"The Impact of 'Scientific Misinformation' on Other Fields: Philosophy, Theology, Biomedical Ethics, Public Policy"

Wallace: "Based on recent research in reproductive biology, especially on studies of cell division, twinning, recombination and implantation", Wallace (1989), a physicist, also sees a need to up-date the scientific foundations of a scholastic philosophy of nature which can account for ensoulment (often placed at about 3 months). I would argue that Wallace sees a parallel between McCormick's "pre-embryo" which seems to be in transition to becoming a "person" at 14 days, and what the scholastics called a "being on the way", or a "seed". I will present his scholastic philosophical concepts and arguments only long enough to be able to pull out a few of the incorrect scientific claims and invalid scientific analogies which he uses to make his point. Wallace, who is a physicist and a scholastic philosopher, will attempt his own redefinition of human embryogenesis.

One philosophical comment is in order to clarify Wallace's (and others') concern about "ensoulment". If the "soul" is considered as a whole thing itself (i.e., a substance or a being), then a theory of "delayed hominization" (delayed "personhood") is necessary to explain how all the different and separate component substances of a human being get put together serially somewhere down the line (an example of a mind/body split). However, if the "soul" is considered as only a principle, a power, or as a part of only one whole thing, and if the vegetative and sensitive powers of the soul cannot be separated from the rational powers but are contained in it virtually, then there is simply no need for a theory of delayed hominization. Instead, a theory of immediate hominization (immediate "personhood" at fertilization) is necessary. I point this out because, interestingly, Wallace's and others' rationalistic philosophical commitment requires the kind of "science" such as reported by Bedate, Cefalo, Grobstein and McCormick. Is it possible that these philosophical presuppositions are imposed on the scientific data? (The subject of another paper.)

Wallace's project is roughly the following. First he will describe what he calls stable natures: inorganic materials, plants, animals and finally human beings. These descriptions, he says, are true only of the mature individuals - not of those individuals as they were being generated. Second he will describe what he calls transient natures, such as radioisotopes. It is the model-concept of these immature transient natures which he will use to redefine human embryogenesis. Each of the grades of stable natures will be considered (invalidly) like a transient nature during the process of human embryogenesis. They will be successively "educed" from the "protomatter" of the previous transient nature (which has eventually become stabilized). This is how it works.

The "mature" stable natures are exemplified by the following. First, an inorganic nature, (e.g., a chemical element, a compound, or a mineral) is an organizing field, a force which structures "protomatter" and gives it certain qualities and powers. Second, a plant nature contains these inorganic powers, as well as its own vegetative powers, e.g., nutrition, growth, reproduction and homeostasis. It is the growth power which is the developmental power, controlling cell growth and differentiation. Third, an animal nature contains the two previous powers, plus its own, e.g., the powers of sensation and emotion. All of these lower forms are educed from "protomatter" by angelic activity and are material forms. Fourth, the human form, being immaterial, is created by God, with the powers of intellect and will. These human powers do not need any body organs through which to operate.

The "transient" natures he will describe will "explain the efficient causality we observe during fetal development". He likens these transient natures to the "seeds" which so puzzled the medieval scholastics. He calls these natures "transient" because they have only fleeting or transitory existence. Also of importance is how these "transient natures" are generated (which he will also liken to fetal development). "Transient natures" are generated through an "eduction" of a form from something which contains many forms potentially; then it will recede back into the "protomatter", and be replaced by another form which will be "educed". When this happens, he explains, substantial - not accidental -change has taken place. For example, there is the generation of compounds from elements. Na and Cl combine to form NaCl. When they so combine, Wallace claims, the Na and the Cl have actually changed their natures, and have become a third nature - i.e., NaCl. Thus in the formation of elemental compounds, "when the new nature is generated the old nature ceases to be." He will use this "model" analogously to argue for delayed hominization. That is, during early embryogenesis, there is literally substantial change taking place - i.e., a change in natures. First there develops a human "vegetative" substance or nature, replaced by a human "sensitive" (or animal) substance or nature - which is finally replaced by a human "rational" substance or nature.

