Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Brain is not the Soul: Aquired Personhood and National Health Insurance


I wrote this piece several years ago and sent a letter to Pope Benedict XVI concerning the role of secular bioethics in furthering the culture of death and the new theory of "acquired personhood" which has made it much easier to take the lives of human beings who have been deemed non-persons. In that letter I described the corrosive effect that the embracing of Darwinian naturalism and the subject/object dualism of Descartes has had on the depersonalizing of the sick, disabled and dying. I received no reply.

Given the current attempt to pass national health insurance in the United States, this piece is provided in order to focus attention on the need to repudiate the ever growing culture of death which has begun to significantly effect medical care and decision making. The perennial philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas as always is best suited for that purpose.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert

The Brain is not the Soul:

The Tragic Error of the Terry Schiavo case

John P. Hubert Jr. MD FACS
Biomedical and Health Care Policy Ethicist

As expected, the elite media in the wake of the Terry Schiavo autopsy have suggested that since Terry had “irreversible” brain damage according to the forensic pathologist, it was morally acceptable to kill her.[1] This betrays an alarming misunderstanding of human anthropology which is based in Darwinian naturalism.[2] It also means that the “elites” equate the human brain with the human “mind” and that when the brain is “irreversibly” damaged; the “person” no longer exists since the “mind” no longer functions.[3] This is not a matter of saying that when there is total brain death (total death of the entire brain) the person as an integrated body/soul composite entity has ceased to exist.[4] The assertion being made here is that since Terry Schiavo was judged to be “mindless” due to a profound purportedly irreversible brain injury, she was “non-human.” In other words, she had a “life” (vegetative existence according to culture of death bioethicists) no longer worthy of living.[5] These notions are demonstrably false when subjected to detailed philosophical analysis.[6] In fact, if it were true, it would mean that no one could ever be secure in their status as a human person since at any moment their personhood could be lost. Elite bioethicists or the courts might decide that because of trauma, disease or the effects of aging, a given human being could be subsequently labeled a non-person and thus not deserving of the usual care, compassion and protection of their human rights (the most fundamental of which is the right to existence).[7] Strange as it may seem, this is precisely what is presently transpiring with regard to the prematurely born, the infirm, retarded and other disabled persons in the West, particularly in the Netherlands, Belgium, the U.K. and progressively the United States.

There now exits the widespread assumption that the soul (referred to as “mind” in contemporary parlance an outgrowth of Descartes and Kant) is synonymous with or at least for practical purposes, analogous to the brain. This concept flows from Cartesian false Dualism, the idealism of Emmanuel Kant; (specifically his notion of complete personal autonomy), and radical Darwinism in which it is assumed that reality is completely confined to the material realm that is, there is no immaterial reality.[8] Secular elite bioethicists have utilized these false post-Enlightenment philosophical concepts as a foundation for their bioethic which has now mutated into a "culture of death" characterized by rabid notions of personal autonomy (read unbridled personal selfishness) without regard for and often in direct opposition to the common good. This new ethic is also associated with a virtual complete moral relativism, something Pope Benedict XVI has repeatedly stressed in public commentary.[9] American Catholics continue to be very confused by the constant public promulgation of the "Culture of Death," even by highly visible Catholic politicians and other Catholic public personages particularly in light of the extremely poor level of catechesis which has been ongoing in the West for over 40 years.

These tendencies and developments undergird the secular atheist elite bioethics rubric which has essentially over-taken the dialogue regarding "life issues" particularly in the developed West. It allows the "culture of death" community to discount the lives of all but the most perfect human beings (as secular elite bioethicists define it) among us. This new bioethic embraces the concept of "acquired" personhood in which it is necessary to demonstrate through various abilities and characteristics (most frequently higher cognitive function) that one is not only a human being but a human person as well. It also means that the “elites” artificially separate “human being” from “human personhood” in direct opposition to the substance view of personhood that the Catholic Church has accepted and promulgated through its support of the Aristotelian/Thomistic synthesis.[10] The very notion of acquired personhood is philosophically untenable and is in direct contradiction to Divine Revelation as consistently taught in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.[11]

It appears that the time has come to approach the great debates in bioethics and the rapidly declining public morality from the perspective of overall worldview analysis in which the diametrically opposite notions of epistemology (theory of truth), metaphysics (theory of reality) and morality (theory of right and wrong) [between the new post-modern atheistic secularism {neo-paganism} The traditional Comprehensive Catholic World View is the only adequate antidote to the increasingly widespread radical secularization which is presently ongoing particularly in the West since it alone possesses the necessary metaphysical resources.

