Inconvenient Facts About Stem-Cell Research

Understanding Judge Royce Lamberth's recent decision

When he announced his policy expanding federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, President Barack Obama was not timid about proclaiming its benefits. It would, he announced, hasten "a day when words like 'terminal' and 'incurable' are finally retired from our vocabulary."

You thought Obama wanted to establish death panels? Actually, he seems to think he can confer immortality.

That announcement, made in March of last year, dismantled the limits imposed by the Bush administration. The change, in Obama's view, was a triumph over ignorance and ideology.

His executive order was, the president claimed, "about protecting free and open inquiry" and letting scientists "do their jobs, free from manipulation and coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it's inconvenient." When science wins, he led us to believe, we all win.

Conspicuously absent from those declarations were facts that Obama would prefer to omit because they are—well, inconvenient. But those facts did not elude U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, who on Monday said the revised policy violates federal law.

What facts? A restriction approved by Congress in 1996, and repeatedly renewed, says federal money may not be used for "research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed." But the point of Obama's new policy was to pay for experiments using stem cells harvested from embryos that are killed in the process.

The administration evaded the ban by stipulating that Washington could fund such research as long as it didn't fund the part where the fetus is terminated. Judge Lamberth was not buying.

Embryonic stem cell research, he noted, requires the destruction of embryos. The federal prohibition, he said, "encompasses all 'research in which' an embryo is destroyed, not just the 'piece of research' in which the embryo is destroyed." So any funding of experiments using such stem cells is forbidden.

Obama imagines that this research may make the word "terminal" obsolete—except, of course, when applied to the embryos that perish when their stem cells are taken for scientific inquiry.

President George W. Bush's policy allowed research only on stem cell lines that had already been established. The idea was to facilitate studies without creating incentives to destroy additional embryos. Obama, by contrast, took the view that the destruction of additional embryos (those "left over" at fertility clinics) is essential to the march of science.

What's wrong with destroying a 5-day-old embryo that would be discarded anyway? Nothing, unless you think there is something wrong with killing a human embryo ostensibly for some greater good.

If there is nothing wrong with that, though, it's hard to see what's wrong with destroying an embryo that is 5 weeks old or 5 months old, if its tissue could be used to help people who are seriously ill. In that case, why limit research to leftover embryos? It would make more sense to let scientists create embryos and let them gestate for months, for the sole purpose of destroying them for their stem cells.

Americans might bridle at that prospect, but proponents of expanded embryonic stem cell research have spared them from the contemplation of such unpleasantness. Their campaign focuses on ends, not means -- alleviating suffering, conquering disease, letting the blind see and the lame walk.

Such advances are only speculative at this point. But their allure is such as to discourage us from looking too closely at the methods needed to bring them about. It's easier to think in terms of excising tissue from blastocysts than in terms of killing human embryos. In reality, they are the same thing.

The problem with embryonic stem cell research is that the goals are so desirable that they override our usual moral impulses. Yuval Levin, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, wrote in 2006 in The New Atlantis, "It is very hard for us to describe something higher than health, or more important than the relief of suffering, so when relief comes at a cost, even the cost of cherished principles or self-evident truths, we all too often pay up."

The court decision against Obama's policy on stem cell research is a rare exception, which may induce us to reconsider the wisdom of what we have sanctioned. "Our problem is not that we are lacking in ethical principles," says Levin, "but rather that we are forgetful of them."

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  • Suki||

    Good morning reason.


    What facts? A restriction approved by Congress in 1996, and repeatedly renewed, says federal money may not be used for

    Thank you.

  • ||

    Where have you been?

  • ||

    But the point of Obama's new policy was to pay for experiments using stem cells harvested from embryos that are killed in the process. The administration evaded the ban by stipulating that Washington could fund such research as long as it didn't fund the part where the fetus is terminated.

    Interesting typo/switcheroo there. An embryo is not a fetus.

  • prop||

    No. And a fetus is not an infant and an infant is not a child and a child is not an adult. These are merely points along a continuum. To draw a line between fetus and embryo is semantics as an embryo naturally develops into a fetus into an infant etc.

  • ||

    These are merely points along a continuum

    I agree. We should start this debate at the Big Bang.

