Thursday, May 22, 2008

Human-Animal Hybrids, Chiron in Aquarius and the Madness of Worldlings

3 days ago the UK Parliament voted to allow the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos for research purposes. In the US, a Federal law is being proposed to ban such practices.

I last wrote about this subject just over a year ago, when the Bill was first proposed. I remain divided on it. I have a visceral response, running alongside a mistrust of the scientific establishment, that says no. But I can also see that a lot of good can come out of it. These embryos will have to be destroyed after 14 days, early enough in my opinion for nothing significant in the way of consciousness to be present. But I can’t prove that, and I may be wrong. So I am cautiously in favour of this research.

At the same time Parliament has passed a number of other related matters: allowing the creation of so-called ‘saviour siblings’, removing the need for a father with IVF treatment, and voting down a proposal to reduce the time limit for abortions from 24 weeks.

What needs paying attention to in all this is the astrology. Chiron is currently stationing in Aquarius, and it is conjunct the North Node and stationing Neptune, also both in Aquarius. This is powerful stuff. Aquarius is associated with Science. Science tends to treat nature one-sidedly as an object of investigation, and ignores nature as subject with which we imaginatively identify. To this extent Science is inhuman. Chiron’s presence in Aquarius is pointing this out, he is saying be careful what you do while I am in this sign, for I am a centaur, I am nature, and I was wounded by the unthinking and heroic Hercules; likewise, you too can do irreparable damage in your heroic but unconsidered quest to manipulate and conquer nature.

With Chiron's conjunction to Neptune, there is the suggestion of the mad (Neptune) scientist, and the crossing of natural boundaries.

With Chiron’s conjunction to the Node, we are talking about long-term karmic lessons for humanity, and often the only way lessons can be learnt is for mistakes to be made. There was a Chiron-Node conjunction in Aquarius at the time of the first oil strike in 1859, and the parallels are obvious. There was also a Chiron-Node conjunction at the time of the first controlled nuclear reaction in 1942. With these precedents we can be pretty sure that Science is going to make some ghastly mistakes around the creation of human life. And probably do some wonderful things as well, like reducing the number of people born with crippling diseases.

As a bio-ethicist pointed out on TV the other night, what you are often dealing with in these situations is competing ‘Goods’. It is good, for example, that a baby has a father, and it is also good that lesbian couples can have children through IVF. People get very passionate about just one side or the other, and understandably so. But I don’t think that is reasonable or helpful, because there ARE 2 sides, and there are usually no easy answers.

There is one issue which for me does have an easy answer, and that is the need to reduce the time limit on abortion from 24 weeks. The pro- and anti-abortion arguments often seem to me to be riddled with wrong-headedness, because they easily ignore the central issue, which is that an unborn baby after a certain (hard to determine) point is a sentient human.

The scientific argument, which carries the day politically, is that abortion is OK if the baby could not survive outside the womb, and as medical treatment improves, so does the time limit go down. This argument is inhuman, it is Science at its worst. It is saying that if Science would not be able to save you once you are born, then you are not human, so we can kill you.

The pro-lifers have a certain amount going for them, but we are often dealing with ideology rather than experience. Does a newly fertilised egg, or even a few week old embryo, have consciousness in any substantial sense? It is hard to know, and we certainly can’t be dogmatic about it. Once you get dogmatic/ideological, you may still be right, but you’re right for the wrong reasons.

I think the ‘pro-choice’ camp also gets wrong-headed, because though choice is an important issue, it is a secondary one. The primary issue is that we are dealing with a sentient human consciousness and the responsibility towards that, in my opinion, needs to come first.

So abortion is complex, and can’t be boiled down to the slogans of pro-life versus pro-choice. It seems to me to be obvious that there is a sentient human being way before, even months before the 24 week time limit that we have in the UK. That said, determining a time limit remains a very difficult problem.

While I am on my soap box, I have had on my mind the Buddha’s saying from 2500 years ago that ‘All Worldlings are Mad’. The saying certainly makes its point. But Indian Buddhism was a monkish religion, and so there are overtones of the superiority of the renunciative lifestyle compared to us mere, ‘mad’ mortals.

All the same, the scientific argument for abortion concerning the viability of the baby outside the womb reminded me of this saying. How could any sane person think like this? Not just one person, but a large collective of people? Similarly, how could a large collective of people take as a moral good the idea of endless economic growth for its own sake, when resources are limited? And when economic activity has the purpose of meeting material needs, why are you promoting it for its own sake? Why does one race of people consider itself superior to another? And so on.

You can see that the Buddha was right, that what he said 2500 years ago applied then and now. Wisdom is about not having these insane attitudes. Wisdom is not about complicated theories, it’s about seeing what’s in front of your nose (which is something the education system can paradoxically knock out of you, it makes you both clever and stupid.) But it can be remarkably difficult to see what is in front of your nose when everyone around you can’t. What society has told you since you were young seems like self-evident truth, and we get a lot of psychological security from thinking like everyone else.