With respect to the growing interest here in Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS), the author recently participated in the protests against the court ordered death of Terry Schiavo by demonstrating peacefully outside her hospice. This included holding signs, praying, fasting singing hymns and giving several Television interviews in which he attempted to present the Catholic bioethical position against euthanasia to the mass media. None of those interviews made it to air. Any actual explanation of Catholic teaching regarding the prohibition against Euthanasia was simply either marginalized or dismissed as “religious” that is "subjective" and regarded as simply fundamentalist "opinion" (value) rather than philosophically and theologically demonstrable fact.[12]

This “Value/Fact” dichotomy has become a huge problem in the West along with the specious notion of separation of Church and State understood as the disjunction of morality from the civil law, the institutions of government and society at large. Most distressingly, the pro-life demonstrators on behalf of saving Terry had absolutely no help (in our attempt to stop the court ordered killing of Terry Schiavo)[13] from the bishop of St. Petersburg Florida who apparently instructed his priests not to appear at Terry Schiavo's hospice or to speak in public about what was transpiring. Worse yet, in attending mass on several occasions during his stay during Holy Week, not once did the author hear the issue addressed in any homily; something which under the circumstances was obviously missing. This was a disgrace. The protesters were forced to rely on outside help from several Priests (including Fr. Frank Pavone of "Priests for Life") many of whom traveled great distances in order to provide the last rites and the sacrament of Holy Communion to Ms. Schiavo shortly before her death.

It is incumbent upon orthodox Catholics and all people of good will to reject the Cartesian false dualism and metaphysical naturalism of the cultural “elites” including contemporary secular bioethicists in which human personhood is allowed to be “conferred” upon only certain members of the human species by the Gnostics of our time (secular elite bioethicists and the courts). Their empty sophistry must be totally rejected. All human beings are “persons” by definition from the moment of conception until natural death! This must be proclaimed far and wide! It is also something that can be determined by the light of human reason after subjecting the relevant data to meticulous philosophical analysis. It is not necessary to invoke Divine Revelation in the form of Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition or constant Magisterial teaching in order to establish the truth of this proposition, although all “3” are perfectly consistent with that conclusion as derived from the study of the philosophy of the human person and the philosophy of nature absent a-priori commitment to a materialistic (metaphysical naturalism) bias. As thoughtful Catholics, we can make the case either philosophically or theologically with equal effectiveness, a fact which demonstrates the need for an aggressively promulgated Comprehensive Catholic World View. We know that secularists are simply wrong when they allege that those who demonstrated on behalf of Terry Schiavo’s right to life were engaging in fundamentalist “opinions” which cannot be established in fact. Our task is to obtain a hearing for the truth while we oppose the lie.


[1] While her brain was significantly atrophied in a generalized way which is consistent with a profound hypoxic encephalopathic injury (due to prolonged lack of oxygen), it is not the case that she was “brain dead and deserving of burial! Her heart and lungs were adequate to sustain her life indefinitely. In fact had she not been dehydrated to death, they might have served in another context as organs for human transplantation, something which was impossible due to the court ordered desiccation dehydration.

[2] Radical Darwinists assert that reality is completely confined to the material realm, that there is no spiritual (immaterial) realm and that human nature is only apparent, not real, that is, constantly changing or “evolving” only giving the appearance of stable “forms.” This means that there is no God by definition and no stable “human nature” according to radical Darwinists.

[3] Classically, in the philosophical sense, the mind was called “soul” referring to a spiritual or immaterial reality which utilized the brain as an instrument but was not synonymous with it. See: William A. Wallace, The Modeling of Nature: Philosophy of Science and Philosophy of Nature in Synthesis. Washington D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1996. Descartes changed everything with his Cogito-ergo-sum (I think therefore I am). He placed thinking before being rather than the classical notion, “being comes before thinking.”