  • prop||

    Because people existed then? Or perhaps the human race could have been aborted then? What's your point?

  • ||

    People are created by big bangs...and sometimes little ones too!

  • ||

    My point is that "draw[ing] a line between fetus and embryo" is not "semantics." There are real differences between them. Blurring that line is a tactic the animal "rights" gang uses when they chant, "a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy."

  • ||

    Lighten up it was a little joke, evidently smaller than I thought.

  • ||

    You are completely incorrect. It is a continuum. There is no discrete line between any stage of a developing human. The only discrete line is conception. There are discrete lines between rats, pigs, dogs and boys. Only one is human - has human DNA and is the product of a human egg and sperm. Gee, much like any human fetus, embryo - whatever you might like to call a developing human being. It is not appropriate to discard inconvenient facts to further your argument.

  • DBN||

    The only discrete line is conception.

    Conception is not a discrete line. The egg hasn't even finished meiosis when it's penetrated by the sperm.

  • ||

    So an embryo is a fetus?
    Thanks Dr. Nick!

  • slutmonkey||

    I think you're all forgetting that you don't HAVE to have discrete lines for two things to be different. The world isn't black and white, but you can still tell the difference between what's black and what's white and the proportion of each evident in gray.

    My point being that if you want to have one set of rules for embryos and another for fetuses and another for infants, children, adults and the dead, that's perfectly logical and doable. You're right that there will always be argument over EXACTLY where in the continuum between any two of those you draw a line, but that doesn't mean they're the SAME.

    Children and adults are a great example. In many ways children are adults at 13. In many other ways they're not adults until 25 or 30, but for most things society has drawn the line at 18 or 21. Does that mean that a 19 year old is fully adult or a 17 year old is fully a child? Of course not, but the only thing that matters as far as rules go is that there IS a difference between an adult and a child, and we drew the line at 18.

    Argue about where the lines between embryo, fetus and infant are, but don't try to tell me that there are no differences.

  • jjomalle||

    This is exactly what people who like the slippery slope argument don't get. Monkey is right, we can debate all we want about whether an embryo is a fetus and a 17 yr old is an adult or not, but that doesn't mean that we can't draw a line. Nor does it mean that we can't move that line. Just because we decide now that the line is in one place.

  • ratman720||

    im just curious at what point you claim chromosomal overlap is human verses not and by the definition are people who have down syndrome, turners or other genetic disoreders.

    we always have definitive points at which we call a subject one thing over another and in fetal development this is no different. a fetus stems from an embryo but it is not an embryo fetuses tend to have discernible characteristics like hands or primordial faces embryos are cellular blobs. the line is drawn and fuzzy at just how many cells there are

    the issue comes down to personal comfort and maybe you have an issue with human tissue being used in experiments. but the sad truth is whether its going down a garbage disposal or being used for research that tissue will be destroyed, it might as well go to help people who can benefit from it

  • Old Geezer||

    Most of the world's problems could be solved in abortion was legal and retroactive up to age 18.

  • Contrarian Bastard||

    You made a little typo there. It should read: "Most of the world's problems could be solved if abortion was legal and retroactive up to age 81."

  • Outis||

    "...with killing a human embryo"
    You cannot kill something which does not live. A 5-day-old zygote isn't any more alive than your bone marrow.
    Furthermore, it would not make any sense for stem-cell researchers to use embryos that are older than 5 days since their cells are too specialized.

  • ||

    We'll be having this discussion as long as emotion/religion supersedes reason.

  • MJ||

    As a general consideration, a human organism has a right not to be used as an object. We'll be having these types of discussions as long as certain groups habe an interest in trying to write certain classifications of human organisms into objecthood.

  • ||

    a human organism has a right

    Does that mean my appendix has "rights"? What about a cancerous tumor? Those bits of tissue are more highly developed than an embryo. A potential human is not an actual human.

  • f u||

    Too bad you weren't aborted.

    After all, you were nothing but a "potential human" at the time.

  • ||

    And you never had any potential at all.

  • 1940 JEW||

    Be careful who you declare to be human. It's a slippery fucking slope!

  • 1942 Jap||

    Tell me about it.

