I am reading Scott Adams’ book Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain! Scott of course is the very successful artist behind the Dilbert comic strip. He has also written a number of legitimate non-comic books including some bestsellers like The Dilbert Principle. I bought his latest Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain! for my wife as a Christmas present. Thus far, she has merely scanned it. I have been the one actively reading it. One must read something (while also scratching my cat’s belly) during the half an hour between slipping under the bed covers and actually turning off the light.
Thus far the book is a lot like my blog just (and I say this with complete sincerity) not as good. Scott’s book is essentially a collection of musing sent to members of his online fan club. If a book could be like the TV show Seinfeld, this would be it. It has no central theme or subject. It amounts to somewhat structured ramblings that escaped Scott’s brain. I am about a quarter through his book. Occasionally though Scott does have a topic that I find interesting or humorous. That it has no general categorization is actually something of a virtue. If you get bored with the current essay then since for the most part they fit on a page or a page and a half, you know you will soon be onto the next topic.
One ramble of his that I was reading last night titled “Adopting” stimulated today’s post. Scott is thinking of adopting some embryonic stem cells. He does not seem to have the patience to adopt a real child, but he does care about children so why not adopt some fertilized human eggs? He wants to keep them in his refrigerator. If they need to be fed, he figures it should work the same way it works with goldfish: shake something from a little can into their Petri dishes and forget about them for a day.
I had a similar idea years ago. I just forgot to blog about it. Scott’s little tongue in cheek essay though does neatly render absurd the whole argument of when human life begins. I try to have respect for the people who believe that life begins at conception. While I have respect for them as individuals, some part of me wants to call them a word that Scott Adams coined: induhviduals. I keep thinking, were they even awake during those human biology lectures in high school?
I am sorry but if you believe that a fertilized human egg is life (as in alive) you might as well also believe in the tooth fairy. Are those dozen eggs in your refrigerator alive? Granted in most cases they are not fertilized but occasionally a fertilized egg does make it into the food supply and ends up in your refrigerator. (Not to squick you out or anything but when this happens you basically cannot tell so you fry it up anyhow.) In any event, I think we would all agree that a fertilized chicken egg is not alive. If we revered chickens way the Hindus revered cows then perhaps we could keep excess eggs in cold storage until a spare hen was available.
What is clear is that a fertilized chicken egg is inert. Like every other form of life, to move from being a potential chicken into an actual chicken it needs something. Basically, it needs the right kind of energy and some time. When the egg absorbs sufficient warmth, it begins to grow. It is when something is growing that we know it is alive. The eggs in my refrigerator are not alive. Similarly, a human embryo is not alive either. It is inert.
As proof, go to the dictionary. My online dictionary defines life thus: “the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body”. There is nothing vital nor functional about a human embryo. Therefore, quite clearly a human embryo is not alive. Arguably, the sperm is alive until the moment it fertilizes the ovum. Then, like the male praying mantis after mating, it ingloriously dies. It carries with it some tiny amount of energy that is apparently sufficient to create the human zygote. The energy must be enough to cause the zygote to divide a few times until it becomes a blastocyst (human embryo). Once formed though the blastocyst is completely inert. It takes a lot of good luck for the blastocyst to become implanted in the uterine wall. At that point, if it is enriched by the energy in the uterine wall it can continue to multiply and divide. Perhaps at that point you can say technically that the blastocyst is alive. Anyhow, with luck nine months later a baby emerges.
It just so happens that my daughter is now of legal age. I will not be able to claim her as a tax dependent much longer. I have grown used to claiming our costs of supporting her on our income taxes. As our dependent, we get a tax break. Our taxes will go up when she is no longer our dependent.
However, perhaps I should go with Scott’s suggestion and get us a human embryo. I hope that it will remain inert. I am sure it will be just fine buried in the bottom of our freezer. It seems to me, as many moralists claim, that if this inert blastocyst is truly a human life and I am responsible for its expenses (our freezer probably costs a hundred dollars or more a year to operate) then I am entitled to claim him/her as a dependent. (It is hard to determine gender at this point.) Heck, I want a whole freezer full of human embryos. Perhaps instead of paying taxes, with all those dependents, Uncle Sam would pay me.
To claim them as dependents though, the IRS requires that I get each blastocyst a social security number. On the application, I must give the blastocyst a name. That should be easy enough to do with a baby names book, though to be safe the names should be gender neutral. One problem is that I will not have any actual birth certificate to show the Social Security Administration. This can be solved if the laboratory provides me with dated adoption certificates. The Social Security Administration will accept adoption certificates. I promise I will be a good parent to my blastocysts. Heck, I raised my daughter and she has not gone to jail or gotten pregnant out of wedlock. If necessary, to be a good blastocyst parent I will even ensure my freezer has a redundant power back up.
Since our president believes that as soon as we have a zygote we have a human life, and all human life must be protected, I am sure the IRS (as well as all fundamentalists) will stand with me when I claim my blastocysts as dependents. According to these people, there is nothing more important than protecting human life, unless you mean the time after they are born when we reserve the right to kill people if they do things the state does not like.
Anyhow, this is my plan to show I support the traditional family values this country stands for. And, oh yeah, it will also reduce my taxes. I am so overcome with patriotism at the moment that it is hard to keep from crying.
God Bless America.