[4] A separate assertion which can be philosophically debated in a separate context. Terry Schiavo did not have “brain death” she had a severe brain injury of uncertain etiology (explanation) a situation which still exists despite the performing of an autopsy. For an interesting discussion regarding the issue of “Brain Death” and its use as a criterion for death of the person see: William E. May, Catholic Bioethics and the Gift of Human Life. Huntington Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 2000, chapter 8, particularly pp. 291-310.

[5] Judge Greer found on the basis of highly questionable testimony at the trial court level that Terry would not have wanted to remain alive under those circumstances. Thus the entire issue of killing her became a matter of supposedly “honoring her wishes” an example of Kantian autonomy “run amuck” where individual preference or desire is seen as being more important than the “common good.” See Wesley J. Smith. Forced Exit: The Slippery Slope from Assisted Suicide to Legalized Murder. Dallas: Spence Publishing Co. 2003 for a discussion of elite secular Bioethicists’ notion of life unworthy of being lived.

[6] See my article: “Justice and Freedom for the Human Embryo in light of The Philosophy of the Human Person, the Body/Soul Issue and Ethics”, Social Justice Review, 95: November-December, 2004. See also my essay: “The Moral Status of the Human Embryo ‘Intermediate’ or ‘Special Status’ for the human embryo is invalid”, available upon request.

[7] How many “non-person human beings” can conceivably be defined under this rubric is open to serious question and is constantly being re-defined by secular elite “culture of death” bioethicists, the U.S. judiciary and foreign courts.

[8] Understand that what is at stake here is a debate about the very nature of reality.

[9] e.g. his homily at the start of the recent conclave and in a prior speech at the meeting of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with the presidents of the Doctrinal Commissions of the Bishops' Conferences of Latin America, held in Guadalajara, Mexico, in May 1996.

[10] In which human beings during life are complex composite matter/form or body/soul entities where the soul is immaterial and serves as the principle of substantial unity. As a spiritual entity the soul thus considered is indivisible and not confined to any physical location in the body including the brain.

[11] See my article: “Justice and Freedom for the Human Embryo in light of The Philosophy of the Human Person, the Body/Soul Issue and Ethics”, Social Justice Review, 95: November-December, 2004. See also my essay: “The Moral Status of the Human Embryo ‘Intermediate’ or ‘Special Status’ for the human embryo is invalid” available upon request.

[12] Based as it is on a correct understanding of human anthropology including the substance view of personhood which the Church has taught for centuries based on the Aristotelian/Thomistic synthesis.

[13] Note that Judge Greer was not satisfied with simply removing Terry’s feeding tube. It was necessary that she be starved and dehydrated to death by ordering that no one was allowed to attempt feeding her by mouth. He had police guards stationed about her room to insure that not one drop of water was administered. The autopsy as expected, documented that she was dehydrated to death.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

This Depression is just beginning

Skip the Happy Talk

By Mike Whitney

August 03, 2009 "Information Clearing House" -- Too bad Pulitzer's aren't handed out for blog-entries. This year's award would go to Zero Hedge for its "The 'Money on the Sidelines' Fallacy" post. This short entry shows why the economy will continue its downward slide and why the US consumer will not get off the mat and resume spending as he has in the past. The fact is the Net Wealth of US Households has "declined from a peak of $22 trillion to just under $12 trillion in early March."


The problem is compounded by the fact that Total US Household debt, as of first quarter 2009, amounts to roughly $13 trillion, and has stayed within that range for the last 3 and a half years.

Zero Hedge:

"From the end of 2007 through Q1 of 2009, household equity has declined by 94%. Is it surprising that today's GDP number would have been a complete debacle if the consumer had been left alone to prop the U.S. economy, on whom 70% of the economy is reliant? Obama pulled a Hail Mary with the stimulus: without it there would be no debate America is in a depression right now." MORE...

What does all this mean?

