Discussing
Human embryonic stem cells: 'sound science' and 'moral values'

Steve Matheson

Csalzman
June 3, 2009

"Wait…how is that not a false choice between sound science and moral values? "<br><br>The argument would be that human cloning is not currently considered sound science by the science community, whereas using stem cells in research and science has been proven as sound. But I'm no scientist.<br><br>BTW: Welcome to TC!

John
June 3, 2009

If you grow an embryo in a cup and both the sperm and egg start to grow together is that not life? I'm tired of people killing others (children not yet born) for their conviences or because they did not protect themselves in the first place. Again I'm tired of the doctorates who feel that life (children not yet born) is something to use for research because they have not drawn their first breath. We all know what doctors do to babies in the womb who are late term. They scramble the brain so the child dies before it is taken out of the wormb and it draws it's first breath. In God's Grace John

SteveMatheson
June 3, 2009

Hi csalzman, and thanks for the welcome. You're right that the argument <i>could</i> go as you say. But that's not the argument that President Obama made. He declared that human cloning would <i>never</i> be acceptable, and his grounds were purely moral and not scientific. The point is that he needs to explain why his outright rejection of "cloning for human reproduction," which will clearly stifle research in that field, is different from President Bush's position on the destruction of blastocysts for the harvesting of human ES cells.

Csalzman
June 3, 2009

Again, not a scientist, but surely there's solid science to back up the claim that cloning is "dangerous." If so, I think one could argue that the moral statement that follows it is both morally and scientifically grounded. <br><br>Whether or not we agree with those scientists or their conclusions is an entirely different matter though. Still the statement could have been (and probably was) grounded in scientific reasoning. <br><br>All that said, I think he could have been more careful with that particular part of his speech.

Rick
June 3, 2009

Csalzman, I am not a scientist either, but I watch a lot of Star Trek. There is nothing especially"dangerous" about cloning any more than there would be about regenerating limbs. It just opens a very scary box. Like, what do you do with the failed cloned attempts. And what exactly are we using the clones for (body parts for wealthy clonees?). Hey, I saw Blade Runner. The reason we don't clone is that there are intractable moral and ethical concerns. I am not quite understanding why Steve is saying that the prohibitions against cloning are a false choice between morality and science? Are you saying that one does not preclude the other? The science seems viable, after all we've cloned Dolly the sheep. The moral quandry is the dangerous part.

Rick
June 3, 2009

Or, are you saying Steve that there may be valid moral reasons (for some) not to kill embryos for research purposes but there is no moral reason not to clone if it is scientifically practical?

SteveMatheson
June 3, 2009

I'm saying that the choice not to engage in reproductive cloning is no different from the choice not to engage in HESC generation via destruction of blastocysts. In both cases, the soundness of the science is not a decisive consideration. (And you're right that reproductive cloning is not necessarily exceptionally "dangerous.")<br><br>So here's George saying that we mustn't destroy blastocysts because it's wrong. (Actually, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/10/us/president-s-decision-bush-s-address-federal-financing-for-research-with.html?scp=2&amp;sq=bush%20stem%20cells&amp;st=nyt&amp;pagewanted=all" rel="nofollow">his words</a> were considerably more nuanced.) And here's Barack saying that we must <i>never</i> clone humans because it's <i>profoundly wrong</i>. Only one is called a "false choice between sound science and moral values." Why?

Csalzman
June 3, 2009

"Are you saying that one does not preclude the other?"<br><br>Nope.<br><br>I think anyone who doesn't take both into consideration should be heavily questioned. <br><br>And I completely agree that the stronger reason we don't clone (nor want to clone) humans is based in morality, but it's also not only an ethical issue. To get to the point where cloning would work would require quite a few mistakes, which I would suggest could be considered "dangerous."

Sistersharonblcl
June 3, 2009

Hello all<br><br> People are going to do what they want i think it is a shame before god and man the things that the govenment do rather if we as a society have say or not. They will with they power/monies over ride with what we say or do not say. God sad be fruitful and multiply meaning between man or women he did not say that he would put nature in the hand of man to reproduce.Although he gave man the wisdom to know the different between right and wrong and the different to make wise decision and good choices and gave man the knowledge to save lives as that is not good enough for man kind they always have to take things a step further god forbid we all have to pay for our actions so i say this if they are using stem cell to save some one's life that a good thing we as a people are all for that because life is so precious.But if it is use to try to play god by trying to clone humans/animals then my god move over because i don't want to be know where near them when jesus come. Don't get it mix up i'am for all that man has to offer for life, but i'am not for man playing god with life but i do thank god for the scientist and giving them knowledge of the human body and so on Amen.