  • SIV||

    Your skulls make great souvenirs!

  • 1940 Chinese POW||

    Amen to that, 1942.

  • Apple||

    +1

  • prop||

    Will your tumor left alone to naturally develop eventually grow into an adult person? No? How about your appendix? So there might be a difference between a tumor and an embryo? At what point do you draw the line between person and not-person if the only difference is time?

  • Mike the Grouch||

    Will these embryos "left alone" develop "naturally" into anything at all? Please describe how they manage this feat.

  • prop||

    Will your tumor left alone to naturally develop eventually grow into an adult person? No? How about your appendix? So there might be a difference between a tumor and an embryo? At what point do you draw the line between person and not-person if the only difference is time?

  • ||

    An appendix is not a developing human being. A fetus or embryo is. Period. By the way, when do you consider a developing human being an "actual human" rather than a "potential human." What are you, some God, that get's to make shit up as you go along, who gets to decide what's an actual human and what's not?

  • Metazoan||

    Well, one could say the same to you, since you're declaring that a zygote is a human. That's playing God too, isn't it?

  • DBN||

    What are you, some God, that get's to make shit up as you go along, who gets to decide what's an actual human and what's not?

    I was just about to ask you that.

  • slutmonkey||

    The relevant question is:
    At what point does a set of chemicals from a persons body become another person?

    This is a philosophic question, which is why there is so much debate.

    Personally I feel that those cells become their own person at "the point of viability" i.e. if we separated those cells from the mother's body and did nothing for them except the things mothers do for normally born infants, would it have a chance of surviving?

    My rational is that if you can survive separately you are "provably" a separate person.

    Other people like to err on the side of considering people separate as soon as they're able to see any kind of boundary or distinction between the two, and that's fine.

    Do some E and maybe you'll feel like no one ever becomes a separate person.

    who knows?

  • slutmonkey||

    and to pre-emptively answer: Yes, I believe that extremely pre-mature babies aren't separate people yet. They were close, but not quite. I realize I'm probably in the minority on this, but I don't think it "counts" to allow medical technology to push back the point of viability. We'll eventually get to the point where we can grow babies in vats with no birth mother at all. That's about as strong an argument for "personhood starts at conception" as I can think of, but I don't buy it.

  • DLM||

    Personally I feel that those cells become their own person at "the point of viability" i.e. if we separated those cells from the mother's body and did nothing for them except the things mothers do for normally born infants, would it have a chance of surviving?

    So siamese twins are not human? One, is not the mother of the other, of course, but that shouldn't matter.

  • ||

    Conjoined twins can be separated you know.

  • MJ||

    "Does that mean my appendix has "rights"? What about a cancerous tumor?"

    Seriously? I guess you are part of the forces of emotion putting forth such scientifically illiterate questions.

    No, and appendix and a tumor have no rights. An appendix is merely a part of a complete organism, and a tumor is a diseased portion of a complete organism. An embryo is a complete organism to itself, so what you think is clever comparison is merely inapt and ignorant.

  • Thai Twin||

    If you removed an embryo from a womb, it would die if you did nothing for it just as if you removed a cancer. Because a cancer is a mutation, it has distinct DNA from the person suffering from that cancer.

  • ||

    I agree.

  • ||

    Reason is a process, not a premise.

  • Joe_D||

    My bone marrow is living tissue - it *is* alive. It's not a person and doesn't have any rights, but it is alive.

  • MJ||

    You have dead bone marrow? How are you alive?

    You are making a biological comparison which makes no sense. Bone marrow is part of an independent organism, but a human embryo is an independent organism unto itself. If harvesting your bone marrow would kill you, that would be considered unethical. Harvesting an embryo for stem cells kills the embryo, and the question is: Is that ethical?

    Your apples to oranges comparision sheds no light on that question.

  • Odd Barker||

    A human embryo is only "independent" from its mother host when it can live outside the uterus, i.e. when it is "viable". Look up these issues before you debate them.

  • f u||

    I take it you've never seen an ultrasound of your own child.

  • Odd Barker||

    In fact I have.

  • f u||

    I hope you had it removed.

  • Odd Barker||

    Nope. Still happily growing. I am going to raise my child to become a late-term abortion doctor, btw.

  • ||

    I didn't know they were doing ultrasounds of Petri dishes.

  • Chimpan-A||

    Given the low resolutions of most ultrasounds, it looks like a fetal ape. If you gave an ape enough time, it might evolve humanity just as our ancestors did.

  • Subsidize Me!||

    ...and extremophile bacteria is viable only in very specific conditions.

    Something is living when it is capable of conducting metabolic processes. Everything that is "living" is in some way dependant upon conditions; when those conditions cease to exist, that entity is "dead."

    Embryos are indeed "living," as are tumors, birds, seeds, and fungus. Whether or not embryos have "personhood" or not is the debate - your argument is a strawman.

  • Odd Barker||

    My argument was not a strawman, I was specifically arguing the argument of "independent" organisms that was brought up.

    Okay, you want to shift it to personhood then. That's fine. So please: When does an organism acquire personhood? Is killing an old cat with a lot of character more damnable than aborting a two-week old embryo?

  • Subsidize Me!||

    It was a strawman (and incorrect). You decided to define "living" by your own set of criteria, then mocked your opponents for not subscribing to said criteria.

    In my opinion, "personhood" is reserved only for humans. I haven't been convinced by any of the current arguments for when it begins, but to me the least convincing are those that define "living" based upon conditions of dependence.

  • Subsidize Me!||

    And I'm not ascribing the dependence argument to you... I'm taking issue with your idea of living vs. nonliving.

  • Odd Barker||

    Pray tell, what is "my idea of living vs. nonliving"?

  • Subsidize Me!||

    You decided arbitrarily that embryos are non-living. That is not the case. Whatever idea led you to such a conclusion is the one I take issue with.

  • Odd Barker||

    It was not a strawman and it was correct. Anyone defines "living" by their own set of criteria. I pointed out to one that is commonly accepted, namely the one based on the current scientific and legal consensus. If you want to hold that my opponent had a differing definition that I could not have known and therefore not debated, fine. But then concede that you also have no clue what the fuck my opponent was talking about.

    And if you do not have any definitions of personhood, I respectfully would advise you to butt off because it is useless to argue any further.

  • Subsidize Me!||

    Just realized, I fucked up. I thought you were the same guy as the thread starter. My argument only applies if you agree that embryos are nonliving.

  • CONCERNED CITIZEN||

    +1

  • Xenocles||

    Why limit it to the uterus? Full term neo-nates don't do well outside the uterus for very long without intensive intervention from someone.

  • MJ||

    Odd Barker, apparently more than one sense of "independent" is beyond your mental abilities. An embryo is a complete organism, not part of another. Check your premises before you call someone out for being ignorant.

  • Outis||

    What do you mean with independent organism? The ability to life "by itself"? An embryo needs a host to survive, too.

  • MJ||

    Independent meaning it is a complete organism in itself. It is not merely a part of a larger organism. Whether or not it is enviromentally independent from another organism is irrelevant to that definition.

  • ||

    A 5-day-old zygote isn't any more alive than your bone marrow.

    That's true, since they're both alive. If you're still confused, try a dictionary. If you're still confused after that, take a jr-high biology class.

  • Jen||

    Whether or not one supports abortion aside, Outis's statement here is patently false from a scientific perception. No one in the medical field actually debates that life begins at conception. It does. Before the abortion debate can even get started, that simple fact must be acknowledged.

  • Jen||

    *perspective, not perception. Oops.

  • ||

    Interesting, and wrong. Are sperm and egg cells non-living? 'Life' begins long before conception.

    Life is far too broad a word to be used, yet it is. Various cells from the human body can be kept alive, under the right conditions, outside the body--yet no one would think of these things as having some kind of independent 'life'.

    The issue we struggle with has very little, actually, to do with 'life'--and much more to do with mind. When can it think? When does it have the complexity needed to be an independent entity? Does the potential to aquire that complexity mean that a zygote must be treated like a child? And if we say yes, then should we not seriously consider the Monty Python point? That each sperm cell also has that potential--and thus should also be treated as a child.

    Thus, it is not 'when does life begin?' that vexes us, it is when does a developing human aquire a soul*?

