Where did that watch come from?

In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone and were asked how the stone came to be there, I might possibly answer that for anything I knew to the contrary it had lain there forever; nor would it, perhaps, be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, that for anything I knew the watch might have always been there. Yet why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as for the stone? Why is it not as admissible in the second case as in the first? For this reason, and for no other, namely, that when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive – what we could not discover in the stone – that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e.g., that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; that if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, of a different size from what they are, or placed after any other manner or in any other order than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use that is now served by it. To reckon up a few of the plainest of these parts and of their offices, all tending to one result; we see a cylindrical box containing a coiled elastic spring, which, by its endeavour to relax itself, turns round the box. We next observe a flexible chain – artificially wrought for the sake of flexure – communicating the action of the spring from the box to the fusee [a wheel upon which a watch chain is wound and which equalises the power of the mainspring]. We then find a series of wheels, the teeth of which catch in and apply to each other, conducting the motion from the fusee to the balance and from the balance to the pointer, and at the same time, by the size and shape of those wheels, so regulating that motion as to terminate in causing an index, by an equable and measured progression, to pass over a given space in a given time. We take notice that the wheels are made of brass, in order to keep them from rust; the springs of steel, no other metal being so elastic; that over the face of the watch there is placed a glass, a material employed in no other part of the work, but in the room of which, if there had been any other than a transparent substance, the hour could not be seen without opening the case. This mechanism being observed – it requires indeed an examination of the instrument, and perhaps some previous knowledge of the subject, to perceive and understand it; but being once, as we have said, observed and understood – the inference we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker—that there must have existed, at some time and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer, who comprehended its construction and designed its use.

Paley, W., Natural Theology ch. 1; in The Works of William Pale

Eyjafjallajokull

5 This is what God the LORD says—
he who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:

6 “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,

7 to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

Isaiah 42:5 – 7

John Wyatt on Bioethics and Creation

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Each year New College hosts a series of lectures which are open to the public and unashamedly present the Christian perspective on an issue that is relevant and important in our society today. This year the topic is bioethics and the speaker is leading international Bioethicist Professor John Wyatt.

The first of these lectures was tonight – the topic being Bioethics and Creation.  Here is my attempt at a summary of what he said, and to get in some of the gems that he said and I managed to write down. (Sorry if some of it is a bit random)

No-one comes to the consider the issue of bioethics with a neutral staring point. Everyone has their own presuppositions which will impact on their evaluation of the issues involved. As Christians our presuppositions come out of our faith. Something that is not to be forgotten is the great need for empathy in these discussions.

“Empathy is the way of the cross”

Some staggering stats that highlight the need for these discussions and the need for these discussion to be conducted with gentleness and grace

  • In the UK 90% of parents who are given a pre-birth diagnosis of down syndrome will choose to abort their child
  • 1 in 7 couples have fertility problems
  • 1 in 3 women will have an abortion at some time in their life

The dominant worldview amongst those who are the opinion formers of modern healthcare is Materialism. This view says that the cosmos consists of matter and energy and is limited to the physical, with no underlying purpose or meaning. ‘Human values, ethical commitments, and purposes are merely stories our brains have invented to give shape to our lives’. [from notes given out]. Materialism says ‘If you want facts you have to ask, if you want values you have to choose’.

The Enlightenment project seeks to be free from the limits of nature. It seeks to use scientific knowledge and technology to first enable us to understand ourselves (how the machine works) and secondly to improve on out humanity. It is the quest to understand and control ourselves through science.

Utilitarianism seeks personal autonomy as the ultimate good. The word autonomy literally means ‘I make my own laws’ (auto + nomoV). The ethical goal of this world view is the maximization of all personal choices, and medical science should be orientated towards this goal.

