Thursday, April 13, 2017

I am David; Ask Me Anything

Doug, in a follow up to your initial interrogation blog, do you have any questions you'd like to ask me?

It isn't supposed to be an "interrogation" exactly. But, sure, I have some questions from me, and also some culled from social networks.

It doesn't seem that you believe any any systemic problems in the United States. When it comes to humans, you never seem to be swayed by problems with the system, but just individual choices. Is there any system that you would blame in causing issues in the US?

Big Government. Not Constitutional government, mind you, but the bloated bureaucracy that the US Government has become.

Individual choice is a hallmark of freedom, and it's what makes our country great. Government too often gets in the way of that freedom. Big Government and Executive-Branch agencies are the systemic problem.

But, to paraphrase Spiderman, with great freedom, comes great responsibility. Individuals should have the freedom to do and say what they want with few exceptions, but you must also take responsibility for your actions and words. You must take responsibility for yourself. The government should not  pass restrictions to protect you from yourself.

The EPA, the Department off Education, Health and Human Services, the VA...these are all government agencies that don't work as they should and place more burdens and restrictions on Americans with little to show for it. There are many other examples of Big Government agencies and regulations run amuck.

So you don't see any systemic racism (for example), but you don't see the value of any of the government agencies designed to protect us? Would you be happy living in the Wild West before there was a strong federal system? (By the way, the quote is from Spider-Man's uncle Ben.)

Technically, the quote originated in the Bible, and then was popularized in the form we use today by Voltaire. I appologize, but I digress...

I believe there are racists within every group. That doesn't make the entire group racist, does it? If the justice system is systematically racist, and the justice department is a government agency, then our entire government is racist by your argument. I just don't believe that to be true.

There are of course some services that can only be provided by a centralized government. There are specific powers and missions that are enumerated to the Federal government in the Constitution, such as the military and the treasury.  But even the military can function better, and at less cost. We've already seen that Trump pointed out just a few examples, such as our next generation of attack jet fighters, and the cost is now less than what it was.

But many of the services you laud should not be the government's responsibility. In many instances, the states should be responsible, and would do a much better job than the Federal government. In other instances, individuals should be responsible for themselves. The government should not be in the business of protecting people from themselves by outlawing Big-Gulps, for example.

Many people might say that you lack empathy. You are a well-off, white doctor who doesn't support the government where it tries to protect people from the environment, give people health care, deny a woman's choice, etc. You believe that you got to where you are because of individual choices, and you can't imagine that being born black, or poor, or a woman, would affect you at all. What would you say to those who think that you have no empathy? Do you understand why they would think that about you?

How about you not assuming what I can or can not imagine.

I wasn't born a well-off doctor. I made decisions, worked very hard, and lived in great debt for many years to get to where I am. I have an expectation that others could do the same. They may have greater challenges in some aspects, and greater obstacles to overcome, but they still must be the ones to decide what happens in their lives. There are people who grew up in our very neighborhood who are not doctors or professors. They made choices and went on to have careers of their own, in fields of their own choosing.

To say I can't imagine the struggles that others have endured indicates you have a low perception of my abilities to empathize. I work in the ER daily with people who are out of work, uninsured, struggling to pay their bills, and homeless. I have a much greater interaction with the people you are talking about than you or most of your liberal, private-college attending, well-educated and well-healed friends do. I actually work with case managers and social workers every day to help these patients find resources. And most of the time, these people will admit that it was their own poor planning or bad decision making that got them to where they are.

If you are arguing that some neighborhoods disadvantage some people, I'd argue that they are not forced to live in that neighborhood. They can go anywhere. They can live anywhere they can afford. If a neighborhood isn't safe, they should encourage the police to come in and help them clean it up, but lately, we've seen people chase the "racist" police out of the very neighborhoods where police could make the biggest difference. That's people making choices as well. Bad choices.

As I said before, it is not a role of the government to provide you with health insurance. (You often use insurance and health-care interchangeably; they are not.) The EPA should monitor air and water pollution, but it should not be able to regulate a mud-puddle on your land or my land. It failed to protect the people of Flint Michigan at it's most basic task, but it wants to focus on eliminating the coal industry. Big Government is an unquenchable monster that has lost it's way.

So, to answer the question, you don't understand how someone could see you as lacking empathy?

I certainly understand why they might think that, but I also think they are wrong. If you believe people are victims of fate, with no say in their lives, and the government must take care of them like a mother feeding a helpless baby, then you might believe I have no empathy. Having an expectation that people work for what they want is not a bad thing. Asking people to show responsibility for their decisions and actions is not wrong.

Now on to some questions from social networking:

Brian (via Facebook):
What is a reasonable restriction on abortion? 20 weeks? 30 weeks? Full term? Partial birth? Before the cord is cut? Before kindergarten? Surely there's a cutoff somewhere. If there is a cutoff, why?

Lisa (via Facebook):
Yes, what day do you become a human?

Elle (via Facebook):
I like the question of when life begins. It would be interesting to hear from each side; what are your convictions on the subject and what thought processes brought you to those conclusions.

I should first admit that I have read Doug's response to these questions before I wrote this answer, so I'll specifically identify some of his factual assertions. If everything he said was true, then it might make sense to reach his conclusions. But most of the important things he said are not true.

Even without reading his response, mine would still pretty much be the same. I believe life begins at conception. There actually is quite a magnificent change that comes over the egg when a single sperm enters it. A few million sperm enter the vagina and uterus during intercourse, and a few hundred thousand sperm travel up the fallopian tube and come into contact with the unfertilized egg, but only one will enter. Instantly, the egg's membrane changes and becomes impenetrable to other sperm. The egg contained half of the genetic makeup of a person, and the sperm contained half as well. But in the instant that the single sperm penetrates the egg wall, the DNAs combine to form a new and unique set of DNA. And I do mean unique. The DNA is not the same as the mother's or the father's, but a blend of each. If the parents have more children, those sets of DNA will not be the same blend, but other unique sets. And the process of cell division and differentiation begins immediately. For these reasons, I believe that life begins at conception, and that a unique human is created in the process.

3D ultrasound image of developing baby
Doug claimed that the embryo belongs to the woman. "It is the woman" is how I believe he phrased it. That is not true. The developing baby is unique. It is not the mother at all. There's a 50% chance it will be male, and it may have different colored hair and different colored eyes. It may even have a different blood type. While the baby and it's placenta is growing within the uterus, it is not a part of the uterus. In fact, it attaches to the wall of the uterus like Velcro: tightly adherent, but not actually bonded in any physical way. Oxygen and nutrients pass from the mother's blood across the placental barrier to be picked up by the baby's blood, but the two circulatory systems' blood supplies do not ever come into  direct contact. If they do, it could cause a dangerous auto-immune reaction (Rh-incompatibility). That's why pregnant mothers receive Rho-gam injections if they have any bleeding during their pregnancy. The baby belongs to the mother, but it is a unique and completely separate individual within her uterus. This is not magic. It's science called embryology, biology, genetics, and obstetrics.

The rest of Doug's comments cloud that basic information with other issues. And even those assertions are incorrect talking points. Does the younger generation support abortion? No. Actually, people greater than 65 years old are the group most opposed to abortion, but those less than 35 years of age are the second most opposed group. And that number has increased in the past few years to become the fastest-growing group of pro-life proponents. Do pro-life proponents want to restrict anyone's rights? No. If you believe that life begins at conception, which I have illustrated is a logical conclusion that has been drawn by both scientists and non-scientists, then to promote the killing of that life because it is inconvenient is both wrong and socially immoral. The government and society have stepped in and condemned murder as long as there have been societies to condemn it.

The most common defense of abortion is "what if" the pregnancy is from rape or incest, or is a health threat to the mother". I work in a Catholic hospital, and if the mother's health is at risk, even the Sisters of Saint Francis have no issue terminating the pregnancy. If Mom dies, the baby will also die. So, it is acceptable to most that the pregnancy cannot continue. The health of the mother accounts for about 8% of abortions in this country.  Rape and incest account for less than 0.5% of all pregnancies. What is the reason for the other 91.5%? A full 25% of respondents in multiple surveys over many years indicate they had an abortion to hide the fact they were sexually active. 75% indicated they just didn't want to have to change their life, and a baby would do that. Overall, the vast majority of abortions could be categorized as abortions for convenience.

Getting pregnant is a big responsibility. But if you don't want to have a baby, then you should do everything you can to prevent a pregnancy. (There are actually things that can be done (or not done) to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.) Once you are pregnant, it is too late to think about these things. Thad is right to recommend we educate young adults better about sex. Understanding that a pregnancy creates a living, unique person that shouldn't just be "terminated" because you are irresponsible is a valuable message. This is a message for both young men and women. It takes two sets of DNA to make a complete set. Making sure young adults recognize that with the power to create life comes great responsibility in caring for it is also an important message.

Does society have an interest in caring for unwanted children? Should we care for children in poor families? Do parents have some responsibility for the children they create? These are other serious and difficult questions, but have no bearing on the question of when does life begin. If life begins at conception, many other difficult questions may have answers that are unwanted, but the answers themselves become easier.

You seem to give more power for making a choice on terminating a pregnancy to a group of nuns rather than the mother. On the other hand, you vary carefully didn't mention God, religion, or souls in your answer above. Instead, you attempted to make your position defensible from something that tried to look "scientific." Don't you think that many scientists would argue with your claim that "life begins at conception"? Did your purposefully try to hide the fact that this is really a religious argument? If a poll of scientists disagreed with you, would you change your mind?

I didn't mention religion because religion didn't have anything to do with the scientific argument I just presented. The Bible does say that God has planned for you, and knew you in the womb before you were born, and He knows every hair on your head, and I believe these things are true as well. But I believe the science makes a very strong case that life begins at the very moment a sperm enters the egg. A unique individual is created at that very moment.

Reading over the last year of blog posts, it seems to some that you are very inconsistent in your opinions. For example, if Obama did something, you claim he is a dictator; if Trump did it, then you claim that "he is just doing what he said he would do". Do you think you are more like a politician in your manner (e.g., you are always looking to "spin"), or do you really believe what you write? You seem to have a more conciliatory tone when you write to your Facebook friends versus when you write here. Is there a difference?

I'd argue you are inconsistent as well. Some science gets credit as truth, while science that doesn't fit your argument is cast aside. I believe my writings are very consistent. If someone does something outside of what the Constitution allows, he could be said to be acting as a dictator. If he stays within the bounds, he isn't.  Writing an executive order that expands the reach and power of the Executive is not the same as writing an executive order changing the rules of an agency. Not all executive orders are the same.

On FB, I'll often pose a question or make a statement to start a discussion among people who follow my posts. I'll argue with them when they start making illogical statements, and I'll moderate if two people start attacking each other. It is my FB page, after all. We often purposefully choose topics for the blog that put us at odds. It is Blank Versus Blank, after all. Here, we debate as well as discuss.

Speaking of changing your mind, has Doug ever changed your mind on something that you have discussed in the blog? If so, what? If not, why not? Do you think Doug has changed his mind on anything?

Speaking in the third-person, David has not been swayed by Doug. When it comes to issues like choosing a different gender than you really have, David thinks Doug's argument was completely nonsensical and unscientific. He also thinks Doug is unlikely to have changed his mind on anything based on what David has argued.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, do you think women that have abortions should be punished? What do you think the punishment should be?

No. Just as it was before Roe v Wade, the person performing the abortion was the guilty party. It might also be noted here that in 1973, when Roe passed by a 5-4 majority, abortions were illegal in 46 states, and the vast majority of Americans were opposed to it. Even medical societies maintained an official stance that abortions should only be allowed in the case of a genetically defective baby (it was the age of Thalidomide) or risk to the mother.

If a person can't afford health care (and never will be able to), do you think that they should get the same health care that you have? If you say "yes" then wouldn't you argue that there would be no pressure for them to buy health care if they can get quality health care for free? Who pays for health care for those that can't?

That's why Obamacare failed so spectacularly. Anyone can walk into any ER and they will get the best health care on the planet. They will get a bill after-the-fact, but no one will ever deny them care. Again, it's health insurance that you continue to use interchangeably with health care. They are not the same. If you don't want to get a bill, then you should get insurance that will help cover the costs when you need care. The downfall of Obamacare was to charge young people, who are unlikely to require the care, the highest rates for the insurance. Or, they could pay a paltry tax / fine. Poor people come to ERs around the country whenever they are sick, and we provide them care. Before Obamacare, hospitals received charity funds form the government to defray those write-offs. Obamacare eliminated those funds. The authors of Obamacare made foolish and unrealistic estimates that defied human nature.

Some people might have trouble reconciling the ideas of Christianity with your expression of Republican values (cutting support for government programs (such as Meals on Wheels), denying climate change, not taking care of poor, environment, etc.) How do you explain these discrepancies? Even the Bible quote you make above says: "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." That sounds like a progressive tax plan to me. How do you reconcile these two views?

That's the most biased and loaded question you may have ever asked, and I think it may say more about you than me. Do you believe that it is Christian values or Republican values that promote not taking care of the poor or the environment? The answer is neither. Christians and Republicans believe in taking care of the poor, in taking care of our environment, in making sure that government programs actually work, and that programs should be turned over to the states or other groups if they can do a better job. Both Christians and Republicans believe in science, but may disagree with you as to what extent certain findings may be believed or weighted. Then there is the question as to what to do with scientific information. There is usually more than just one solution to a problem, and there are often more unseen variables in action than what you see.

You see, if you simply pay people a wage to remain comfortably poor, they will remain poor. If you provide them with all of the things they need, but don't require anything of them, they will take what you give them as long as you keep giving it. Studies show this to be true. If you create a system that punishes poor people for getting married by taking benefits, you end up perpetuating single-parent households, and they remain poor.

You insinuate by your question that Democrats take care of the poor, believe in science, take care of the environment, and care for seniors, while Republicans and / or Christians do not. But there are different ways to reach those goals. Republicans make the harder case that you shouldn't just give people stuff. Government should make sure people have the freedoms to get the stuff themselves. It's a much more complicated discussion than we have space for here, but teaching a man to fish really is better than just giving him a fish.

God only cares about money to the extent that money can corrupt your heart and soul. He really doesn't care about taxes. Taxes are a man-made thing.

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