However, when the reverse of such a process is explained - e.g., the decomposition of water - Wallace himself is puzzled. Why does the decomposition of water result in two hydrogens? This poses the problem of "individuation" to him (Wallace is puzzled because his philosophical definition of "natures" consists only of the universal "species" form, and thus it can not explain the materiality of the individuals which comprise the "species"). So he tries to liken the two hydrogens to identical twins - but cannot resolve the puzzle, if theoretically what is generated is the universal "species" only. He will not let this theoretical problem daunt him, however, and takes refuge in what he considers to be a chemist's response. "For chemists it is sufficient to consider the nature apart from the individual, since in their view all hydrogen molecules are necessarily the same" (emphasis added). So Wallace is free now to consider only the nature, apart from the material individuals - a prerequisite, interestingly enough, for a theory of delayed hominization.

Wallace's next example of a transient nature comes from radiochemistry. He describes the radioactive decay of one element into another. And like the human embryo, he claims, the parent isotope is "self-activating". Here, each of the daughter isotopes is successively "educed" from within the potency of the parent isotope. Although he thinks that this model of radiochemistry is really descriptive of a stable nature, he states that he will "consider" it as a transient nature anyway, because it is useful to explain human embryogenesis.

And finally, Wallace will apply his model of "transient natures" - based on recent research in reproductive biology - to describe his own theory of human embryogenesis, or the serial generation of a plant, to an animal, and finally to a human being. Wallace's description of human embryogenesis involves a constant progression from a transient nature to the stable form of that nature, from which is educed the next transient nature which likewise persists until the stable form of that nature appears, etc.

First, then, human embryogenesis begins with the seeds (ovum and sperm) of the human parents. These seeds combine to form an entity with a "plant-like" transient nature [he means the human zygote]. "When material defects are eliminated and twinning or recombination can no longer occur", a new stable-like plant form is educed from the potentiality of the "protomatter", with its own proper "plant" powers. This stable plant form persists until a new transient animal-like form is educed. Again, when material defects are eliminated and twinning or recombination can no longer occur, the new stable animal form with its proper powers is educed. Finally, when this animal "matter" is appropriately organized by the animal form, God creates the immaterial human form (i.e., the "rational" soul alone) with its own proper powers - and we now have a human being with human ensoulment completed (i.e., a human "person").

The problems with Wallace's redefinition of human embryogenesis are both conceptual and scientific. I will list but a few.

1. Empirically there is no such thing as two kinds of natures of one and the same specific kind of thing. That is, there is no such thing as a "transient" nature and a "stable" nature of a plant or of an animal - nor of a human being. One only has to check the chromosomes to determine that. An acorn is genetically an oak - albeit a tiny one. That is why it can grow into the stage of a large oak tree, instead of becoming a pumpkin.

2. It is invalid for Wallace to claim that there is an analogy between "stable" natures which are descriptive of mature individuals only, and his serial "phases" of "transient" natures during the immature stages of human embryogenesis. After going through his paradigm example of a "transient" nature, Wallace will then admit that a radioisotope is probably really an example of a "stable" nature -but he will use it anyway as a "model" of his so-called "transient" natures during human embryogenesis. If it is really a "stable" nature, how can he legitimately use it as a substitute "transient" nature in his model of human embryogenesis? He even admits the inconsistency, but decides to use the analogy anyway, without any argument - other than that it is "useful".

3. Relatedly, if the "rational" human nature which is infused at about 3 months is actually descriptive of a "mature" human nature, would Wallace then agree that a three month fetus which was receiving this mature human nature was actually a mature human being?

4. Simply because Wallace's "transient" natures (e.g., radioisotopes) have a "brief" existence does not mean therefore that they are not stable natures. An existent is an existent - no matter how briefly it exists.

