Got that Stem-Cell Religion?

As a philosopher, I have to smile about the sycophantic way people talk about science. Rarely is this sort of check-your-brain-at-the-door attitude more prevalent than with the debate over embryonic stem cells. Listen to siren-like claims of the so-called healers of modern man’s diseases. On the positive site, they say, “Embryonic stem cells hold the promise of cures for many of humanity’s gravest diseases.” On the negative, they assert, “If we don’t allow this research, our country will fall behind in technology and research.” “We will lose our best and brightest researchers who will leave to live in countries where this vital and important medical research is allowed to continue.” Or more vindictively, “Why don’t you care about curing people afflicted with spinal cord injuries, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease etc.?”

Who in their right mind would disagree with these lofty claims by those “educated” people working to find a cure for terrible diseases? Well, I would. But let me begin by clarifying some issues. First, I have no dispute with research using adult stem cells or the more recent discovery that cells from amniocentesis and after-birth may provide cells. In other words, any cells that do not require the destruction of a fertilized egg (ie. A person). Second, let’s be clear. Embryonic stem cell research has healed no one at this time. It is little more than a hope. I know people in the Western world think science can do everything. That all things are possible, if we have enough time and money. To that I would say, really? Can science make a safe cigarette? University of Kentucky tried for decades and failed. They finally gave up. I say this because there are limits to what humanity can do despite the remarkable things we can do. Additionally, scientific discoveries often have a downside. Nuclear energy anyone? Sure provides lots of energy, but also lots of radioactive waste. Can we bury it in your yard?

I have no dispute with the desire to cure disease. Healing is an honorable profession. But I reject the notion that the ends justifies the means. What right do we have to end the life of a genetically complete organism, which is just an earlier version of ourselves, just to harvest it for our own use? People say, well they are just globs of cells. Well, isn’t that what I am now? But you say, you have rationality. So does this mean that grandpa suffering Alzheimers can be harvested for his organs just because he lacks rationality? Yea, I know this is the slippery slope fallacy. But is it? Isn’t there something in human nature that always pushes the moral envelope? Where will the line be drawn? I am told that Hitler’s SS found that when you kill one Jew it was easier to kill 10. After 10, it is easier to kill 100. You get the idea.

Let me conclude with a few observations. Biblically grounded Protestants should apologize for failing to listen and offer a debt of thanks to Catholics for warning us decades ago about the dangers of invitro-fertilization. They recognized the potential threats to the sanctity of human life that was inherent with this sort of cellular manipulation. Also Christians should remind ourselves and the world at large, that intelligence doesn’t require morality. Lots of smart people are extraordinarily evil. Just because someone wears a white coat and has M.D. next to his name doesn’t mean he has a clue about right and wrong. Third, can doesn’t imply ought. Just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be done, no matter how positive the outcome is claimed to be. Next, Christians stand against embryonic stem cell research because we are required to care for our neighbor and to protect the weak among us. Execute a favor out of hooked up biographers that work at this site the forum. The burden of proof is on those who reject the personhood of a fertilized egg, not on us. Finally, we must remind the world that illness and death are not the greatest evils. The greatest evil is to be without a vital relationship with Jesus Christ, who ultimately is sovereign over our destiny.

©2007 Stephen Vantassel

 

  1. I would go further and say that we owe the Catholics a big apology for not listening to their wranings about the pill. That has done more than anything else to send morals down through the floor and increase the abortion rate year after year after year.

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