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Miscellaneous meanderings and philosophical ramblings. The title from a spiral notebook I used to jot down my thoughts on religion and other matters some years ago. I like to write, think and express my views on various issues. Robust discussion is welcome.

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I will not submit. I will not surrender.
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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Stem cells - reader's comments and my reply

I drew a bit of new traffic from Salon's Daou Report, with my post A stem cell advancement and some comments were left from those who disagreed with my position. I thought it would be best to reply with another post, rather than just in the comments, as several raised some objections that are worth responding to and I though others would be interested in seeing the reply.

From Devil's Advocate

I see. Using embryonic stem cells is killing the pre-born. But throwing out unused frozen embryos -- which fertility clinics routinely do -- is not killing the pre-born? Explain the difference.

DA, I would say there are several problems with your argument. For one, you're implying an inconsistency, without knowing my position regarding IVF. Also, suppose that my position is inconsistent, that doesn't automatically mean that arguments I have against the use of embryonic stem cells are not persuasive, merely that I don't hold to them perfectly, for some reason, which only reflects on myself not the position advanced. However, I do not think highly of IVF, in it's current form, as it creates an excess of human life and results in a morally complicated situation, that need not have been necessary or at least could be greatly lessened. Adoption, in my view, is morally superior and should be promoted over IVF, while also reforming and improving the IVF technology and process to lessen the chance of unused excess human life being created along with the resulting moral complexities we now face as I've previously written about in this post.

Also, while ignoring the need to change IVF your question poses a false dichotomy. While the practice is not widespread, those embryos can be implanted in other women and carried to term. While they will not all survive, their chances are much greater than if they are treated as merely test material for ESC research, or just thrown out. Much could, and I think should be done, to promote the ability to implant them in other women who are willing to do this.

From Carol

Atala is a publicity hound who once announced to great fanfare that he could engineer a bladder in culture. Unfortunately, that proved not to be true. Scientists are sceptical of him and are waiting to see the published reports before they accept these findings. Work needs to be done on all types of stem cells, including embryonic stem cells. It is likely that they will all prove useful in different ways. It is misleading to say that adult stem cells have proved useful in treatment while embryonic stem cells have not. Research on embryonic stem cells has barely begun while adult stem cells have been used for decades. Do the research on the embryonic cells and see where it leads before you say they are not useful.

Carol, of course this needs to be verified. However, one has to wonder why embryonic stem cells have not had much advancement. You say it's because it has only just begun even though there has been no ban on such research. Yet even without a ban, we find that the market has moved towards adult or mature stem cells. The issue, right now, is government funding. I see no reason why the government should distort the market by throwing money at something the market hasn't really been impressed with. Also, whether or not ESC were useful, I would be against using them on moral grounds. The argument about usefulness is in addition to the primary argument, which to me, is about the morality of the matter.

And then we have someone using the screen name "me".

Since they aren't useful RIGHT NOW, we should discontinue all funding until they are useful.

/intended irony

Unfortunately, for you, this attempt at irony doesn't really address my position but only your assumptions regarding it. As I noted briefly, in my reply to Carol, my primary reason for not supporting ESC research is derived from moral arguments. The same arguments that I use for my pro-life views, also apply to ESC. While I don't consider arguments from religious precepts always being worthy of an automatic dismissal, I argue in a secular fashion, as can be seen if one takes a look at the Abortion dept./category of my blog. So, even if we knew they were useful, I would not support the research. As it is, in addition to the fundamental moral problems and the dangerous slope we tread on with ESC, there is also the matter of the marketing scheme concerning ESC, being the equivalent of vaporware due to failures of the promised technology. For those not persuaded by, or even concerned with the moral issues involved, the fact that funds are limited, and should be allocated as efficiently as possible, should lead to questioning the government being involved in throwing money around while ignoring the direction of the market.


Filed under: Abortion -- Culture

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