5. As a chemist, I cannot imagine any other chemist who would agree with Wallace that Na and Cl actually change their very natures when they form a compound. There is only the sharing of electrons - not protons. Nor would a chemist agree that all hydrogens are the same; chemists know about natural isotopes. The atomic weights given in the periodic chart are only an average weight for the elements. Nor would they accept Wallace's analogy between the generation of "daughter" isotopes from radioactive "parents", and the generation of a human zygote from two human parents. The radioactive "daughter" is a different "species" than the "parent"; the human zygote has the same number of chromosomes as the human parents and is of the same species.

6. Wallace invalidly compares and equates several different scientific terms and processes. For example, the "nuclei" of a radioisotope and that of a plant, an animal, or a human cell are hardly equivalent. Nor is the "generation" of any of those entities equivalent. He also uses an incorrect analogy between a plant "seed" and human "seeds" (the ovum and the sperm). A plant seed already contains all of the reproductive information it needs to develop; a human ovum or sperm contains only half of the necessary information. Thus if only a sperm or only an ovum were implanted in a womb, no human being would ever result from it. The more correct empirical correlate, actually, would be between the plant seed and the human zygote at fertilization.

Wallace made a critical observation during his paper which might have kept him out of the above difficulties. He noted one of the classic insights of both bench research science and of a realistic philosophy of nature: "... [A] quality is an attribute through which we come to know a nature. A thing's actions and reactions enable us to ascertain its powers and from these we judge its nature". Every bench researcher, I would argue, is quite familiar with this truth of basic research.

Had Wallace only adhered to his own astute observation it would have precluded him from developing his model of "transient" natures which he wanted to use to explain human embryogenesis. For if one looks hard at the most agreed upon scientific evidence which we do have, Wallace would have had to argue for immediate hominization. Biologically we know that at fertilization there is already a human being with "46" chromosomes; that immediately there are specifically human enzymes and proteins produced (not tomato or frog enzymes); that all of the information for cleavage, totipotency, implantation, etc., is already present; and that by "3 months" specifically human functions, reactions, tissue and organ formations have already taken place. Empirically, the formation of cabbages or giraffe tissues and organs has not taken place. There is, then, no need biologically for a "rational soul" to be infused at three months to make it specifically human and direct human formation. That work has already been done by "something" back at the human zygote stage. The 3 month fetus doesn't need a rational "soul" (which for rationalists doesn't even contain a vegetative or a sensitive "soul") to make it something it already is - a human being which is functioning humanly. This biology would enable us to ascertain its human nature and would argue for immediate hominization. It compels us to reject a real mind/body split.

II. Philosophy/Theology/Biomedical Ethics: "Later" Fetal Development

Although the above writers have used scientific facts concerning cell differentiation, implantation, twinning, etc., as either an argument against fertilization or for the "earlier" marker events of "personhood", the remaining commentators have abandoned these early stages as being insignificant. Instead they will use scientific data to argue for some sort of brain-related marker, based on the later stages of human embryogenesis. Regardless if they will argue that "personhood" requires the presence of "rational attributes", or sentience (the ability to feel pain), the focus of their arguments is the physiological substrate which they claim is the pre-condition for either of those characteristics of personhood.

All of these writers have several problems in common, so for brevity I will state these beforehand, as they apply to all of the writers generally (see Irving, 1991).

First, many will still actually define a human "person" in terms of "rational attributes" only. But as pointed out above, this is a very rationalistic definition drawn from a philosophical theory with a mind/body split. Thus there can be no interaction between the physiological substrate for which they argue and the "rational attributes" which those physiological substrates are suppose to be supporting. Others will define a human "person" in terms of "sentience" only. But this is a very materialistic definition drawn from a philosophical school of thought which also has very serious theoretical problems of its own. No where do these writers either acknowledge their own philosophical presuppositions or argue for their respective definitions of a human being or a human person.

Second, the physiological substrate which is a precondition for the physiological substrate for either "rational attributes" or for sentience is the human zygote itself.

