It’s a simple enough concept: use the human body’s own potential to renew itself to turn victims of degenerative mental and physical disease into happy and healthy outpatients.
I’m talking of course about stem cell research. Despite vastly open-ended applications for stem cells, the practice is burdened to a standstill due to unfortunate controversy. Cries come from the pro-life movement that geneticists are in fact baby-butchers, violating the rights of every zygote to enjoy SCHIP benefits, pay taxes and vote.
Stem cell research is a field of near-limitless potential, and the more we increase scientific funding past starvation level, the more promising stem cell research becomes. We owe our very existence to stem cells – every one of us can trace the story of our DNA back to a cluster of unspecialized cells which, under the right circumstances dictated by our genetic programming, could become anything from a brain cell to a heart muscle.
Best part is, we’ve got extra stem cells to spare after we learn to walk and read and pick fights with one another. The same stem cells are still hanging out next to our bone marrow well into adulthood.
We can also find a ton of stem cells in the blood of umbilical cords and placenta – doctors normally just snip and toss all the afterbirth that Tom Cruise doesn’t eat, so seeing those bits and pieces go to use would be downright responsible. The state of contemporary science, however, leaves stem-cell researchers with only a single option: harvesting cells directly from an embryo.
Pope Benedict XVI said in a 2006 public appearance that harvesting embryos “is not only devoid of the light of God but is devoid of humanity” because it “does not truly serve humanity.“ While it’s well understood that Biblical scripture has been interpreted to see a human being’s spiritual life beginning at the very moment of conception, there is a wealth of reasons why research should continue unimpeded.
First, stepping up research could bypass harming embryos. Increased development would enable researchers to create stem cells without any pregnancy through the transplantation of a patient’s nucleus into a donor’s egg cell. In so much jargon, this means that reprioritization of medical science would offer new hope to those with Alzheimer’s, quadriplegics, the blind, sufferers of liver cirrhosis and countless other ailments by synthesizing their own unfertilized stem cell tissue.
A second point is that no “living“ embryo need be destroyed to further the research into the coming years – a massive stockpile of material is sitting idle at fertility clinics and hospitals nationwide, embryos on ice that stand no chance of becoming human beings.
James Thomson, the first scientist to successfully culture stem cells, put in plain in a 2005 MSNBC interview: “The bottom line is that there are 400,000 frozen embryos in the United States, and a large percentage of those are going to be thrown out. Regardless of what you think the moral status of those embryos is, it makes sense to me that it’s a better moral decision to use them to help people than just to throw them out.“ Leading OB/GYN researchers estimate that 60% of viable zygotes, even in the uterus, fail to implant and simply pass right through.
Thirdly, there is a growing global community of stem cell research, and the participation of the United States would revitalize our national image; generosity and humanity would be implicit in funding science for the sake of human betterment. Our legacy, I need not mention, is lacking in that regard.
Fourth, there’s the coldly political argument that would be bulletproof in any fair court. The First Amendment, as well as common decency, prevents Christians from enforcing their interpretation of birth and death on the rest of the world.
Galileo stands before the church again. Let us say as he said, “The Earth DOES move!“
CHEYA CARY is able to accept your unquestioning worship at firstname.lastname@example.org.