much simpler: In psychology it is well established that rewards (pleasure) derived from any activity makes people want more. This cycle of reward-reinforcement becomes a vicious, ever entrenched cycle for some folks. As they feed it over time they begin to feel helpless to resist and it becomes so normative they may not feel it is a problem (That is, until they get caught doing something that offends their mate or violates a local ordinance or state or federal law). Some become alienated from themselves and those who love and care about them.

To paraphrase a biblical observation concerning unrepentant sinning, their “conscience becomes seared”.

Oh, Choctaw Doc, you’re just conjecturing and in-a-way judging these people without any real evidence. Judging, no. Concerned about, yes. I could dredge up studies to buttress the mental health aspects of this “let it all hang out” social phenomenon, but prefer instead to share real life examples of what sometimes lies beneath the surface in some instances.

I interact with many licensed mental health professionals who occasionally share specific cases that they have found especially troublesome or unnerving (They do not, of course, mention names or details that might reveal their patient’s identities). Here are but a few:

A woman in her 50s sought help with mood swings and eating binges. As her female psychologist dug into her life story, she was told about more than 3 decades of “sexual abandon”. Specifically, her husband had convinced her to “spice up their sex life” first by filming their bedroom life and posting these clips to various websites and, when the thrill wore off of this, pressured her into having sex with other men while he filmed this (“Cuckold lifestyle”). She felt “dirty”, “nasty”, “used” and was “plagued by endless intrusive mental images of degrading sex”. The funny (pathetic) thing was that her husband sent her to therapy because he felt “she has problems, but I don’t”. Yeah.

A young woman in her 20s sought help with depression and insomnia. One of the things her therapist discovered was that this lady was racked with guilt and shame over explicit photos and videos her boyfriend had posted on a very popular porn site. The boyfriend had long since taken a stage left and found a new victim…eh..girlfriend..and left this young woman to live with the torment “giving in” had spawned in her heart and soul.

Now these are just a few examples of the “real world” consequences of “airing one’s peccadilloes”. Many pastoral counselors, priests and rabbis feel the immediate and downstream spiritual damage is even greater and have plenty of their own horror stories that attest to this.

For those who are involved in the sorts of things I’ve shared in this article and have no shame, guilt or concerns, there is no way to convince you that your chickens may come home to roost down the line. Where there is no insight, there can be no realization anything is wrong or could go wrong.

For those who are or have been caught up in these activities and feel shame and regret and/or are experiencing compulsive-additive behavior, my advice is to get thee to a licensed, competent mental health professional who is experienced in helping people with these issues.

And finally, for those of you who are tempted to “play with fire” or who are already doing so but aren’t sure why and don’t feel you need professional evaluation, at least take a few free on-line psych & personality tests to see if you are depressed or have some other issue or tendency such as:

What is your attachment style?  This interactive survey takes about 5 minutes to complete. The questionnaire is designed to measure your ‘attachment style’–the way you relate to others in the context of intimate relationships. When completed, the site will reveal your attachment style, and provide a brief summary of what is known about your attachment style on the basis of contemporary scientific research.

Attachment in Past and Present Relationships

Depression Screening Test by Ivan Goldberg, MD – -brief 18-question online automated quiz to help you determine if you may need to see a mental health professional for diagnosis
and treatment of depression

Cybersex Addiction Test

Internet Addiction Test

Partners of Internet Addicts Test

Sexual Addiction Screening Test (Women)

Sexual Addiction Screening Test (Men)

And here are some books and articles that I believe will prove helpful:

Alienation: Pervasive and insidious

Problems relating well to God & your fellow man? Your attachment style may be a major contributor

The dog you feed the most will dominate your life

Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families by Pamela Paul

Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality by Dr. Gail Dines

The Broken American Male: And How to Fix Him by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Marriage Builders® (Lots of free help on this website)

For those who have a problem or suspect they do, here are a few reputable sources of help:

If you live in southern California one highly regarded clinic that specializes in treating additions of all kinds including sexual is the Alternative Options Counseling Center. Call 562-921-5701 or 714-995-0359 (Outpatient primarily but “partial hospitalization” available for some patients)

Salvation Army (Residential) Rehab Centers (nationwide)

 A simple Google search will likely turn up at least a few qualified therapists and programs in your particular neck-of-the-woods.