Third, in none of their markers is there any real "personal" functioning at all. These stages are all immature stages, and as other writers have indicated, "full consciousness" or "full physiological integration" or sentience is not complete until well after birth. All of these arguments, then, are arguments from "potential".

Fourth, the scientific evidence for these claims is still very sketchy, vague and controversial. Many scientific critics indicate a reading into the scientific evidence more than is either physiologically or conceptually possible.

Fifth, conceptual parallels are often made on which to base distinctions, e.g., evolution theory or the criteria of "brain death". None of these parallels are argued for but are simply posited. Only the similarities are noted; the differences, which could actually contradict the existence of any such "parallels", are ignored.

As a quick survey of the literature reveals, one of the writers who argues for brain-related criteria is MacKay (see Jones, 1989). The maturation of the nervous system is the significant stage (before that point there is only a "no one" there). Rahner, Ruff, and Haring (see Jones, 1989) claim that the evolution of "persons" parallels the evolution of the cosmos. That is, there is a major leap in embryogenesis with the "evolution" of the cerebral cortex at about 20-45 days. Several British writers (see Jones, 1989) argue for 40 days with the functioning of the nerve net. This point, they state, parallels "brain death", implying that "consciousness" is the defining characteristic of a human person. Humans are to be defined in terms of a nature able to exercise rational, moral and personal capacities. Since the first moments of the conscious experience is the basis for later rational and moral thought, they claim, these conscious experiences are dependent on the development of a functioning nerve net. Sass (1989) argues for 54 days - what he calls "brain birth", or Cortical Life I (his parallel to "brain death"). He bases his position on its compatibility with the medical understanding and explanation of the process of human embryonic development and gestation. Singer and Wells (see Jones, 1989) argue for 6 weeks, because consciousness, autonomy and rationality are morally relevant characteristics, consciousness being the most minimal. At 6 weeks a being is capable of feeling pleasure or pain (sentience), or of having experiences and preferring some kinds of experience to others. At that point the being has special moral status. And Tauer (1985) argues that a "person" emerges with brain activity at about 7 weeks.

Several writers argue for the 8 week biological marker. Lockwood (1988) and Goldenring (1982, 1985) see this stage as the starting point for human "personal" existence because this is the point at which there is integration of the brain as a whole. Goldenring considers this view persuasive because of the symmetrical view it offers of the beginning and end of human existence, and because of its objective basis. Kushner (1984) argues that consciousness depends on the functioning of the brain at 8 weeks. Shea (1985) considers this the time when the newly developing body organs and systems begin to function as a whole under the direction of a functioning brain. Grobstein (1985), in another article, also argues that at 8 weeks there is a person. He states that the beginning of "life" is not significant, but rather the manifestation of "self" (pace Engelhardt). Until 8 weeks, he argues, the human embryo lacks the two essential aspects of personhood: affective recognizability by other people, and internal conscious awareness. And Gertler (see Singer, 1981) argues that 5 months is the proper marker, when "brain birth" begins. Human cognition, he claims, is distinctive of "persons", and is indicated by the beginning of the formation of EEG waves in the neocortex around 5 months. Bennett (1989) also argues for "brain life".

There is, however, no scientific evidence which demonstrates the correlation of "consciousness" and the organizing of the nervous system, as pointed out, for example, by the Board for Social Responsibility (1985) in London. And many writers, such as Jones (1989), have argued that the parallelism between brain death and brain life is invalid. Brain death, he points out, is the gradual or rapid cessation of function of a brain. Brain birth is the very gradual acquisition of a function of a developing neural system. Jones argues that this developing neural system is not a brain. He also questions the entire assumption, and asks what neurological reasons there might be for concluding that an incapacity for consciousness becomes a capacity for consciousness once this point is passed. Also, the nervous system of the eight-week old fetus is quite different from that of the seven or eighth month old fetus, let alone that of the two-year old child. The nervous system of the eight week old fetus, Jones argues, is not a miniature version of the young child's brain. It is very incomplete, and its functioning is at a different level from that of the late fetus or young child. What follows from this, Jones adds, is that at present it is impossible to recognize a distinct point of transition from a "non-brain" to a "brain", or from a non-functioning nervous system to a functioning one. He also argues that it is impossible to recognize a distinct point of transition from a "non-person" to a "person". Indeed, as Jones points out, all of these sorts of arguments are in fact arguments from "potential" - arguments which these very writers are suppose to be arguing against:

