Russell and Duenes

Archive for May 2009

rethinking invitro-fertilization (ivf)

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My friend, Jennifer Lahl, the executive director of The Center for Bioethics and Culture, has written a sobering piece on the primary reason we should oppose IVF, namely, the danger to women’s health posed by the ovarian hyperstimulation process required for egg donation. College co-eds, unaware of the risks of egg donation, are preyed upon by university adds offering huge sums of money for their eggs, sometimes up to $100,000. Lahl writes,

The IVF industry, fertility specialists and fertility clinics—along with the brokers of eggs and sperm—have strong conflicts of interest.  The IVF industry is a $3 billion dollar a year enterprise in America. A New York Times article from February 23, 2009, noted that fertility doctors at private universities are among the highest paid.  Dr. James A. Grifo, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University, was paid $2,393,646, substantially more than the president of the university.  I was on a Fox morning program with the head of NYU’s egg donor program who proudly boasted that NYU only paid its students $8000.00 for donating their eggs.  Fertility doctors are money-makers for universities.

Read the whole piece here.



Written by Michael Duenes

May 30, 2009 at 5:03 am

Posted in Bioethics, Duenes

“Security, portability, and affordability”

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These – not universality – should be the goal of health-care reform.” So says Ramesh Ponnuru in this week’s edition of National Review. Here, here! Ponnuru argues that Republicans “have to offer an alternative [to the Democrats] that makes health insurance more affordable and portable.” This should not be difficult, but given the public’s ignorance and therefore jaundiced view of the benefits of free-market principles, and given the demagoguery and distortions by the Democrats on this issue, the task will become difficult. It is a task that needs to be undertaken, for the good of us all. To that end (and if you truly care to hear alternatives to Obama and the Democrats’ plans), I suggest you secure yourself a copy of the May 25th issue of National Review. Here’s a list of some of the articles with their authors:

Socialized Failure: Dissecting health-care  data from Britain, Canada, and elsewhere, by John C. Goodman, the founder, president, and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Diagnosis: What, precisely, is wrong with the American health-care system? by Regina E. Herzlinger, professor at Harvard Business School and author of Who Killed Health-Care? America’s $2 Trillion Medical Problem and the Consumer-Driven Cure.

Placebo: Why the Democrats’ Proposals Will Not Work, by Michael F. Cannon, director of health-policy studies at the Cato Institute

Prescription: A Politically Salable Approach to Market-Based Reform, by James C. Capretta, fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and former associate director at the Office of Management and Budget (’01 – ’04).


Written by Michael Duenes

May 28, 2009 at 12:36 pm

Posted in Duenes, Economics

the compulsion to text and blog

with 2 comments

My students and I were discussing texting and blogging today, with particular reference to facebook and other such “public” venues for sharing the details of one’s life. And I was referring them to a particularly intriguing New York Times Magazine cover story by Emily Gould (she of fame) entitled Blog-Post Confidential: What I Gained – And Lost – By Revealing My Intimate Life on the Web. We were discussing some of the in’s and out’s of revealing so much of ourselves over the internet, or of spending so much time texting each other, rather than relating in person. As I read them these thoughts from Ms. Gould they arrested my attention and struck me as true in my experience.

I think most people who maintain blogs [and I would add: maintain many facebook updates] are doing it for the same reasons I do: they like the idea that there’s a place where a record of their existence is kept – a house with an always-open door where people who are looking for you can check in on you, compare notes with you and tell you what they think of you…The will to blog is a complicated thing, somewhere between inspiration and compulsion. It can feel almost like a biological impulse. You see something, or an idea occurs to you, and you have to share it with the Internet as soon as possible. What I didn’t realize was that those ideas and that urgency – and the sense of self-importance that made me think anyone would be interested in hearing what went on in my head – could just disappear.

Indeed since I started blogging back in January, my desire to put up a post each day, or even multiple posts in a day, has come to feel like a semi-compulsion. And though I’m not worried about losing any of my very small audience, I believe that Ms. Gould is right in conveying the sense of self-importance that often comes along with blogging or sharing on facebook or myspace. Suddenly I feel like I HAVE to blog, and that I simply MUST get my opinions out there. I know that something is often amiss in my motivations, yet I feel compelled. No doubt that’s a big part of why I’m writing even at this very moment. I think sharing ideas and insights is vital to learning and growing as mature people. Yet arrogance and ego gratification are significant temptations under this format. I need God’s Word, God’s Spirit, and God’s people to keep me grounded in humility, restraint, and truth.


