Friday, September 01, 2006

Embryonic Stem Cells – No Excuse Now

A person is much more than a cell, or a small cluster of cells. Thus the old argument that embryonic stem cell research is wrong because it kills a person never held any water. But “we” here at UC at least admit that a person who sincerely believes an embryo is a person could have reasonably opposed such research, given the initial belief.

But the point is moot now, because the old argument is obsolete.

Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. has invented a way to obtain embryonic stem cells from an embryo without harming the embryo: the technique amounts to consists of taking a single cell from an eight-cell embryo and culturing it. This technique of cell removal is already in use for other purposes (diagnostics), and over 1500 healthy infants have been born who developed from such. ACT’s contribution was to figure how to culture a line of stem cells from a cell obtained this way.

No “babies” are harmed in the process, no embryos destroyed…so this is will be a nice way to sort out those who sincerely opposed stem cell research out of respect for human life, and those for whom this was just an excuse and really simply oppose the advance of medical science and relief of human suffering. I expect a good number of the faithful to drop their opposition now, but just as there has been religious opposition to medical treatments such as anesthesia and HPV vaccine (HPV, human papillomavirus, a cause of cervical cancer), expect some religious fanatics to oppose stem cell research regardless.

In game theoretic terms we’re going to be getting a separating equilibrium. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out.

Anyone want to offer bets on the pope’s position?

I agree there will be illogical protest by some whom may call themselves religous. However, there are many in the faith that will see no problem with this procedure. The problem they and I may have, is this going to be funded with taxpayer dollars.

I find it laughable that the science community peg their pursuit of scientific breakthroughs with how much government funding is received to do the R&D. But this is not surprising. They are part of the legal plunder crowd, which is headed by the US government.
Anonymous -- good point re taxpayer dollars. The question of the propriety of embryonic stem cell research is confounded with the issue of federal (or any gov't) funding of research.

The issue of taxpayer funding for an activity is entirely different from the question of whether or not the activity should be prohibited.

However, I don't really believe that it is principled opposition to plunder of the taxpayer that generated the great majority of religious opposition to this research -- after all, hardly any churches condemn plunder of the taxpayer for other purposes -- and most seem to endorse it when done for activities the approve of.

I agree that most churches tolerate or accept plunder for causes they support. But there are some that are dead set against government funding for faith based advocacy.

In my opinion, a church becomes a government agency and not a house of faith when they receive government funding. However, people of faith do pay federal/state income taxes and they should have a platform to dissent against policy or issues that they may perceive to violate their religious conscious, if their taxes will fund it--just like any other interest group.

All Judaic-Christians are not against the advancement of science. Their concern is about the dignity of human life, as they determine that life begins at conception. But, in their opposition, people of faith need to provide a viable or doable alternative. And it seems to me, according to your article, that this procedure they will not have trouble with supporting privately or publicly.
Anon -- I concur with everything you say here, save for the last sentence, which appears to say that there now is no reason to oppose public support of stem cell research.

The issue of public (i.e. tax-funded) research is something I haven't addressed here, but there are strong reasons, grounded in both libertarian ethics and practical policy reasons, why we should oppose it. And presumably libertarian religious believers fully agree.
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