Professor Joel Brind, PhD, encouraged pro-life advocates to think at a deeper level about how scientific theories about what life is have influenced how society values life.
Brind, a professor of human biology and endocrinology Baruch College, CUNY, presented a workshop called “We’re All Blobs of Tissue Now! How the Culture of Death has Corrupted the Science of Life” at the National Right to Life Convention in June in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Since the 1950s, Brind said biology has been corrupted by the “culture of death,” influencing future scientists, medical professionals and many others.
“By the end of that decade, the mainstream texts and most influential scientists in biology had accepted that life itself is no more than a fortuitous series of accidents, having no independent existence itself,” he explained. “This knowledge helps us to understand how so many people cannot seem to grasp the obvious, fundamental nature and sanctity of human life.”
Brind walked pro-lifers through the history of scientific thought about what life is and whether it is valuable. He separated the theories about life into two schools of thought, the mechanists, or reductionists, and the vitalists.
Mechanists basically view living bodies as machines that can be broken down into parts – “basically, blobs of tissue,” he said. Mechanist-type thinking began with Rene Descartes in the 17th century, Brind said.
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In contrast, vitalists think living organisms are comprised of something more than just their parts, he said. Scientists who subscribe to the vitalist theory believe living organisms have a different element, or spirit, that makes them alive – something that scientists are not able to measure, he continued. Most also believe in God or a higher power that created life. For example, Louis Pasteur, renowned for developing vaccines and pasteurization, was a vitalist, he said.
In the time of Charles Darwin, many in the scientific community began to discard the idea of vitalism and embraced the mechanism theory, he said. Darwin was influential in this thought because until then, no one had postulated that life could happen completely in chaos, without a creator God, Brind said.
He said mechanism really took hold in the scientific community with A.I. Oparin’s “The Origin of Life.” In it, Oparin wrote, “There is no fundamental difference between a living organism and a lifeless matter … life must have arisen in the process of the evolution of matter.”
In the 1950s, scientists Stanley Miller and Linus Pauling put Oparin’s theory to the test. Brind said their experiments, examining if life could arise spontaneously from basic chemicals, now are described in almost every mainstream biology textbook.
Brind said Miller and Pauling were able to synthesize organic compounds by creating an apparatus with a presumptive primordial atmosphere. Their findings were accepted as evidence that Oparin’s hypothesis was true – that “life can begin by random accidents.”
“Now we know that there is no vital force, and organic compounds are just those that contain carbon,” Miller later wrote of his experiment.
Brind said their findings led to “the key underpinning” of current biology — that life “really is all just mechanistic.”
This theory about life has led to the overall devaluing of human lives, in the scientific community and in society as a whole, Brind said. Now, millions of unborn babies are killed in abortions across the world, and there is an growing push for euthanasia of the elderly and those with disabilities or aliments.
“When we wonder how doctors and scientists can believe that [life is not valuable,] it’s because since the ’60s this has been embedded in curriculum,” Brind said. “ … the mainstream texts and most influential scientists in biology had accepted that life itself is no more than a fortuitous series of accidents.”