So I think this is the main reason that ‘all worldlings are mad’: that we take our opinions from those around us, and this incidentally means that crazy ideas can take root and become authoritative and respectable. Of course, no-one would ever admit to taking their ideas from those around them. And in my experience this applies just as much to educated people as it does to uneducated people, and to liberal thinkers as much as it does to conservative thinkers. The alleged connection between CO2 and global warming is a perfect example of this. It is a provisional and arguable truth that has been turned by collective thinking into an absolute truth that no 'reasonable' person would reject.

You start to get some wisdom when you have the inclination, and the psychological security, to look independently at what’s in front of you. ‘Ignorance’ comes from the word ‘ignore’, it is a wilful, albeit unconscious, act. Ignorance is thinking that you know when you don’t. Wisdom begins with realising that you don’t know, as Socrates said. OK, I’ll get off my soap box now.

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Anonymous said...

Saying that fathers are unnecessary is a far wider issue than lesbian families, which are quite a small minority of the population. I think the bigger issue is the increasing numbers of single women who will create children with no father.

If boys and men think they are no longer a necessary and wanted part of the family, what is there to motivate them to sacrifice so much towards it?

Wasn't the role of 'fatherhood' one of the key pillars that allowed civilisation to develop? It bound men and women together with a common interest to raise children, gave men motivation to work hard, and to invest in the future.

People think they are so clever, and politically 'right on' in dumping fatherhood, or diminishing it to an optional 'lifestyle choice', but I suspect its going to turn out to have some very bad consequences.

Darren said...

If its ok for a woman to go on the Internet - for example - and buy sperm to create a baby, like she was shopping for any material good (hm, I think I'll buy some sperm that came from a man with an IQ over 120, blond hair etc etc) then aren't we back to something not a million miles away from eugenics? Aren't we reducing life down to its material level and ignoring love, consciousness, spirit?

If its ok to use science to produce babies with no daddies, then how long before big corporations and governments somewhere say its ok for THEM to produce babies with no mummies or daddies?

Dharmaruci said...

Yes. And there's the Fathers for Justice thing in the UK, because when a family splits up, the law is weighed heavily against the fathers, and there is very little they can do if the mother decides to be obstructive about giving them access. There was one case a few years ago where the mother threw such a wobbly every time the father turned up that the judge decided (regretfully) that while the father still had to pay child support, he could have no access to the kids.

dawa satso said...

DH and Darren, although I'm a single mum (my son's dad had a penchant for violence when things didn't go his way) I just love men and recognize all children's need for the involvement of both parents. In exchange for peace to avoid potential disaster I chose NOT to accept child support knowing that would be a rope keeping us tied together with all it's karmic implications. My ex relinguished custody entirely after 10 years of marriage, and has never seen his son even given an opening to do so
years later.
Down the line on both sides of our families are men who've deserted their wives and children. Fatherless fathers, unmentored men, unadmired men.
My brother has crushing child support and an ex who has no conscience with being ruthless and materialistic "throw him in jail" repeat returns to court while she herself has not used the time to educate herself and earn a decent living although her children are now 23, 20 and 16 years old perfers to drain someone else because the courts support this punitive business-as-usual custom.

My son could sure use a man (there's a hole in his belly because of it) to take time to admire and instruct him. Such men, nurturing men who have time or common soul to mentor a boy are fucking impossible to find. Why is that?

Darren said...

Dawa Satso,

I'd make a few points:

1) When there is protection from the consequences of their choice, there does seem to be a tendency for women to mate with 'bad boys' (theres much scientific evidence for this).

2) Men - in evolutionary terms - have no in-built instinct to work to nurture another man's children.

3) Several decades of men being told they aren't needed, fathers aren't necessary, and of no-fault divorce which often means financial and emotional ruination for a man has undoubtedly forced men to re-evaluate their motivation to get married.

4) Lifelong marriage with the man out working to support the family unit is not a natural thing (you don't see the equivalent of it much in the animal kingdom), and there are pretty good reasons to suppose that its invention (as a cultural institution) is what kick-started and sustained the development of Human civilisation (without the institution, men tend to prefer to just drift, as they have little motivation to work for and invest in the future).

5) Once you abandon cultural knowledge for several generations, the only way it can be regained is the way it was acquired originally: by a slow process of trial and error.

i.e. what I'm saying is that men have changed, and they are probably not changing back within our lifetimes.

dawa satso said...

Darren, thanks for your insightful input. To clarify point #1 you made, my ex was not a 'bad boy', rather a 'helpless boy' who gave over power because he wouldn't participate in decision-making becoming the 'child' who eventually took up all room in the nest leaving no room for raising young. His father died of alchohol-related disease when my ex was 14 and his mother raised him as 'Jesus Christ', her only child. I felt he would compete inappropriately, but that wasn't the main reason I left. He discovered a good 'hook' was to instill fear in others with his temper and to seek triangles and competition for his 'affection'. It worked pretty well for a number of years until my revulsion and boredom trumped attraction.
He was a pussy.