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John Adams Blog

The blog of The Antient and Honourable John Adams Society, Minnesota's Conservative Debating Society www.johnadamssociety.org

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Stem Cell Debate

I am not sure what to think about embryonic stem cell research. People make a lot of claims that there will be great advances and that paralyzed people will be able to walk again. Maybe there will be great advances. However, it all seems a little creepy to me.

One thing you never hear the media talking about is the cloning aspect of embryonic stem cell research. The use for stem cells makes logical sense. The idea behind the potential of stem cell research is that you will be able to take stem cells and regrow your own tissue right in your body. This seems like an awesome and amazing technology. We could regrow our own organs or severed nerves! However, what is often left out is that you may need to have your own embryonic stem cells to grow your own tissue, which means creating an embryo clone of yourself.

I have heard some creepy responses to this aspect of stem cell research. For example, I heard one person say that we would not need to clone embryos right away... however when the time comes that cures are discovered and cloning is required, people will be able to decide for themselves whether or not they want to clone their own embryos. However cloning your own embryo requires the growth of an independent embryo and then replacing that embryo's DNA with your own DNA. That is unless we find a way to grow embryos without any DNA.

A great example of how misleading the cloning issue is can be seen in the 2006 ballot measure in Missouri that purports to put restrictions on Stem Cell Research. Clause 2 of the ballot says the following:

(1) No person may clone or attempt to clone a human being.

It seems pretty straight forward. It is the same statement that is listed on the "plain language explanation" provided in the voting booth. The ballot measure was initially sponsored by research institutions so one wonders why researchers would want to ban cloning since cloning will ultimately be required for embryonic stem cell therapy.

However if you read farther down the text in the ballot measure you find where Cloning is defined:

(2) “Clone or attempt to clone a human being” means to implant in a uterus or attempt to implant in a uterus anything other than the product of fertilization of an egg of a human female by a sperm of a human male for the purpose of initiating a pregnancy that could result in the creation of a human fetus, or the birth of a human being. (emphasis mine)

So there it is. You can clone an embryo as long as you don't implant the embryo into a uterus. The people in Missouri will be voting for cloning when they think they are voting against it.

It seems very creepy to create an embyro that has its own characteristics and then destroy it for the purposes of creating a cloned embryo of yourself. At the very least it would be nice if people told the truth about the research and told people what they are really voting for.

Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

The difficulty here is that while they don't look like you and me, fertilized eggs (zygotes) are human beings. That is, they are certainly alive, and they are certainly separate organisms, as opposed to being part of another organism like, say, a fat cell in my butt. And unlike egg or sperm cells, they have a complete set of DNA, unique from any other organism, and if given the right environment and nutrition, will usually grow into something resembling you and me. So given they are living organisms, what kind are they? Dogs? They are, simply put, very young human beings, in the state that all of us started in.

Even atheists should be troubled by the idea of creating disposable human beings for this or that utilitarian purpose. You could argue that this particular class of human beings is so different from the rest of us that they don't deserve the protection that we usually afford to members of our species, but historically, such distinctions haven't turned out too well.

9:10 AM, October 27, 2006  
Blogger King Oliver said...

I have never heard a rebuttal to the argument that cures for diseases are likely to come from adult stem cells. The assertion is apparently based on past experience and current research. Perhaps this is a bad argument, because it veers away from requiring us to make a clear choice between cannibalizing the unborn for the sake of the living, or not. On the other hand, there is a whiff of Providence in the prospect that adult stem cells are useful and embryonic ones are not.

3:05 PM, October 27, 2006  
Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

The difference between embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells is that adult stem cells have already specialized into, say, butt fat cells, whereas embryonic stem cells have not yet chosen their calling.

That said, it is reprehensible to CREATE a human being for the purposes of destroying it. Such an act should withstand no ethical test.

Embryonic stem cells also have problems. For example, they have been shown to spawn brain tumors when injected into rats for the purpose of alleviating Parkinson's. By their very nature -- and I am merely supposing here, using my vast brain power with no research to back me up -- embryonic cells will want to reproduce rapidly to achieve their chosen function. This is not terribly different from how cancer cells reproduce.

Now I WILL need to do some reasearch to satisfy this curiousity.

8:04 PM, October 27, 2006  
Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

I read this morning that the advocates of the ballot measure are pushing the measure as being an anti-cloning law... which it clearly is not.

12:32 AM, October 28, 2006  
Blogger Tom Cleland said...

I think it all depends on when the soul enters the body.

2:17 PM, October 29, 2006  

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