Stephanie
June 4, 2009

I know this is probably an old question, but i think it deserve to be answered: How is embryonic stem cell research "sound science" if it has yet to produce a single useful result? At this point, i guess I could refer to the clip of Dr. Oz on Oprah, insisting that human somatic (not embryonic) stem cells are the area in which research is more likely to be beneficial; somatic stem cell therapies have already reached the testing stage, with encouraging results. <br>I think that Obama is the one forcing a "false choice" in this case, labeling anyone against government funding of this research as someone against "sound science".

Againali
June 4, 2009

I'm confused as to the purpose of cloning as opposed to the purpose of stem cell research. It seems as though there is no real purpose for cloning other than to "play God" (and it sure is downright creepy), but as for stem cells being able to someday provide a cure for a five year old child who was left paraplegic after an unfortunate accident...well, I'm not so sure that I would disagree with that, especially if it were my child. Let's not forget that most stem cells are not harvested for the sole purpose of research. Most of them would have been thrown away anyhow from the result of in-vitro, something that is overlooked way too often. Where is the political argument on that? Because I'm pretty sure that if Christians want to try to have a child in-vitro, they do. Yes, there is the Snowflake program (adopting embryos), but there are still thousands of embryos being discarded constantly...and in vain. I know this sounds silly, but if I were an embryo, I'd rather give someone the gift of their life back rather than be destroyed and thrown out because I wasn't "perfect" enough or the right sex. <br><br>Thankfully, I am neither an embryo or someone with a crippled child. Very fragile subject, and I'm not sure where I stand on it.

SiarlysJenkins
June 4, 2009

I refer everyone to a TIME magazine article, February 9, 2009, about Douglas Melton, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. That wasn't his original academic career. But when his son Sam was six months old, he became ill, got worse, woke up with projectile vomiting, taking short, shallow breaths, started turning grey... he was ultimately diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. For much of Sam's childhood, his blood sugar had to be checked every few hours. Trained as a molecular biologist studying amphibian development, Melton turned to research on making insulin-producing cells by using stem cells. He has, incidentally, had a leading role in developing the technology to harvest stem cells from a patient, rather than from discarded embryos. But he has also posed sharp moral questions to critics of his field: he invited Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to speak to his course on science and ethics. After allowing him a respectful hearing, Melton asked if he considered a one-day old embryo and a six year old child morally equivalent. Doerflinger did, of course. Why then, asked Melton, does society accept freezing embryos, but not freezing six year olds? That is a more complex question than might appear -- discarded embryos, if not frozen, would shortly die anyway. There are not enough "snow baby" adopters to get them all implanted in a live uterus in time. So where does the moral boundary here really lie? And who is "pro life" in all the moral implications of this line of research?

PMDubuc
June 5, 2009

The moral boundary may have already been crossed by the making of embryos that must be discarded. If that's not morally justified we should stop doing it. Let's stop producing embryos that we know we must destroy. What to do with the ones that already exist? Perhaps it would be better to let them die than to compound our previous errors by justifying their use as raw materials for medical science (not to mention all the money there is to be made in related business). Using the dead in that way, takes a small but significant step toward morally justifying the killing of those who are on the margins or who we consider a burden to themselves or others and with whose body parts we can make better use.<br><br>Research and therapy with adult or "pluripotent" stem cells are showing greater promise and don't have the same pitfalls as the use of embryonic stem cells. Why is it that the President's order has not only opened the door to funding the latter one but has also closed the door on funding the former ones?

Againali
June 6, 2009

While I understand what you are saying about creating embryos that must be discarded eventually anyway, when you state that it would be better to let them die than to justify their use as raw materials for medical science, it makes me wonder where your stance is on organ donation (which had to begin as an experiment before it was an acceptable practice). Or let me pose this question: Should Christians even participate in in-vitro fertilization, or just accept that God wanted them to be childless or perhaps adopt a child who is already born? I'm just throwing ideas out there. I don't have an agenda.<br><br>This is why I constantly say some arguments are better left up to God to judge. The spectrum is far too wide when it comes to what's biologically right and wrong, and many lines are crossed all the time. God gave us the intelligence to use science, and He Himself is the Creator of science. He knows the answers far better than we do to all of these delicate questions.