It means the consumer is down-for-the-count. His credit lines have been cut, his home equity eviscerated, and his checking account swimming in red ink. That spells trouble for an economy that's 70% dependent on consumer spending for growth....which brings us to another interesting point. The uptick in GDP last quarter was almost entirely the result of the surge in government spending; ie "fiscal and monetary stimulus". How long can that go on? How long will China keep slurping up US Treasuries rather than let their currency rise? Here's a clip from the Wall Street Journal on Friday:

"Shaky auctions of Treasury notes this week reignited concerns about whether the government can attract buyers from China and elsewhere to soak up trillions in new debt.

A fuse was lit this week when traders noted China's apparent absence from direct participation in two Treasury bond auctions. While China may have bought Treasury's just before the auctions, market participants read the country's actions as a worrying sign that China and other foreign investors may be ratcheting back purchases at a time when the U.S. is seeking to fund a $1.8 trillion budget deficit.

This week alone, the U.S. deluged the bond market with more than $200 billion in record-size sales. The U.S. has had little trouble finding buyers in recent months. But that demand is fading, and the Treasury market has become volatile."

Uncle Sam is goosing the bond market just like he is the stock market. (more on that later) Take a look at Treasury's latest bit of chicanery which appeared in the back pages of the Wall Street Journal in June:

"The sudden increase in demand by foreign buyers for Treasury's, hailed as proof that the world's central banks are still willing to help absorb the avalanche of supply, mightn't be all that it seems.

When the government sells bonds, traders typically look at a group of buyers called indirect bidders, which includes foreign central banks, to divine overseas demand for U.S. debt. That demand has been rising recently, giving comfort to investors that foreign buyers will continue to finance the U.S.'s budget deficit.

But in a little-noticed switch on June 1, the Treasury changed the way it accounts for indirect bids, putting more buyers under that umbrella and boosting the portion of recent Treasury sales that the market perceived were being bought by foreigners."
("Is foreign Demand as solid as it looks, Min zeng)


So, someone doesn't want you and me to know that foreign demand has gone to the dogs. That's not encouraging. So, they move the shells around the table and "Presto"---central banks and foreign investors can't get enough of those fetid T-Bills. What a racket.

This is what happens when monetary policy is handed over to bank-vermin and Ponzi-scam artists. Anything goes!

The Zero Hedge article shows that homeowners used the equity in their homes to fuel the soaring stock market.

Zero Hedge: "Most interesting is the correlation between Money Market totals and the listed stock value since the March lows: a $2.7 trillion move in equities was accompanied by a less than $400 billion reduction in Money Market accounts!

Where, may we ask, did the balance of $2.3 trillion in purchasing power come from? Why the Federal Reserve of course, which directly and indirectly subsidized U.S. banks (and foreign ones through liquidity swaps) for roughly that amount. Apparently these banks promptly went on a buying spree to raise the all important equity market, so that the U.S. consumer who net equity was almost negative on March 31, could have some semblance of confidence back and would go ahead and max out his credit card. Alas, as one can see in the money multiplier and velocity of money metrics, U.S. consumers couldn't care less about leveraging themselves any more."

You read that right! Only $400 billion of that fantastic 6 month "green shoots" stock market rally came from money market accounts. The rest ($2.3 trillion) was laundered through the banks and other financial institutions to create the appearance of recovery and to raise equity for underwater banks rather than forcing them into receivership (which is where they belong) Bernanke probably knew that congress wouldn't approve another TARP-type bailout for dodgy mortgage-backed assets, so he settled on this shifty plan instead. The only problem is, the banks are still broke, business investment is at historic lows, consumers are on the ropes, the unemployment lines are swelling, the homeless shelters are bulging, the pawn shops are bustling, tent cities are sprouting up everywhere, and according to MarketWatch, Corporate insiders have recently been selling their companies' shares at a greater pace than at any time since the top of the bull market in the fall of 2007."

Face it; the economy is in the crapper and Bernanke's trickery hasn't done a lick of good.

It's been two years since the crisis began and nothing... NOTHING has been done to fix the banking system or force the banks to write-down their shi**y assets to market. But the losses are real and no amount of Congressionally approved accounting hanky-panky (like suspending mark-to-market) will change a bloody thing.

So, how bad will it get?