The second theme for some of the writers is the crucial part played by the appearance of the cerebral cortex. The rationale for this is that it is the cortex which, in the postnatal human, is central to higher thought processes. While there is no denying that this is the case later on in life, the issue during early gestation is whether the first appearance of cortical progenitors signifies that the fetus has personhood or a personal center of life. The features associated with personhood in postnatal life are only potentially present in the eight week fetus; and so this stance relies upon the potentiality argument. Surprisingly, though, this is not brought out by these writers.

Jones also examines the parallel that is made between these early neural structures and sentience, or the capacity to feel pain. The earliest that immature EEG activity can be obtained in very limited areas of the cerebral hemispheres is 14 weeks. Even this responsiveness to pain is poorly localized at this stage. This is problematic in that the initial time of electrical activity appearing in the fetal brain is of an amorphous nature and thus difficult to determine with precision. And with regard to pain, there is no way of knowing whether a behavioral response we would experience as pain is experienced in the same way by an early fetus with a rudimentary nervous system. In view of these data, Jones concludes, it is difficult to have any assurance that specific developmental stages can be associated with concepts such as "differentiation" or "integration". Neither can one assert that "there is 'conscious awareness' from the eighth-week stage onward".

Jones, himself, will argue for "brain-birth" at 6-7 months, a position which would seem to be problematic too, given all of his own criticisms of arguments from potentiality, the immaturity of the biological systems and the dis-symmetry between the concepts of "brain death" and "brain birth". The situation calls to mind the remarks of a different Jones' (1987) concerning the role of the scientist in these disputes about fetal "personhood":

The reproductive biologist cannot assign moral status to the sperm or the egg or the fertilized egg or any of the subsequent products that may result from this fusion... The reproductive biologist can help, however, by assuring that other scientists or those who wish to assign a moral status - and use a biological term or concept to do so - know what they are talking about.

What I have attempted to do in this paper up to this point is to question, frankly, what some scientists, in fact, are talking about - sincere though they may be. Which scientists are correct, or at least have the best scientific theory to support the empirical facts? I certainly do not consider myself an expert at all, but surely what I see are basic problems concerning scientific facts which are generally known and generally accepted as the best scientific explanation within the scientific community itself. Scientific inaccuracies may be undesirable within the field of science itself. Yet much of this scientific misinformation - if it is incorrect - has proliferated throughout the literature of philosophy, theology and biomedical ethics for many years. This incorrect literature, in turn, has been institutionalized in philosophical, theological and biomedical journals, text books, encyclopedias, and computer programs on college campuses, "think tanks" and libraries nationally as well as internationally. It has also been institutionalized in public policy development, the topic to which I will now very briefly turn.

III. Public Policy Development

Any number of "institutional" policy makers are influenced by the scientific and the bioethics literature - in most cases, legitimately so (Wikler, 1991; Capron, 1989). But many are also influenced by the above apparent inaccurate scientific/bioethics arguments, and inevitably incorporate these scientific inaccuracies and redefinitions into public policies. I will only touch on but a very few examples here.

The Harvard Medical School's (1968) definition of "brain death" - although probably a medically legitimate and useful concept - was based on neurological data similar to that discussed above, and is often the standard used by physicians to make a determination of the death of the patient before the withdrawal of treatment. "Brain death" statutes have now become law in many states.

