Thursday, February 10, 2005

Ethical priorities

Mass. Governor Weighs in on Stem Cell Work

"Respect for human life is a fundamental element of a civilized society," Romney wrote. "Lofty goals do not justify the creation of life for experimentation or destruction."

Respect for cellular life that is. Human life is as cheap as ever. People who believe that conception or nuclear transfer "creates" life where there was none before are no different that people that believe that having your picture taken or an image made of you steals a piece of your soul.

Anthropologists have described two types of magical beliefs among humans. One is that things that resemble something else (a picture or a statue) have power over the other object. The other, called contamination magic is that things that are connected or had previous contact still have influence over each other (If a witch gets your hair clippings they can cast spells on you). Stem cell debates are based on the latter. These cells are involved in the development of human beings so they must have human soul stuff in them. Ethics should be based on reason not magic.
Will adult stem cells eventually replace all potential therapies foreseen to emerge from embryonic stem cell research? Maybe, but who cares? Preventing medical research on tissue engineering because we have given sacred status to undifferentiated cells is disgusting. To be fair this politician does not seem to take a strong opinion on the issue as he is seems to be encouraging research on embryonic stem cells if they were going to be destroyed anyway. The research can be done as long as it is made needlessly hard to get the embryos. Is it that blastocystes that have been given up on are no longer ethically "human life"?

There are techniques being developed to create embryonic stem cells that do not require conception. Some, like transferring a patient's cell's nucleus into a non human ovum that would be incapable of forming a placenta and have no "human potential" (whatever that is defined as). This and other techniques would provide patient specific tissue but I am sure the mystics will dream up a reason to be against this as well. Since the ovum came from an animal the animal essence will be seen as spiritually contaminating the resultant cells even though there will be no genes from the animal and the development of every cell descended from it will be governed by human genes. After a few division, almost all cells won't have a single molecule from the animal egg but people will still decry the "human/animal mixture". This is a classical example of contamination magic belief and it will enter the debate. Mark my words.

It is certainly clear that neither the politicians nor the public is informed enough to sensibly discuss the current issues let alone look forward to near future developments. This is exactly as many religious people like it as a good emotionally charged campaign can sway public opinion which is probably why there are virtually no logic classes in North American public schools. (Government mandated stupidity.)

While waiting for future "ethical" (as defined by the loudest and most ill informed in our society) stem cells, is it ethical to stop research in the field, via red tape and bans, because certain people have bestowed certain types of cytoplasm with more "mojo" than others?

In case you can not figure that one out the answer is "no".


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