Well, it depends on whether the FDIC decides to continue to allow financial institutions like Corus and Guaranty Banks to operate with "negative Tier 1 ratio" hoping that all the green shoots happy talk can turn insolvent institutions into thriving mega-banks. "Abrakadabra".

Karl Denninger explains this latest hoax in a recent entry on his site Market Ticker:

"So what's going on here?

Simple: An enormous number of banks are holding loans at or close to "par" that really aren't. They're holding mortgages at massively-inflated values, even on defaulted properties, and this is why you are not seeing more foreclosure sales - that is, why inventory is being held back. If they sell it the accountants will force recognition of the loss, which will render them instantly insolvent, but so long as they "extend and pretend" they are marking these loans way, way above recovery value. The upshot of this is that these firms' balance sheet claims on asset values are massively inflated, regulators know it, and they're intentionally ignoring it."

Bingo! It's all 100% fakery conducted right under the nose of the Fed, the Treasury and the FDIC.

How many hundreds of banks are being kept on life-support because the FDIC is down to its last few farthings and doesn't want to ignite a panic?

Stay tuned.

The banking system is insolvent and the fact that the politically-connected big banks talked their their friends at the Fed into pumping liquidity into equities so they could access the capital markets, doesn't change matters for the hundreds of local and regional banks that will be caught in next year's downdraft. Prepare for massive consolidation with G-Sax and JPM left to pick up former competitors for pennies on the dollar.


Keep in mind that Wall Street veterans knew from the very beginning that Bernanke's quantitative easing (QE) was a load of malarkey intended to justify keeping toxic asset prices artificially high while pumping trillions into the stock market. Here's former hedge fund manager Andy Kessler's analysis way back in May:

"On March 18, the Federal Reserve announced it would purchase up to $300 billion of long-term bonds as well as $750 billion of mortgage-backed securities. Of all the Fed's moves, this "quantitative easing" gets money into the economy the fastest -- basically by cranking the handle of the printing press and flooding the market with dollars (in reality, with additional bank credit). Since these dollars are not going into home building, coal-fired electric plants or auto factories, they end up in the stock market.

A rising market means that banks are able to raise much-needed equity from private money funds instead of from the feds. .....It's almost as if someone engineered a stock-market rally to entice private investors to fund the banks rather than taxpayers."
(Andy Kessler "Was it a Sucker's Rally" Wall Street Journal)

What a swindle.

Bernanke's had a good go-of-it, juicing the market through the backdoor and concealing--as much as possible--who is still buying US Treasuries. (who knows; maybe it's the Fed buying its own paper offshore?!?) But what good will it do? The US consumer is broke; the tank is on empty. Household equity has declined by 94%, jobs are scarce, personal savings are rising, and families are cutting back and hunkering down. It will take a decade or more before household debt is whittled-away to a point where people can consume at pre-crisis levels. Another stock market bubble won't change a damn thing. This Depression is just beginning.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Tell Israel: Cool the Jets!

By Pat Buchanan

July 31, 2009 "Creators Syndicate" - – Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, who is wired into the cabinet of "Bibi" Netanyahu, warns that if Iran's nuclear program is not aborted by December, Israel will strike to obliterate it.

Defense Secretary Gates' mission to Israel this week, says Bolton, to relay Obama's red light, was listened to attentively, but will not be decisive.

Israel will decide.

One trusts Gates got into the face of Defense Minister Ehud Barak. For an Israeli strike on Iran, which Joe Biden foolishly said was Israel's call, would drag this country into a third war in the Middle East and destroy a policy that is visibly succeeding.

The Iranian regime is still reeling from the June 12 election, widely perceived in Iran and worldwide as stolen, and its tumultuous aftermath. Hundreds of thousands poured into the streets to protest the election, and then attack the legitimacy itself of the Islamic regime.

The government is gripped by its worst crisis since the revolution of 1979. Members of Iran's establishment with unimpeachable revolutionary credentials have declared the election a fraud.

Ahmadinejad's selection as first vice president of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, whose son is married to his daughter, and who has said some kind words about Israel, outraged conservatives.

Ahmadinejad was ordered by Ayatollah Khamenei to rescind the Mashaie appointment. For days he balked, then sent a curt note saying he would comply. Ahmadinejad further affronted the ayatollah by naming Mashaie his chief of staff.