Similar neurological data is also used to make a diagnosis of "permanent vegetative state" (PVS), a process which either has already been or, it is argued, should be adopted as a medical standard (Washington State, 1992; Council on Scientific Affairs, etc., 1990; Capron, 1992). Yet PVS is still a questionable diagnosis (Steinbock, 1989; Ross, 1992; Tassaeau, 1991), which can lead to decisions to withdraw life-sustaining medical therapy. Such decisions to withdraw therapy are often justified by the rationalistic philosophical claim that there is no longer a human "person" present (Robertson, 1991).

Parallels of "brain death" with "brain birth" are made, leading to demands to forego medical treatment to defective neonates and newborns - since they also are not "persons". This is especially true for newborns with anencephaly (a diagnosis which is also difficult and questionable, designating a cluster of symptoms which differ significantly). The parents of these infants receive many requests to donate the fresh living organs of their infants. Walters (1992) argues for the medical standard of "proximate personhood" for making difficult treatment decisions involving imperiled newborns. A developing individual's right to life, he claims, increases "as he or she approaches the threshold of undisputed human personhood." Anencephalics, because of their nature, may be treated "primarily (but not only) as a means" - especially when balanced against the good they may bring to others - i.e., as donors of organs (Walters, 1989) - a non-neutral and normative utilitarian theory of ethics. And in a different context, reminiscent of Descartes, many neonatal and pediatric surgeons have withheld pain relief from neonates and infants during and after surgery partly because of their belief that they cannot feel pain at those developmental stages.

There are also charges growing that Roe v Wade was grounded in incorrect science (Carberry and Kmiec, 1992). Other legal commentators, e.g., Annas (1989-A; 1989-B), in defending Roe, follow the "symbolic personhood" arguments of Robertson (1988, 1989, 1991) - (which in turn relies heavily on the science of Grobstein). Annas agrees with the Roe decision which held that "a State may not adopt one theory of when life begins to justify its regulation of abortion", and so opposes the Webster decision, which stated that "the life of each human being begins at conception." But legitimate arguments can be made empirically that the life of each individual human being does begin at fertilization. This is not a case of imposing one person's or group's "theories" on the rest of us - it is an objective, empirical fact. Scientifically, even the "best fit" theory has to go with fertilization. As Moore has put it: "This cell [the zygote] results from fertilization of an oocyte, or ovum, by a sperm, or spermatozoon, and is the beginning of a human being" (Moore, 1982, p. 1; emphasis of the author). Is science prepared to state that this is scientifically not true?

The advent of in vitro fertilization has led to other policy arguments and policy decisions, on both the medical and the legal level. The American Fertility Society has adopted the term "pre-embryo" in their professional guidelines. Physicians have developed policies for the implantation, freeze-storage and experimental destruction of IVF human embryos - who, it is often argued, are not human beings or human "persons". Legal precedent is set in the courts in cases involving surrogate motherhood (Annas, 1991), determination of decisions in the cases of the death of the "biological parents, and "ownership" of unwanted frozen embryos (Robertson, 1989). Robertson (1986) argues in legal journals for new public policy determinations on IVF human embryos - quoting at length Grobstein's theory of human embryogenesis. Robertson agrees with Grobstein that the "pre-embryo" is not a "person" yet, and thus possesses no moral or legal rights. Robertson (1986) considers the pre-embryo as only property and having only "symbolic value" to the parents. In the following quote from Robertson, arguing in the area of legal and public policy development, the reliance on the science of Grobstein, as well as the very rationalistic understanding of the philosophical term "potential" can be identified, and are quite confusing:

... [C]onsideration of embryo status is essential if we are to think clearly about and adopt appropriate policies concerning IVF and embryo manipulation... To assign a moral and legal status to the extracorporeal embryo, we must first examine the facts of early embryo development [which he then proceeds to quote from Grobstein].

[The early human embryo is] clearly not a person in the usual sense that we use the term person... [It] is similar to blood, bone marrow and other tissue or even solid organs, though there are important differences.