SiarlysJenkins
June 6, 2009

Your proposal is a plausible one. Essentially, it requires that we ban assisted reproduction, because in vitro fertilization produces a number of embryos, many of which will never be implanted. The Roman Church has opined that the mere desire to have a child does not justify resort to this technique. Personally, I do not consider a zygote to be a human being, nor a blastocyst, nor an embryo. At some point during the long period of development which science has labeled a fetus, the fetus becomes a baby, capable, if removed competently and compassionately, of surviving on its own, outside the womb, without life support. Removing a baby is not an abortion, and destroying it is homicide, although justified if necessary to save the mother's life.<br><br>There is an interesting moral dilemma to therapy with pluripotent stem cells: the cells thus created could be tweaked to produce a clone of the donor -- all the genetic coding to do so is present in the cell. So, is it a sin not to grow such a clone? I don't think so, but I don't think a zygote is a human being either. The whole point of the research is, of course, to take a cell genetically identical to the donor, and grow a new organ which will not be rejected by the body's immune system. But that is sacrificing a potential clone in order to create a pancreas for an existing person.

PMDubuc
June 7, 2009

Organ donations require consent of the donor or donors parents. I suppose you could guess my position on the harvesting of body parts without proper consent, turning it into a profitable business enterprise, patenting procedures and human genetic "material" making it the property of those who stand to benefit financially from its use. Your last paragraph makes me wonder where you would draw the line with things like this and why. Certainly God knows any and all things far better that we do, but that gives us no reason to plead total ignorance about these things or relieve us of thinking through the implications of what we do with our science and making responsible moral choices about what we should or shouldn't do just because we <i>can</i> do it.

PMDubuc
June 7, 2009

What may technically amount to "tweaking" may have profound moral implications which are not minimized by the small amount of effort involved to produce them.

Againali
June 8, 2009

I agree with your stance on harvesting body parts for profit. I guess what I was saying was that before consensual organ donations existed, there had to be a need for them and a science for them. Transplant experiments had to exist before there was even such a thing as organ donation. Where were the organs and bodies coming from to perform these experiments, was it all consensual, and were we "playing God" by assuming we could take a dying person and make them come alive with a dead person's organ? <br><br>I don't draw the line with things like stem cell research because I truly don't know how I feel about it. I don't wish to deny anyone the chance to have a child, but quite honestly, if a Christian participates in in-vitro fertilization--where they absolutely know they will be producing embryos that will be destroyed eventually--how do they justify that? I'm just posing questions that I ponder on occasion. I had the chance to do in-vitro, but chose not to, and I wasn't a true Christian yet (I was Catholic at the time, but was not practicing). It just didn't sit well with me. Of course, I already had two healthy children from my first marriage, so it wasn't as imperative to me as it might be to someone who is childless.<br><br>On the other hand, if I were a parent with a sick child whose life could be saved by the science produced by stem cell research, how could I say "no" to it? It's overwhelming to me to think about where my moral stance would be in such a case.<br><br>I don't plead "total ignorance", I just don't claim to know all the intimate details of someone else's life circumstances, and therefore why they make the choices that they do. That, I believe, is between them and God, and not for me to judge. Offer suggestions and advice maybe, but not to judge.

PMDubuc
June 8, 2009

I don't know the answers to the questions you are asking about organ donation, but I don't see why experiments had to precede consent of one "donating his body to science". This taboo may have been broken in the past, but it has remained a strong taboo none the less. What would be the argument for removing it? Think about the implications. There is a reason that human blood and body parts aren't bought and sold. They must be donated. Changing that as a matter of policy and practice changes everything and opens the door to just the kind of profitable enterprise to which we both object.<br><br>I agree with you, to a great extent, about not judging people for the choices they make, leaving that to God. But what about the choices that our society makes possible and acceptable? Are we not to judge those? Aren't we in some way responsible for them? There's a difference, for example, in trying to understand why some parents abuse their children and help these parents rather than just judge and condemn them and deciding that child abuse isn't wrong because we don't understand the reasons why some want to do it.<br><br>I think it's also fair to challenge the extreme devotion that we have to personal choice and individual autonomy. We pay a heavy price for thinking that we ought to be able to do anything we want to do. Choice is not the highest principle.<br><br>I'm not against all stem cell research, just the kind that involves destroying human embryos. I'm wondering what could be the non-ideological reason for the President's cutting off research funding for adult and pluripotent stem cell research while supporting embryonic stem cell research.