Written by Michael Duenes

May 27, 2009 at 8:24 pm

Posted in Duenes, Reflections

believing in talking snakes and donkeys means you’re stupid, right?

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Belief in the “supernatural” comes in for harsh review in our age.  Beyond being “anti-intellectual,” we are told that believing in “miracles” will have a narrowing, science-opposing, illiberalizing effect on society that would throw us back to some kind of “dark ages.” To the modern mind, the presence of the supernatural is somehow supposed to turn humankind into a bunch of un-inquisitive dullards who will just say, “Well, God did it all, so who cares about looking into the nature of things.” As usual, the unflappable British Catholic, G.K. Chesterton,  went deeper in his thinking on the topic of miracles than our current current crop of “new atheists,” agnostics, and even many Christians. I quote liberally from his Orthodoxy, which is a masterpiece beyond words and should be required reading for all thoughtful Christians. He begins,

For some extraordinary reason, there is a fixed notion that it is more liberal to disbelieve in miracles than to believe in them.  Why, I cannot imagine, nor can anybody tell me.  For some inconceivable cause a “broad” or “liberal” clergyman always means a man who wishes at least to diminish the number of miracles; it never means a man who wishes to increase that number.  It always means a man who is free to disbelieve that Christ came out of His grave; it never means a man who is free to believe that his own aunt came out of her grave…And this is not because “miracles do not happen,” as in the dogma which Matthew Arnold recited with simple faith.

More supernatural things are alleged to have happened in our time than would have been possible eighty years ago…The only thing which is still old-fashioned enough to reject miracles is the new theology.  But in truth this notion that it is “free” to deny miracles has nothing to do with the evidence for or against them.  It is a lifeless verbal prejudice of which the original life and beginning was not in freedom of thought, but simply in the dogma of materialism.

The man of the nineteenth century did not disbelieve in the Resurrection because his liberal Christianity allowed him to doubt it.  He disbelieved in it because his very strict materialism did not allow him to believe it.  Tennyson, a very typical nineteenth-century man, uttered one of the instinctive truisms of his contemporaries when he said that there was faith in their honest doubt.  There was indeed…In their doubt of miracles there was a faith in a fixed and godless fate; a deep and sincere faith in the incurable routine of the cosmos. (Orthodoxy, “The Romance of Orthodoxy”)

Staying on the subject of miracles, Chesterton comes to consider some of the underlying assumptions about why miracles “cannot be believed” by rational and reasonable people. Christians are routinely barraged with condescending words from the likes of Bill Maher to the effect that only a mindless Philistine could possibly believe in talking snakes, the sun not setting for three days, demons being cast out of people, and a man walking on water. Our belief in such events are equated with belief in Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or some such nonsense. But further, since we could walk we’ve had hammered into us through our educational system the fact that trusting in modern “science” inevitably means that no God (or gods) can be involved in the creating and sustaining of the universe around us.  Again Chesterton lights our way; hence the slightly longer quote here is worth pondering.

Somehow or other an extraordinary idea has arisen that the disbelievers in miracles consider them coldly and fairly, while believers in miracles accept them only in connection with some dogma.  The fact is quite the other way.  The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them.  The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them.

The open, obvious, democratic thing is to believe an old apple-woman when she bears testimony to a miracle, just as you believe an old apple-woman when she bears testimony to a murder.  The plain, popular course is to trust the peasant’s word about the ghost exactly as far as you trust the peasant’s word about the landlord.  Being a peasant he will probably have a great deal of healthy agnosticism about both…If it comes to human testimony there is a choking cataract of human testimony in favour of the supernatural.  If you reject it, you can only mean one of two things.  You reject the peasant’s story about the ghost either because the man is a peasant or because the story is a ghost story.  That is, you either deny the main principle of democracy, or you affirm the main principle of materialism – the abstract impossibility of miracle.  You have a perfect right to do so; but in that case you are the dogmatist.