...Does the potential to become a person confer a particular moral and legal status on the embryo, a status that entails duties that limit what might be done with extracorporeal embryos?... I argue that the embryo does not have a moral status in and of itself.

...It is clear that there is no obligation to transfer embryos based on obligations to the persons who might then be born. Future persons [i.e., IVF human embryos] have no claim on us unless our present choices will affect their well-being when they do come into being. If they never come into being, they have not been harmed, since no person has ever existed to be harmed. Thus there is no obligation to the person who might come into being as a result of transfer, because there is no such person. No person exists to whom an obligation can be owed... Nor is there an obligation to the embryo in and of itself to be transferred, so that it might have the chance of realizing its potential personhood. To say there is such a duty would be to assume that the nontransferred pre-embryo is a rights-bearing entity in and of itself. It might become such an entity if certain favorable conditions and events occur. But the potential to become a person does not mean that an entity should be treated as a person now, anymore than an acorn's potential to become an oak tree means that it now be regarded as an oak tree... Indeed such treatment would be very difficult in light of the biology of the embryo... It has no interests, and thus cannot be the subject of moral duties at this rudimentary stage [and thus can be used in experimental research]. (Robertson, 1986)

The use of IVF human embryos for research purposes, of course, is a major biomedical issue (Cefalo, 1991). Medical researchers lobby Congress and federal regulatory committees to use "surplus" (Muggleton-Harris, 1991) or produced-for-research IVF human embryos in a great number of basic (destructive) research to perfect the IVF technique itself (see Aragona, 1991), improve embryonic cell biopsy, egg freezing techniques, superovulation and chrorionic biopsy techniques, embryonic sex selection and micro-injection techniques, as well as to screen viruses and bacteria. IVF human embryos are also useful for research in fetal tissue transplants, selective breeding of human beings, genome analysis and germ line gene therapy, improvement of gene therapy techniques, nucleus substitution, implantation and gestation of the human embryo in the uterus of another animal and vice versa, production of new kinds of animals, creation of human embryos from the sperm of two different individuals or the ova of two different individuals, fusion of human embryos with other human embryos or animals to create chimeras, and parthenogenesis experiments. They are also useful for drug testing, product testing, commercial purposes (e.g., hormones, blood proteins, anti-viral, anti-bacterial or anti-carcinogenic agents, vaccines, recombinant DNA experiments, and biological warfare experiments (Irving, 1991). Can such large scale medical research be justified on the basis of the scientific and philosophical inaccuracies and problem as addressed above?

Many of these scientific, medical and legal conclusions and policies find their way to other national and international policy levels. For example, the use of human embryos and fetuses in purely experimental research is often justified on what at least the realist would consider the misperception of the non-personhood of the human embryo and the human fetus, and the legal reality of the Roe v Wade decision in the Supreme Court (NIH, 1988; Annas, 1989, 1991; Robertson, 1989, 1991). International commissions pick up on national policy precedents. Some Australian and French committees argue for "produced for research IVF embryos". The Warnock Commission in England (1984) concluded that only after 14 days should the human embryo be afforded protection, because that is the limit of the period during which it is possible for the human embryo to implant in the uterine wall, after which the primitive streak is formed, and after which, they state, twinning does not occur. Before 14 days the human embryo can be used for experimental research, since it is not a human being or a human person. This conclusion was reached even though there was a common ground among the Warnock Committee members that at such time as it has become indisputably a living human being or person, "it would be morally unthinkable to carry out on the human organism, without consent, experiments of a damaging or mutilating kind" (Lockwood, 1988). On the issue of PVS, the CCNE (French National Ethics Committee, 1986) affirmed that patients in a "permanent vegetative state" constitute "intermediaries between human beings and animals" - a view perhaps consonant with a Wallace-type scholastic philosophy - but one which is contested by Verspieren (Tassaeau, 1991) of the Centre Sevres, Paris, operating from a different philosophical definition of a human person.

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