Againali
June 9, 2009

I agree, choice based on our wants is not the highest principal. I believe God places hard decisions on our hearts to challenge us to go further in our faith, even if it's not what we want or are comfortable with. What's most important to me is trusting Him completely with my life.<br><br>As for the me not agreeing with the choices society makes, well, here's one example: I personally feel that MTV was the ruination of all future generations, but there certainly isn't much I can do about it other than to not turn the television on. Writing to them and calling them (and their advertisers) does absolutely nothing. So in essence, I do not feel responsible for the choices the management of MTV makes, but I AM responsible for what my teenagers watch on TV...WHEN I'm around to monitor it. Trust me, they have gotten many lectures on the importance of NOT being a jacka**. There is not one positive role model for our kids on that station, yet that's what most of them are watching. Scary.<br><br>As for our President cutting off research funding for adult and pluripotent stem cell research, I am having a hard time locating any information stating that this is actually true. I would love a link to a web site that would perhaps give further insight into the statement you made, because I can't seem to find one...?

PMDubuc
June 14, 2009

I just think that issues that touch on the fundamentals of human life and what forms of it deserve protection are more serious than those that involve our choice of entertainment.<br><br>Thanks for pressing me on my statement regarding funding. I checked my sources and did some more searching and found that I had read them as there being an intentional cut in funding when it seems to be more of a side effect of repealing the Bush's order prohibiting research on new embryonic stem cell lines which also directed funding to research that does not destroy embryos. The new guidelines being proposed do not prohibit research funding for adult and pluripotent stem cell research. Here are some of the relevant links I found:<br><br><a href="http://www.lifenews.com/bio2786.html" rel="nofollow">http://www.lifenews.com/bio278...</a><br><a href="http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/E9-9313.htm" rel="nofollow">http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/...</a><br><a href="http://health.usnews.com/blogs/heart-to-heart/2009/03/04/why-embryonic-stem-cells-are-obsolete.html" rel="nofollow">http://health.usnews.com/blogs...</a> <br><a href="http://www.getreligion.org/?p=11019" rel="nofollow">http://www.getreligion.org/?p=...</a><br>

SiarlysJenkins
June 16, 2009

Its not the small amount of effort which concerns me. Suppose technology advances to the point that DNA can be taken from my body, and used to produce stem cells, which can then be grown into a new pancreas for me, when I suffer from pancreatic cancer, currently an inoperable condition more often than not. By the moral logic offered by many here, that first cell, set to be grown into a new pancreas for me, is as capable as any newly fertilized zygote of growing into an independent human being, a clone of me physically, although not possessing my life experiences. So, would we be wrong to deny this cell its "right to life"? If so, should we ban this line of medical research and treatment?

SiarlysJenkins
June 24, 2009

What is eerie about reproductive cloning is, which one is the real me? And who has what soul? Arthur C. Clarke wrote a story about a man who was reproductively sterile, and had a clone made so he could have a son. His son, of course, inherited the condition, so HE had to clone a son. Each grew up with his own identity and life experiences, but it was still strange. When it was the third generation's turn, he obtained a clone of a recently deceased friend his own age. His grandmother heartily approved.

Razzlegtd
July 2, 2009

This is out of my league, even tho I have been an advid sci-fi fan for 50 years. The main issue with any scientific research is that the concequences are often not realized untill after the fact. One part of researches influence on another and the unforseen results, morally, spiritually, and emotionally are often not measurable or even considered. Look at today's society and the influence science is playing in the choices people are making as compared to 199 tears ago. The other issue is what inhumanity was done to move science ahead. i.e. The research done in prisioner of war camps, particularly in regards to food presevation, freezing and cooling meat. Mans inhumanity to man has been at the for-front of scientific developement.<br>We all benefit from the development of science, and the issue of what limits should be placed on it will continue for as long as we are here. What we do know is science is not the answer to mans nature as was hoped for, for the last 200 years. There is no golden pill. Mans nature has and will always remain constant, as history shows, and the only answer to heal the heart of man is God.

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