Monday, May 23, 2005

Still Morally Confused Over Stem Cells

The world of embryonic stem cell research has reached a fevered pitch in the last week with the announcement by the Koreans that they have successfully cloned an embryo and harvested its stem cells. These activities have been going on for some time now, but the “open” announcements are now coming to the surface.

First, I think it needs to be understood that in order to harvest stem cells from embryos, the embryo must be destroyed. So, if we were to translate what the Koreans (among others) have done into morally clear language, they have arbitrarily created a human and promptly murdered it.

But so many right now are supporting what has been done because of the potential benefit ESCs have for disease research. The catch, of course, is that it is still all potential whereas adult stem cells are already having clinical applications as well as showing pluripotent promise. FOX News Sunday recently interviewed a couple of people on this issue, and the public myopia and confusion regarding stem cells was readily apparent.

The first guest was formet NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason who has a son who suffers from cystic fibrosis. Here are a string of quotes that exemplify quite a few of our culture’s moral misconceptions. Chris Wallace is asking the questions.

WALLACE: So far, what does the research indicate about how helpful stem cells might be in treating cystic fibrosis?
ESIASON: You know, well, we don't know….Stem cell research is, you know, many people think in the scientific arena that there are answers there, that we might find a way to cure these diseases.

So Esiason recognizes that the promises are all potential at the moment.

WALLACE: How do you respond to that argument: that it's destroying life in order to save life?
ESIASON: Well, you know, I'm disappointed by that.

Esiason is disappointed that the fact that an embryo is a human being might dissuade some people from allowing their wholesale destruction. Wow-I have never heard of anyone who is “disappointed” at laws against the murder of innocent babies.

What needs to be learned from this part of the dialogue is that Esiason has bought the line that embryos are not human in any way whatsoever. The very next thing he goes on to say:

And with what the South Koreans have come forth with this past week, it just goes to show you that whether or not we support it here in this country, other countries are going to after this. And whether it be in Singapore or South Korea or even in Britain, it's going to be done, whether we support it or not.

It is going to be done anyway, so we might as well be the ones doing it. It’s a good thing the Western world didn’t think that way when it came to the attempted genocide of the Jewish people.

The next exchange was great to see. Esiason avoided answering the question about the personhood of the embryo, so Wallace called him on it-most journalists these days don’t know when they are being given the ol' soft-shoe.

WALLACE: But how do you answer the question? As you well know, there are a lot of very well-meaning people, just as well-meaning as you are, who view the destruction of those embryos as a destruction of life….how do you balance out science and legitimate moral concerns?
ESIASON: Well, when you are affected by a disease like we are, then certainly that's the balance that tilts you in favor of stem cell research.

And here lies one of the more powerful deceptions surrounding this issue-your emotional connection to one side of the problem gives you the moral latitude to “override” murder. Esiason goes on to say that if you were only in his shoes you would also favor embryonic stem cell research because of the emotional toil it causes. No doubt it is difficult, and no one is minimizing that, but it is not a moral trump card. If it were, than people in his position could morally legislate in favor of the vivisection of people with Down’s Syndrome in order to find a “cure” because a cadre of scientists is the former Czech Republic think it “holds a great deal of potential.”

Again, the very next thing out of his mouth:

I don't believe in human cloning. I'm not looking for Mini-me's to be running around with all of us.

Ah, but you do, Mr. Esiason. Its how this is being done even as you speak. What you don’t believe in is the science fiction version of adult-sized clones. But what is the actual, metaphysical difference between what has been done in Korea and what Boomer is allegedly against? Nothing.

Then Wallace brought on someone who is supposedly on the other side of the debate, and the answers didn’t get any better. Governor Mit Romney represented another point of view.

WALLACE: But if I may ask you, governor, specifically, you don't see, as I understand it, the use of these leftover embryos in fertility clinics as destroying life?
ROMNEY: That's right. I believe that when a couple gets together and decides that they want to bring a child into the Earth, and they go to a fertility clinic to do so, and if they're going to be through that process a leftover embryo or two, that they should be able to decide whether to preserve that embryo for future use or to destroy it; to have it put up for adoption or potentially to be used for research and experimentation, hopefully leading to the cure of disease.

This and the rest of his answer represents another gigantic fallacy that has permeated the whole right-to-life debate for over a decade. Romney’s argument is that humanity is tied to the value other people put on a life. So, it could be argued that if we all voted and decided that Romney’s life had little to no value to us, then scientists in the Ukraine could be allowed to run disturbing, but potentially useful, experiments on his devalued, and hence nonhuman, life.

I am sure that there would be all kinds of potential gains from such experimentation, and that plenty of emotionally upset people would see personal relief from such work. I am not seeing a down side here…


MegLogan said...

You should check out Rand's blog.

He is a bioengineer (i think or something similar) and has worked with stem cells and has a position you may be interested in.

You may have to look around his site to find this article, or you could just email him.


Anonymous said...

I can't get over Romney's response. It's actually very chilling. First he refers to the potential person as a child, but then as an embryo. So, a couple's desire to create a little person of thier own necessitates a process that results in a 'leftover embryo' which, I assume, in Mr. Romney's opinion is something short of a little person. Then he refers to ADOPTION as this embryo's possible destiny. But we put CHILDREN up for adoption, not EMBRYOS! So which is it, a child or an embryo? Or is this a distinction whtout a difference? I think Mr. Romney knows very well. I think all pro-abortionists know, intuitively, that a human embryo, at whatever developmental stage, is a human being. It's so obvious that to deny it is just downright silly. After all, what is it that classifies a being as human(or any other species for that matter)? Is it self-consciousness, functionality, development, or location? None of the above. It's genetics. Simply put, if your DNA says you're a bird, a lizard, or a human, then that's what you are. We learn this stuff in Jr. High! The ease with which otherwise intelligent people accept such shoddy rationale is truly a testament to our ability to rationalize. What is chilling is what would happen to Mr. Romney's statement if he ditched the false distinction and refered to the embryo as a child, as he should. He would be saying that it's permissible to subject CHILDREN to 'research and experimentation' enroute to 'destruction' based on the whim of it's parents. Scary.