Teheran is now ablaze over reports that scores of street protesters arrested in June may have been beaten to death in prison.

There is talk in Teheran, even before he has been sworn in for a second term, that Ahmadinejad may be impeached or ousted long before he can complete it.

America's policy of patience is working.

And as Ahmadinejad is Israel's bete noire, who Netanyahu cites as the religious fanatic who wants to "wipe Israel off the map" and will launch a nuclear weapon on Tel Aviv as soon as he gets it, why would Israel strike now, and reunite Iranians behind this regime?

Why does Israel insist that America has only five months to halt Iran's nuclear program, or Israel must attack?

Says Bolton: "(W)ith each passing day, Iran's nuclear and ballistic laboratories, production facilities, and military bases are all churning. Israel is focused on these facts, not the illusion of 'tough' diplomacy."

Now, Iran's nuclear "production facilities" may be "churning" out the low-enriched uranium of which it has produced enough for one test bomb. But IAEA inspectors still have their eyes on this pile. None of the LEU has been diverted anywhere.

There is no evidence Iran has built the cascade to raise LEU to highly enriched weapons-grade uranium, or that the facilities even exist to do this. The Iranian regime has declared it has no intention of building nuclear weapons, indeed, that their possession would be a violation of Koranic law.

And the United States has not rescinded its own National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 that Iran, in 2003, abandoned its weapons program.

Israel has been saying for years an Iranian bomb is months away.

Where is the proof? Where is the evidence to justify a new U.S. war in the Middle East to destroy weapons of mass destruction that may not exist in Iran, as they did not exist in Iraq?

Iran may wish to have a nuclear deterrent, considering what happened to neighbor Iraq, which did not. But the idea that the regime, having built a nuclear weapon, would launch it on Tel Aviv and bring massive retaliation by scores of Israeli nukes on Teheran and other cities, killing millions of Iranians and all the leaders and their families of all factions of this disputatious people, seems like total madness.

For Israel to launch a war on such reasoning would seem to meet Bismarck's definition of preemptive war as "committing suicide out of fear of death."

America lived for decades under a threat of nuclear annihilation. We relied on a policy of containment and deterrence, outlasted the Soviet regime in a 40-year Cold War, and are now at peace with Russia.

Ahmadinejad is not so tough a customer as Stalin, Khrushchev or Mao, who talked of accepting 300 million dead in a nuclear exchange. Moreover, Ahmadinejad has no nukes, no authority to take Iran to war, and is looking like a very lame duck before his second term has begun.

And when one looks to U.S. and Iranian interests, they coincide as much as they conflict. Iran detested the Taliban before we took them down, and no more wants them back than do we. Iran is even more pleased with the Shia regime we brought to power in Baghdad than we are.

Iran needs technology to restore its depleted oil and gas fields, and an end to sanctions to restore an economy whose disintegration helped put the regime in crisis and lose it the support of its young.

Obama should tell the Israelis, "Cool the jets!" literally.


Patrick Buchanan has made some excellent practical arguments for why it would be foolish for either Israel and or the United States to attack Iran. These are all without doubt noteworthy. However, the utilitarian case albeit persuasive is of far less significance than the moral one.

As frequent readers of this blog are well-aware, I have written extensively about the absolute moral illicitness of the concept of preventive war (mistakenly termed pre-emptive war by the Neo-Con's and their sympathizer's). Preventive War is totally incompatible with the Just War Doctrinal Corpus as well as being illegal under international and US law.

The radical Zionists of the Israeli right-wing including the Zionist Lobby in America continue to agitate for an aggressive (offensive) war against Iran even though Iran has attacked no one. Ironically it is the Israeli government which should be reigned in--Israel is known to have in excess of 200 nuclear weapons and has demonstrated on more than one occassion that she will resort to offensive war, a war crime under international and humanitarian law as well.

It is immoral to provide billions of dollars of yearly assistance to Israel knowing that it will be routinely used to commit immoral and illegal acts which without our support would be impossible. As American citizens, we are all culpable in the death and destruction that Israel brings to its neighbors.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert