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Beginnings, divisions, and sudden death

June 6, 2009

(This post is a my summary of the byFaith article “Politics, Theology & Embryonic Stem Cells”)

First I was one cell, and then after four or five days of cellular division, I was a ball of cells called a blastocyst, and cellular differentiation had already taken place. Was I me?

Are blastocysts human beings? In The New Atlantis, Princeton University’s Robert P. George and Patrick Lee answered that question: “Indeed they are, and contemporary human embryology and developmental biology leave no significant room for doubt about it. The adult human being reading these words was, at an earlier stage in his of her life, an adolescent, and before that an infant. At still earlier states he or she was a fetus and before than an embryo. In the infant, fetal, and embryonic stages, each of us was then what we are now, namely, a whole living member of the species Homo sapiens.”

Each embryo is a human being, and embryonic stem cell research would destroy these people. Why destroy little embryonic people when the following four points are true of adult stem cells?

  1. Organs in adult bodies contain stem cells.
  2. Stem cells abound in the placenta and umbilical cord.
  3. Scientists have been able to reprogram adult cells to be pluripotent, like stem cells.
  4. These adult stem cells are already being used in treatments of spinal cord injuries, juvenile diabetes, Parkinson’s, various cancers, heart disease, arthritis, sickle cell anemia, and many other diseases.

With the sucessful results from adult stem cells, why is there such a push toward stem cell research that destroys human embryos? On March 9, 2009, President Obama revoked the Bush restrictions on embryo-destructive research funding, and he also revoked the 2007 executive order that encouraged the National Institutes of Health to explore sources of stem cells that do not destroy embryos. Why is embryonic stem cell research so appealing to so many people?

  1. Professional ambition. Embryonic stem cell research is innovative, providing good empl0yment for stem cell researchers, and there are lots of grants from private sources, states, and now the federal government.
  2. Political opportunity. Religious social conservatives can be painted as anti-science Bible-thumpers who don’t really care for those with serious illnesses.
  3. Eugenics. All embryo research adds to our biological knowledge, moving us closer to controlling future generations through genetic engineering.
  4. Abortion. Research destroying embryos is related to abortion. If you protect embryos as persons, why would you allow slightly older persons to be aborted? If you protect embryos, the abortion industry would lose a lot of money.
  5. Monetary gain. The potential financial gain is astronomical because ebryonic stem cells can be patented. Using adult stem cells to heal a spinal injury can be performed by any hospital with neurosurgery, according to Dr. Geoffrey Raisman in The Guardian (UK). However, embryonic stem cells could be patented, produced, and sold by big chemical/pharmaceutical companies.

Stand for the helpless little people: defend embryos from destruction.

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