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“Stupidity is also a gift of God, but one mustn't misuse it” ~JPII

One of the things I like about Blogger is that I can check out the traffic sources to my posts. I know that makes me a creepy stalker...but I tend to check out what exactly it is that leads people to my posts. One part of my reasoning for this is to try and cater to my audience...and the other part is to be a creepy stalker. One of the most recent "search key words" really caught my attention. It was "i hate stupid pro-life people." One of my first reactions was to attempt to figure out if this individual hates all pro-life people in general and thinks every one of them is stupid...or if this person just hated the stupid pro-life people (and not the smart ones). Regardless of the intention, I don't think this was a nice thing to say...or feel for that matter. I can see no reason to hate someone for being pro-life or just plain stupid. As pro-life as I am, I know there are some pretty stupid "pro-life" people out there. I use the quotations here because not everyone who calls themselves pro-life is actually pro-life. You see, pro-life means all life...not just the lives of unborn babies.
  • If you want to save babies from abortion by bombing an abortion clinic....you are not pro-life.
  • If you want to save babies from abortion but are okay with euthanasia.....you are not pro-life.
  • If you want to save babies from abortion but support the death penalty....you are not pro-life.
  • If you want to save babies from abortion but scorn/judge a pregnant, unwed mother....you are not pro-life.
  • If you want to save babies from abortion for the most part, but agree with abortion in cases of rape/incest/birth defects/etc...you are not pro-life.
  • If you want to save babies from abortion but only after a certain trimester....you are not pro-life.
  • If you believe that a child is, at any point following conception, just a clump of cells...you are not pro-life.
  • If you support embryonic stem cell research, you are not pro-life.
  • If you believe abortion, capital punishment, etc is okay in insert situation here...you are not pro-life.

Regardless of your particular belief set, there is a difference between being anti-abortion and just plain pro-life. I'm on the pro-life vote and this is one of the toughest stances to take in a world that becomes increasingly particular about what we consider "life."

In some cases, my science-heavy background makes it easier to be pro-life. I mean, there is so much about ourselves that we take for granted. Even when the child is comprised of just a few cells, the DNA for that child is already there. The child's eye color, hair color, ability to taste PTC paper is already figured out. The way the child clasps their hands is already figured out. Don't believe me? Clasp your hands. If your right thumb comes out on top, you've inherited the recessive form of this trait...if the left thumb comes out on top, you've inherited the dominant form of this trait. I bet you didn't even notice this ever before...or thought that genetics was involved. Yet, from a purely scientific perspective, something as simple as this is already figured out way before a child even has fingers formed. I appreciate all of this because of my science background. I appreciate life at the molecular level because I've learned enough to understand how things work on a molecular level. I've learned enough to appreciate just how many things have to occur in order for a child to be born...how many things can go wrong...and how much effort a woman's body puts into a child. Because of all of this, I could never support a thing like abortion. I'm not prolife because I am stupid. I am prolife because I understand.
JPII and Mother Teresa...
two of the most awesome members
of the prolife crew
Something like abortion just doesn't make sense to someone like me, who is fascinated by every form of life from a single-celled amoeba to complex organisms such as us. As a result, as you can imagine, there are times when being pro-life conflicts with the science life. When I started applying to PhD programs, I had a lot of the same goals that other PhD hopefuls had. I had a list of great schools and programs that I wanted to apply to. I was fortunate enough to get into most of the programs that I applied to…at some of this nation’s most prestigious schools. After the acceptance letters rolled in, I entered the wine and dine portion of my PhD application process. It’s a lot like dating if you aren’t too familiar with the PhD application process. During this wine and dine phase, universities invite you to their cities and towns and pay for everything as they try to outdo their competition. They fly you to the campus, set you up in a nice hotel, and proceed to take you out to dinner at some extremely nice places. They have you meet with professors and discuss the program in detail.

I applied to a variety of programs, some more molecular than others. I got accepted to a lot of them and ended up going on all sorts of luncheons and dinners with individuals from each program. I literally felt like I was some sort of prom queen trying to choose from among a room full of eligible bachelors. As I had my pick of schools, I could be more selective than a lot of other students applying for a PhD. As a result, I ended up being able to weed out programs based on my own values…not necessarily because of prestige, stipend size, and all sorts of other important things on PhD hopefuls’ lists. One of the topics that continually came up was embryonic stem cells. Some of the labs showing interest in me were big on embryonic stem cells and assumed that I was big on them too. Though I was too polite and afraid to speak up, I knew that I did not want to work with these stem cells. Every fiber in my being was opposed to it. High tech and cutting edge as it was, it just didn’t sit well with me. I was willing to give up a shot at some pretty great programs (and the associated full ride) because of my pro-life beliefs. I ended up saying no to quite a few programs because of my beliefs and still ended up getting into a very nice program.  I guess you can say that God looks out for people when their intentions are true.

