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Gagingwell is a hamlet in West Oxfordshire, England.

Until Abramic religions were introduced in Egyptian society, women had been independent, empowered and emancipated citizens.

Roman Emperor Vespasian introduced a tax on the sale of urine. Therefore, the phrase pecunia non olet, ‘money does not stink’, is ascribed to him.

Mutterkuchen, the German word for placenta literally means ‘mother cake’.

Stravinsky had an affair with Coco Chanel in the summer of 1920. He was revising the Rite of Spring at the time, and she was about to launch Chanel No.5.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

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The tobacco hornworm uses its terrible breath to fend off predators.

The facial expressions on Lego figures have become increasingly angry over the last 30 years.

The population of Ireland is still smaller than it was before the Great Famine of 1845.

The Antarctic is a continent entirely surrounded by oceans the Arctic is an ocean almost entirely surrounded by continents.

All the eggs a woman will ever produce are present in her ovaries when she is born. The egg cell that became you was as old as your mother.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

Conversations: Stem-cell Research

Qualms about embryonic stem-cell research are obscene. Stem-cell research has been one of the most promising developments in the last century of medicine. It could offer therapeutic breakthroughs for every disease or injury process that human beings suffer—for the simple reason that embryonic stem cells can become any tissue in the human body.

And this research may also be essential for our understanding of cancer, along with a wide variety of developmental disorders. Now, given these facts, it is almost impossible to exaggerate the promise of stem-cell research.

That’s all very well and good, but research on embryonic stem cells entails the destruction of three-day-old human embryos. This should give us pause.

Of course! There are major ethical issues at play here, and we should consider those carefully. Let’s look at the details: Continue reading

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In Roman times someone could be designated a ‘public enemy’ which meant that every citizen was duty bound to kill or capture you. If you were caught, you would be tied up naked and beaten to death with heavy rods.

Stressed is Desserts spelled backwards.

The Corkscrew, Hummer, Ice-cube, and Scarf are all types of blowjobs.

Biologically speaking, peppers are a fruit.

A three-day-old human embryo can split into two separate embryos, eventually resulting in identical twins; the opposite is also possible, two separate three-day-old embryos can fuse into a single embryo, called a chimera.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

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The Ache tribe of Paraguay believe that babies inherit the characteristics of all the men who have had sex with the mother during pregnancy.

In Latin, testis both means witness and testicle.

The “M” on M&M’s candies were stencilled by hand until WWII labour shortages forced the confectioner to automate the process.

The international telephone code for Antarctica is 672.

In 2012, nearly half of Americans were not aware that Judaism is an older religion than Christianity – that is to say, nearly half of Americans did not figure out that, in Christianity, the Old Testament is older than the New Testament.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

Abortion, Mother Teresa and El Salvador

‘Mother Teresa is a perfect example of the way in which a good person, moved to help others, can have her moral intuitions deranged by religious faith. Christopher Hitchens put it with characteristic bluntness:

[Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.

While I am in substantial agreement with Hitchens on this point, there is no denying that Mother Teresa was a great force for compassion. Clearly, she was moved by the suffering of her fellow human beings, and she did much to awaken others to the reality of that suffering. The problem, however, was that her compassion was channeled within the rather steep walls of her religious dogmatism. In her Nobel Prize acceptance speech, she said:

The greatest destroyer of peace is abortion…. Many people are very, very concerned with the children in India, with the children in Africa where quite a number die, maybe of malnutrition, of hunger and so on, but millions are dying deliberately by the will of the mother. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today. Because if a mother can kill her own child—what is left for me to kill you and you kill me—there is nothing between.

As a diagnosis of the world’s problems, these remarks are astonishingly misguided. As a statement of morality they are no better. Mother Teresa’s compassion was very badly calibrated if the killing of first-trimester fetuses disturbed her more than all the other suffering she witnessed on this earth. While abortion is an ugly reality, and we should all hope for breakthroughs in contraception that reduce the need for it, one can reasonably wonder whether most aborted fetuses suffer their destruction on any level. One cannot reasonably wonder this about the millions of men, women, and children who must endure the torments of war, famine, political torture, or mental illness. At this very moment, millions of sentient people are suffering unimaginable physical and mental afflictions, in circumstances where the compassion of God is nowhere to be seen, and the compassion of human beings is often hobbled by preposterous ideas about sin and salvation. If you are worried about human suffering, abortion should rank very low on your list of concerns. While abortion remains a ludicrously divisive issue in the United States, the “moral” position of the Church on this matter is now fully and horribly incarnated in the country of El Salvador. In El Salvador, abortion is now illegal under all circumstances.

There are no exceptions for rape or incest. The moment a woman shows up at a hospital with a perforated uterus, indicating that she has had a back-alley abortion, she is shackled to her hospital bed and her body is treated as a crime scene. Forensic doctors soon arrive to examine her womb and cervix. There are women now serving prison sentences thirty years long for terminating their pregnancies. Imagine this, in a country that also stigmatizes the use of contraception as a sin against God. And yet this is precisely the sort of policy one would adopt if one agreed with Mother Teresa’s assessment of world suffering. Indeed, the Archbishop of San Salvador actively campaigned for it. His efforts were assisted by Pope John Paul II, who declared, on a visit to Mexico City in 1999, that “the church must proclaim the Gospel of life and speak out with prophetic force against the culture of death. May the continent of hope also be the continent of life!”