 © 2013 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

The dog you feed the most will dominate your life

AGNES OF GOD - AMAZONIn 1985 the Broadway hit “Agnes of God” was released as a movie directed by Normal Jewison. Marshall Fine tendered this review on Amazon.com:

This Broadway hit gets a solid film treatment by director Norman Jewison, but that can’t make up for the weaknesses of the script (which were as true onstage as they are here). Jane Fonda plays a chain-smoking shrink sent to a convent to do a psychological evaluation of a novice (Meg Tilly) who gave birth to a baby and then killed it in her little room. Was it a virgin birth? A miracle? And what of the bloody stigmata that seem to spontaneously appear on her hands? Fonda also finds herself clashing with the Mother Superior (Anne Bancroft) over the line between faith and science. But writer John Pielmeier can’t flesh this out beyond an idea; in the end, the solution is a disappointingly earthbound one that even the strong acting in this film can’t elevate.

OK, so the film isn’t flawless and has garnered more than its fair share of “1 or 2 thumbs down”. With this said, I like this flick. Why so? In-a-word it lays in the fact Agnes the novice nun somehow manages to interact with the world thorough a lens of innocence. That is, the unjaded aspects of her being for the most part dominate her day-to-day existence and how she perceives life and those around her.

Hollywood nonsense, you say? I might have agreed with you if this were early 1999. But not afterwards. What changed for me? I spent more than four years in Japan living and teaching classes of Japanese young people from pre-school through doctoral level plus many corporate classes filled with adult working professionals. What I discovered was that virtually all the young folks were, well, in some ways “Agnes of God” like. Mind you, I was aware that there were exceptions and many expats I shared sake and chat with were quick to point out their bad experiences with pretty jaded Japanese characters. But on-the-whole even they agreed most Japanese people they had encountered while teaching and in society at-large exhibited less of the cynicism and sheer nastiness that appeared commonplace back in the US and the West in general (Some of these expats came from the UK, New Zealand and Australia).

My then girlfriend and later (2001) wife thought I was seeing her people through rose colored glasses. This changed once we moved from Japan to southern California in early 2003. Having left being the corporate world in Japan (18 years work for a major multinational corporation in Tokyo), she pursued her long held dream of becoming a marriage and family therapist. This journey took her through the MS in Counseling program at Cal State Fullerton (she graduated with honors) and internships at a number of places including the Salvation Army residential program in Anaheim. While doing an internship at MiraCosta College in Oceanside, she happened to counsel a number of Japanese students who had come to the US in order to obtain specific educational credentials in an English language environment. What she discovered — and made a point of mentioning to me — is that her Japanese charges were very “unjaded” compared to the American students she counseled. Maybe my glasses were not so rose-colored after all.

At the very least, there seems to be at least a modicum of real world evidence that my original observation was spot on: The Japanese were and are on-a-whole less jaded (“more innocent”) than Americans.

Were Americans less jaded in the past? It seemed that way to me when I was a youngster. TV and movies in the late 1950s into the 1960s tended to reflect a certain un-worldliness (Less cynical, less nasty). This began to go out the window with the advance of the sexual revolution, Vietnam and all that entailed, and the general rejection of authority and conventional ways among many young folks of that era (including moi).

Can we ever recapture what we lost short of embarking on a 2nd childhood (individually and collectively)? Is the genie out of the bottle for good? Is there any way to truly be “as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves” (Rabbi Yehoshua’s admonition). Good questions, I think. We American Indians (Choctaws) have a saying that goes like this: “The dog you feed the most becomes biggest”. By this token if we as Americans feed ourselves on jaded & cynical things such as pornography, greed, pride, and other vices then the dogs that will steer our sled (lives) will be these vices. On the other hand, if we feed virtues and starve vices, well, we just might find ourselves less jaded and “wicked”. And while we may not become a nation of “Agnes of God” characters or even Japanese-like, we could inch a little closer to it.

Choctaw Doc

Copyright 2013 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

Abortion: Is there a point at which it becomes a moral or ethical “misstep”?

QUESTION - FREE MICROSOFTIf you belong to a faith tradition or religious perspective that views the fusion of sperm and egg as marking the advent of a human life, you are probably very unlikely to modify your stance. As one who grew up in the Bible belt among Protestant fundamentalists and evangelicals (upwards of 90% of my family), I know where you are coming from. There is black & white, with grey being a species of unacceptable compromise that is akin to bedding down with evil incarnate.

If you happen to belong to the “B & W’ contingent, perhaps you buttress your antiabortion convictions like many aspects of your most cherished religious beliefs with borrowings from the world of science and medicine, however tenuous some of these may be. As you may know or at least have heard, many religious beliefs are not testable and thus lie outside the purview of science. For example, the religious concept that every human has a soul or spirit imputed by the Almighty at conception or thereafter is not something that can be tested and verified or refuted using the tools of science. There is no laboratory assay that will disclose or measure something that is held to have no material substance as we know it and which is not physically manifest in cells or tissues or such.

For religionists who hold that ensoulment (i.e., spirit is imputed) occurs at conception, and (who) refuse to consider even slightly modifying this perspective in light of contrary biblical reasoning, there exists an impasse that cannot be readily breeched (If at all). When enough people embrace such a spin on what constitutes viable human life, their collective influence on the direction state and even federal legislation takes is felt (Some would argue disproportionately so). Of course, the courts have weighed in to keep even majority sentiment from what they conclude impinges on or overrides the Constitutional rights of the minority.

Many scientists regard the convictions of those who hold that viable human life begins at conception or during the very early stages of development as both presumptuous and naive. Many religionists and theologians agree. Among those who happen to hold fast to a belief that a fertilized egg is entitled to full status as a viable human, the use of blastocytes or very early stage embryos constitutes a species of murder. Some even go so far as to decry those who take exception to their faith-based beliefs as being immoral or amoral.

Does the truth lie somewhere between the strictly secular and the sacred? Most of us probably harbor a feeling that somewhere in all this – lurking in the facts of biology and the world of polemics and logic, ethics and religion – there is an answer that will win the day. If this is the case, it is quite obviously going to take time for such a truth to fully emerge.

Many have asked me, “What is your spin on what constitutes viable human life?” Being as I have a foot in both worlds – which is to say religious belief and science – it seems logical to suppose that I would be able to offer up a “faith and science-friendly” opinion as to when viable human life begins. Well, yes, I do have something to offer up for consideration though the only thing I can be 100% certain of is that my opinion will be contested by people on both sides of the “great divide”. With this in mind, here is my spin – informed by biology, of course.

The heart begins beating at three weeks of gestation and the first neural reflex is manifest at eight weeks (and consists of hand withdrawal in response to stimulation of the fetal lip region). During weeks 9-13 the first brain waves appear and are discernible using special medical instrumentation.

Given that death is defined (in part) as a cessation of both heart and brain wave activity, one could argue conversely that to be alive in any meaningful sense beyond mere biological existence (A petri dish bearing a cell culture has biological existence, after all)  begins when both heart and brain are operational – week 9 onwards.