Some PhD hopefuls out there would probably question my intelligence if they knew which programs I ended up turning down…especially if they knew how some of these programs were weeded out solely because of the embryonic stem cell research. I’m sure that a lot of people, in general, would think of me as stupid for something like this. However, it was not stupidity that made my decisions. My decisions were made with prudence, an understanding of what I do or do not feel comfortable with, courage (not every student would be willing to jeopardize they PhD futures), and my refusal to sell out to the world. This next sentence will probably lose me a lot of readers, but I have worked with embryo cells before. I kind of just slipped into this type of research without ever thinking about it. I just joined a lab and that was that. Our research goal was noble and I loved the lab.

My first impression of the cells was that they were just that…cells.  Crazy as it sounds, I never really thought about it in the way that I should have thought about it. I did not think about the origin too much because I just figured that they had been extracted from some source (like a hospital patient’s organ). However, one day I looked up the source of these cells and found that they had been extracted from an aborted embryo. I put it all together and found myself realizing, little by little, that I had violated my respect for life. Here I was, considering myself prolife and I was working with something that had originated with death. In essence, here I was…a great example of what it means to be a stupid prolife person. Oy. Vey.

 I brought up my concerns to quite a few people over the years and everyone said something similar…that I was overthinking things. A priest (yes, a priest) even told me once, during confession, that I was splitting hairs over this. Yet, my conscience kept nagging at me and that’s part of the reason why I resolved to avoid embryonic stem cell research at all costs once I went off into the PhD world. Had I been stupid, I would have just kept on doing what I was doing…without really thinking about the facts. I would have just ignored my conscience and remained in blissful ignorance.

Had I been stupid, I would have blindly listened to others and never researched the matter for myself. I mean, if even a priest says it is okay…it should be okay….right? WRONG. God gave me the ability to think and I have used this ability very often (sometimes, too often). This ability was extremely useful to me in this case.  Due to this gift, I ended up casting aside what other people had told me (priest included) and finding the right conclusion….the conclusion that would allow my conscience to be at peace…the conclusion truest to God’s call for us to respect life’s sanctity. I was aided by knowledge during my quest for truth…not by fear…and certainly not by stupidity.

As you can see by my story, I used to be a stupid prolife person. Perhaps I still am a stupid prolife person.  However, God has given me the knowledge I needed to become a smart prolife person. On top of that, He has given me the freedom I need to seek the truth…even when it goes against everything that everyone else (even a priest or two) tells me. God also gave me the courage I need to stand my ground….and that is exactly what I did when it came to settling on a PhD program and choosing what was right over what was easy. As JPII once said, “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”
May God keep guiding me in the years to come and helping me become a smart prolife person in order to avoid becoming a stupid prolife person….and being hated by some stranger on the internet who hates the stupid prolife people. May I continue striving to be the best prolife person that I can be.

 Pax Vobiscum

Pray for the unborn.



10 comments:

  1. Great post! Thank you for sharing it. Especially the part about your personal 'awakening' moment (if it can be called that). Good for you for sticking to your 'guns'.

    I would agree with everything but the death penalty part. The Church allows for recourse to the death penalty, per the CCC & tradition. I think this is an area that Catholics can legitimately disagree on. :-)

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  2. Bravo for really thinking about the issue, and not taking the "easy" way out. It's hard to stick up for your beliefs when it can jeopardize your career. I've had some second-thoughts about the research I do (animal, not human stem cell), but I've resolved to finish out my degree and leave the field. It's not super brave, but at least it's something! :)

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  3. If it's something you're not comfortable with...I think your decision is a brave decision. I was very blessed to have options...but this is not always the case for everyone. In the end, we have to do the right thing and we often do by trusting in God and listening to Him when He speaks.

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  4. Also, I'm not sure how much you've run into it, but I've had some disheartening experiences with scientific integrity. The monetary incentive has really corrupted some areas, unfortunately, and academia as a system seems especially prone to exploitation of younger members.

    Some people say that these issues are in any field, so just get used to it. Have you run into these problems?

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    1. I think I've lucked out in those respects. Though I did learn recently in my ethics course that grad students are actually considered a "vulnerable population" when it comes to faculty research, etc. I mean, there are some "volunteers wanted" flyers by elevators, etc. that certainly raise a few red flags in my own mind. However, my department as a whole seems to have pretty noble goals whether its decreasing lead exposure in children in low SES communities, helping out villages in danger of arsenic exposure, etc. However, I have heard horror stories from some of my friends in other programs.

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  5. I hope you don't let other people kill animals for you to eat... that wouldn't be pro-life... Or is it bible befor science in this case?

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  7. That was the most interesting topic I have read in a while and I understand what pro-life means. It's not stupid and neither are you for listening to your heart (God). It IS stupid to follow others blindly without doing the research yourself. You have given me insight and more courage to do what I feel God wants of me. Thank you for your post. God Bless

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