‘People have the moral right and the moral responsibility to confront the most fundamental questions about the meaning and value of their own lives for themselves… At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life… Freedom is the cardinal, absolute requirement of self-respect: no-one treats his life as having any intrinsic objective imortance unless he insists on leading that life himself, not being ushered along it by others.’ Ronald Dworkin

‘The right of individuals to procreate must give place to a new paramount right: the right of every child to enter life with an adequate physical and mental endowment.’ Bentley Glass

It is the inner self that makes decisions about what happens to the external self. Of course the flip side to all of this is that the lack of the ability to have choice, liberty, control etc is ethical evil and to keep a child that would fit into that category is wrong.

If autonomy is the right goal, why can’t I chose the sex of my baby?? This technology is available.

In these times there are 4 things needed to make a baby –

  1. Sperm donor (genetic father)
  2. Egg donor (genetic mother)
  3. Uterus (carrying mother)
  4. Care-giver (social mum)

These can potentially be 4 different people and don’t necessarily need to be associated to each other. Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) makes it possible to test for almost any genetic variable prior to the embryo being implanted into the carrying mother. Tests can even be carried out on the embryo to test for risk percentages for things like Alzheimer’s and Breast Cancer.

Christian faith realises that all creation is orientated towards the purpose and plan of God. He has created not only the physical ‘stuff’ but the hidden moral order.

‘Biblical ethics (the way we should behave) is derived from biblical anthropology (the way we are made).’

Genesis 1:26 tells us that we are uniquely God-like beings. We are not self-explanatory… our meaning is found outside ourselves, in the one in whose image we were made.

We will never understand what it means to be human by medical science without first realising that we are a reflection of God’s being. Secular views of autonomy are nothing more than fantasy and myth.

‘We are most ourselves not when we seek to direct and control our destiny, but when we recognise and admit that our life is grounded in and sustained by God.’ Gilbert Meilaender

As the Godhead exists in community, so to be human is to be in communion, in relation with other persons.

Our creation in God’s image is both a reflection of what we already are, in the stuff of our beings, and also a promise of what by God’s grace we are to become. [from notes]

While we are uniquely made in God’s image, we are also made out of the dust, out of the same stuff as everything else! As such we share the frailty and vunerablilty of the rest of the world. This means that dependence on others is not a degrading and terrible reality. Rather it is part of the plan. We are meant to be a burden to each other! This is part of being called into a family, to share the burdens of life which God has given us. (Gal 6:2)

The life of family, including the Christian church family, should be one of ‘mutal burdensomeness’. The human person is the place where freedom and utter dependence are united’.

One of the problems in considering bioethics is the word ‘reproduction’. This word has a factory sense to it and misses the point a little.

“We do not produce babies, we beget them.”

What we make is a product of will and control. What we beget is a gift from our being and is equal to us in dignity and status. Children are not created, they are to be accepted and respected as mysterious and wonderful and equal to us in human dignity.

In extraordinary, counter-cultural fashion, the biblical understanding puts sex and making babies as belonging together. Secular views today keep these very separate. In the UK the average age of first sexual experience is 16, and the average age of having a first baby is 27. It is this desire for years of sex which is not complicated by babies, that has lead to the elaborate contraception and abortion options.

Feticide (abortion) says that a vunerable, potentially injured baby is not one of us. But God has called this baby into existence and that very fact means that it is one of us. It is our family.

Every baby is a reflection of Jesus. Sometimes we see God more clearly in the broken, weak and malformed.

Some random notes from Q & A –

  • Adoption is a redemptive act & a sign of God’s grace
  • As Christians it is not good enough to oppose abortion – we must offer an alternative!
  • When considering the huge amount of info a newly pregnant couple can find out about their child with PGD we should note that with god-like knowledge comes god-like responsibility
  • There are 200,00 abortions per year in the UK
  • 99% will be for ‘social reasons’
  • 1% for medical reasons
  • Only a handful will be in order to save mum’s life

Tomorrow night’s lecture is Bioethics and Redemption. If you would like to come check out this page for info.