Of course, the Church’s position on abortion takes no more notice of the details of biology than it does of the reality of human suffering. It has been estimated that 50 percent of all human conceptions end in spontaneous abortion, usually without a woman even realizing that she was pregnant. In fact, 20 percent of all recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. There is an obvious truth here that cries out for acknowledgement: if God exists, He is the most prolific abortionist of all.’

Harris. S. 2006. Letter To A Christian Nation p. 13-14

Curious Ovum

The ovum, a mature egg cell released by the ovaries of the fertile female approximately every 28 days, is the largest human cell; whereas sperm, incidentally, is the smallest.

For conception to take place, a mature egg cell must be at the right place at the right time. Conception takes place when a sperm penetrates the egg cell before it reaches the uterus and fertilizes it within 24 hours of its release, then the two cells combine into one.

All of the 400,000 egg cells a woman will ever produce are already present in her ovaries when she is born, although the eggs are in an undeveloped form. That means that the egg that would become you was as old as your mother at the time you were conceived.

“I’m frightened of eggs, worse than frightened, they revolt me.”
– Alfred Hitchcock

Problems with Stem-cell Research

‘Your qualms about embryonic stem-cell research are similarly obscene. Here are the facts: stem-cell research is one of the most promising developments in the last century of medicine. It could offer therapeutic break-throughs for every disease or injury process that human beings suffer—for the simple reason that embryonic stem cells can become any tissue in the human body. This research may also be essential for our understanding of cancer, along with a wide variety of developmental disorders. Given these facts, it is almost impossible to exaggerate the promise of stem-cell research. It is true, of course, that research on embryonic stem cells entails the destruction of three-day-old human embryos. This is what worries you.

Let us look at the details. A three-day-old human embryo is a collection of 150 cells called a blastocyst. There are, for the sake of comparison, more than 100,000 cells in the brain of a fly. The human embryos that are destroyed in stem-cell research do not have brains, or even neurons. Consequently, there is no reason to believe they can suffer their destruction in any way at all. It is worth remembering, in this context, that when a person’s brain has died, we currently deem it acceptable to harvest his organs (provided he has donated them for this purpose) and bury him in the ground. If it is acceptable to treat a person whose brain has died as something less than a human being, it should be acceptable to treat a blastocyst as such. If you are concerned about suffering in this universe, killing a fly should present you with greater moral difficulties than killing a human blastocyst.

Perhaps you think that the crucial difference between a fly and a human blastocyst is to be found in the latter’s potential to become a fully developed human being. But almost every cell in your body is a potential human being, given our recent advances in genetic engineering. Every time you scratch your nose, you have committed a Holocaust of potential human beings. This is a fact. The argument from a cell’s potential gets you absolutely nowhere.

But let us assume, for the moment, that every three-day-old human embryo has a soul worthy of our moral concern. Embryos at this stage occasionally split, becoming separate people (identical twins). Is this a case of one soul splitting into two? Two embryos sometimes fuse into a single individual, called a chimera. You or someone you know may have developed in this way. No doubt theologians are struggling even now to determine what becomes of the extra human soul in such a case.

Isn’t it time we admitted that this arithmetic of souls does not make any sense? The naive idea of souls in a Petri dish is intellectually indefensible. It is also morally indefensible, given that it now stands in the way of some of the most promising research in the history of medicine. Your beliefs about the human soul are, at this very moment, prolonging the scarcely endurable misery of tens of millions of human beings.

You believe that “life starts at the moment of conception.” You believe that there are souls in each of these blastocysts and that the interests of one soul—the soul of a little girl with burns over 75 percent of her body, say—cannot trump the interests of another soul, even if that soul happens to live inside a Petri dish. Given the accommodations we have made to faith-based irrationality in our public discourse, it is often suggested, even by advocates of stem-cell research, that your position on this matter has some degree of moral legitimacy. It does not. Your resistance to embryonic stem-cell research is, at best, uninformed. There is, in fact, no moral reason for our federal government’s unwillingness to fund this work. We should throw immense resources into stem-cell research, and we should do so immediately. Because of what Christians like yourself believe about souls, we are not doing this. In fact, several states have made such work illegal. If one experiments on a blastocyst in South Dakota, for instance, one risks spending years in prison.

The moral truth here is obvious: anyone who feels that the interests of a blastocyst just might supersede the interests of a child with a spinal cord injury has had his moral sense blinded by religious metaphysics. The link between religion and “morality”—so regularly proclaimed and so seldom demonstrated—is fully belied here, as it is wherever religious dogma supersedes moral reasoning and genuine compassion.’

Harris. S. 2006. Letter To A Christian Nation p. 11-12