All argument against these plain facts is always argument in a circle.  If I say, “Medieval documents attest certain miracles as much as they attest certain battles,” they answer, “But medievals were superstitious”; if I want to know in what they were superstitious, the only ultimate answer is that they believed in miracles.  If I say “a peasant saw a ghost,” I am told, “But peasants are so credulous.”  If I ask, “Why credulous?” the only answer is – that they see ghosts.”

I’ve told my students many times that I can’t prove that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, and I mean it. I can’t. And I find that the implications that follow from believing that fairies exist are far more agreeable to human existence than the implications that follow from believing that matter-in-motion is all there is to the universe. That doesn’t make fairies real, but it should at least put the lie to the notion that belief in their existence, along with other supernatural realities, would be ridiculous.


Written by Michael Duenes

May 26, 2009 at 11:59 pm

Posted in Duenes, Philosophy, Theology

“that they might know you”

with 2 comments

The prophets of old indicted God’s people for a good many things: idolatry, greed, murder, strife, sexual immorality, working on the Sabbath, pride, religiosity, oppression, and infidelity. Yet as I’ve been listening to the prophet Jeremiah’s words, I keep hearing one charge in particular against the people of Judah: “You do not know God!” The people know about God’s regulations, feasts, and ceremonies. They know about the outward trappings and motions of worship. They know the right words to use and the proper names to invoke. But it is all dishonoring to God because none of it is motivated by the true knowledge of God. As Jesus said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” To Know God, to truly know him in head, heart, and experience, is why He created us. It is the immeasurable bliss and pleasure which He holds out to us, and to not know Him is ultimately darkness and judgment. Here is a sampling for your meditation and reflection.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

Of the faithful one, God says, “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.” (Ps.91:14)

If you seek it wisdom like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.(Prov.2:4-5)

The Psalmist prays, “Pour out your anger on the nations that do not know you.” (Ps.79:6)

Thus says the LORD, “The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’ Those who handle the law did not know me; the shepherds transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal and went after things that do not profit.” (Jeremiah 2:8)

Thus says the LORD, “For my people are foolish; they know me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding. They are ‘wise’—in doing evil! But how to do good they know not.” (Jer.4:22)

“They bend their tongue like a bow; falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me,” declares the LORD… “Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit, they refuse to know me,” declares the LORD. (Jer.9:3,6)

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jer.9:23-24)

Thus saith the LORD, “Do you think you are a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? declares the LORD. But you have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence.” (Jer.22:15-17)

God says, “And my eye will not spare you, nor will I have pity, but I will punish you for your ways, while your abominations are in your midst. Then you will know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 7:4)

[God said to His people], “And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.” (Hosea 2:19-20)

Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn;he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth…For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:3,6)

The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. (Nahum 1:7)

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14)

Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matt.7:212-23)

Jesus declared, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”(Matt.11:27)

Jesus prayed, “This is eternal life, that [my disciples] might know you, Father, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)

St. Paul tells us, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Cor.13:12)

St. Paul wrote, “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?” (Galatians 4:9)

St. Paul said, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8)

St. Paul again says, “When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, he will inflict vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9)

St. Peter commands us: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18)

St. John says, “Jesus Himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:2-4)

St. John commands, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)

To know God, and more importantly, to be known by God, means “pleasures forevermore.” So I pray along with that great Greek and Latin scholar and translator of the Bible, St. Erasmus,

O Lord Jesu Christ, the maker and redeemer of mankind which hast said, that thou art the way, the truth, and the life: the way, by doctrine, precepts, and examples: the truth, in promises; and the life, in reward: I beseech thee for thine unspeakable love’s sake, wherethrough thou hast vouchsafed to employ thyself wholly in thy saving of us, suffer me not at any time to stray from thee, which art the way; nor to distrust thy promises, which art the truth, and performest whatsoever thou promisest; nor to rest in any other thing than thee, which art the way, beyond which there is nothing to be desired, neither in heaven, nor in earth. By thee we have learned the sure and ready way to true salvation, to the intent we should not wander any longer up and down in the mazes of the world. Thou hast taught us thoroughly what to believe, what to do, what to hope, and wherein to rest. Amen!


Written by Michael Duenes

May 26, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Posted in Duenes, Theology