Interestingly, in my own faith tradition which is informed by lines of moral & ethical reasoning in Rabbinic Judaism, the fetus generally becomes a viable human life after day 40 of gestation. In the ancient Jewish context, the fetus is deemed to be little more than water until “quickening” occurs, about 40 days after insemination. “What Do Orthodox Jews Think About Abortion and Why? By Judith Shulevitz – Orthodox Jews on Abortion. If we take week 9 as our bench mark — the heart and brain being recognizably functional – then the fetus would be deemed viable from about day 63 onward.

 Applying this definition of when human life becomes viable, it follows that embryos from conception to week 9 or so are “pre-viable” or “proto-viable.”

Now is this to say that embryos prior to week 9 are “fair game”? Say, that we can create embryos strictly for the purposes of harvesting their tissue and/or stem cells for medical research or other applications? These embryos aren’t viable, so why not? Well this brings us full circle to religious and ethical concerns. Rather than belabor that in this op-ed piece, I would direct readers to an excellent treatment of this subject in this posted article: Jewish Virtual Library – Abortion

OK, so we don’t create embryos to harvest, how about using intentionally aborted fetuses as a source of tissues or embryonic stem cells for research or medical application? As one fellow actually said to me, “Hey, Doc, they are going to die anyway, so why not get some good out of them for sick and ailing people”. To my mind, this comes uncomfortably close to the arguments advanced by physicians and scientists who performed hideous experiments on human subjects in Nazi concentration camps. This very line of reasoning was, in fact, used as a defense by some of the physicians being tried for war crimes in the 1946 “Doctor’s Trail” in Germany). Granted, there is a world of difference between elective abortion and the intentional dispatch of life at the hands of doctors (such as the late Nazi “Angel of Death” Dr. Josef Mengele and his ilk) who abandoned universally acknowledged medical ethics in the service of the state. But even so, harvesting aborted fetuses from any source does strike many folks in America as constituting a form of callous utilitarianism that can’t help but bring to mind some of the most egregious polities and activities in the Nazi bio-state – or perhaps the fear that our country is headed in the direction of making prophecy of the classic sci-fi film “Soylent Green” – or both. And even if the intentional abortion of a fetus before week 9 were universally embraced as morally and ethically acceptable – in no way offensive to humankind or the Almighty – there remains something hauntingly “predatory” about utilizing material from intentionally terminated “pre-viable” human material.

All things considered, it seems unlikely that access to abortion will prove a genie that can be returned to the proverbial bottle (This side of the US becoming an authoritarian or police state run by pro-life factions at all levels, that is – something the majority of Americans would vehemently oppose). And while restrictions on the direction embryonic stem cell research and use takes will likely continue to be a legislative and ethical tug-of-war between various factions, a return to an outright ban on government provided/sanctioned embryonic stem cell lines seems unlikely. This leaves what is being played out now at the political level:  That is, the fact many state legislatures such as my own native state of Texas in 2013 are leaning towards placing considerable restrictions on access to abortion services. This gambit may succeed especially in states dominated by a traditionally conservative majority although I predict any such this legislation will be eventually overturned by the Supreme Court as being unconstitutional.

Perhaps my life-at-9-weeks-on criteria should be thrown into the abortion access deliberations mix. Let’s revisit it:

Given that death is defined (in part) as a cessation of both heart and brain wave activity, one could argue conversely that to be alive in any meaningful sense beyond mere biological existence (A petri dish bearing a cell culture has biological existence, after all)  begins when both heart and brain are operational – week 9 onwards

Of course, I am not actually advocating that my definition (above) be transformed into new legislation or such that is imposed on all women across the land. But for women who come out of conservative faith traditions what I have laid out might help them in deciding at what point-in-time during a fetuses’ development abortion constitutes an ethical or moral misstep. For those who find my approach reasonable, use of a “morning after” pill constitutions no sin nor does an abortion prior to week ten (10) post-conception.

In the final analysis, the whole matter comes down to personal choice informed by the unique constellation of social and life factors & players that characterize each woman’s life.

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© 2013 by Dr. Anthony “Choctaw Doc” Payne. All rights reserved.

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