    "soul--mind, sentience, whatever that thing is that bestows humanity

  • slutmonkey||

    +1

  • DLM||

    Thus, it is not 'when does life begin?' that vexes us, it is when does a developing human aquire a soul*?

    Ah. 'Ensoulment'. When some start falling back on religious arguments to *support* abortion given the criticism of religious arguments *against* abortion seems just a tad...desparate, although it's certainly more honest.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    It sure is convenient when you fail to read the fucking disclaimer, isn't it?

    Douchebag.

  • Jen||

    I'm sorry, that's not correct. Life does begin at conception. A sperm cell, like a skin cell, is not a discrete organism, and thus is not a life.

    Also, one cannot base the value of a life on a person's ability to think. If that's your criterion, then surely the mentality retarded are worth less as persons than everyone else. Surely we can murder those who suffer brain damage or are born braindead, right?

  • DBN||

    No one in the medical field actually debates that life begins at conception.

    Not quite. One can say that an individual's genetic compliment is determined at conception, but using "begin" in this context is not empiric. After all, when you have a virtually endless chain of cause and effect, placing a beginning anywhere is going to be more a matter of definition than determination.

    When did the fall of the Roman Empire begin?

  • Jen||

    What you're saying makes very little sense. The moment of conception is when two cells combine to become something entirely different from either organism from which they originated. So yes, there is an exact point where the individual begins. To say otherwise is intellectually and scientifically dishonest.

  • MNG||

    But stem cells are TEH BABIES!

  • ||

    The problem with embryonic stem cell research is that the goals are so desirable that they override our usual moral impulses.

    Wrong. Those who would use the unborn for science don't have "moral impulses".

    Science knows without question when life begins. We even do it in laboratories on a regular basis.

    Outis above doesn't even understand the very basics of the meaning of "live". Argue, like a Mengel, that they don't deserve rights, if you must. Insisting that we don't know when human life begins is intellectually depraved. Instead say "yeah, of course we know when life begins, but we are amoral and don't give a shit."

  • ||

    the unborn...
    Argue, like a Mengel...
    intellectually depraved...

    Emotionalism.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Argue, like a Mengel

    Mengel? Did you mean Mengele?

  • ||

    Of course he meant that. Interjecting Nazism into a debate is always helpful and rational. You know who else killed the defenseless babies?

  • ||

    Given how many embryos and fetuses don't make it to the "outside world" from various, natural (non man-made) factors, I'd say God kills a lot of defenseless babies.

  • Abdul||

    Given how many human adults are mortal, God kills us all.

  • ||

    What gives God the right to kill us?

  • Odd Barker||

    Almightiness?

  • ||

    That and a limitless supply of thunderbolts. Not to mention an awesome beard.

  • slutmonkey||

    Almightiness is merely ability, not moral right. God (if he exists) is a monster.

  • ||

    I dunno. Can we sue the bastard for damages?

  • God||

    You know, I brought you in this world, and I can take you right out.

  • Odd Barker||

    Path dependency. Look it up, G'd.

  • Resident Smartass||

    My mother says the same thing.

  • ||

    The "Head God". Go for it!

  • DLM||

    What gives God the right to kill us?

    You mean what gives God the right to make us live and not make us immortal.

  • ||

    Science knows without question when life begins. We even do it in laboratories on a regular basis.


    Generally, I'm all in favor of fucking in the workplace, but, man, there may be lots of fragile and expensive equipment.

  • ||

    +2

  • huh||

    "It would make more sense to let scientists create embryos and let them gestate for months, for the sole purpose of destroying them for their stem cells."

    How would that 'make more sense'? That doesn't make any sense. Someone needs a primer on developmental biology.

  • Odd Barker||

    Hooray, exciting "When does life begin?" debate! ☼ has a point in pointing out (pun intended) the difference between embryo and fetus, though.

  • ||

    It's a contentious issue! I think the commonly accepted estimate is that life began about 3.5 billion years ago.

  • I'm So Sorry||

    I think you meant, "It's a contentious tissue."

  • ||

    You should be!

  • MNG||

    http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/cellmovie.htm

    Thought it might be helpful to take a look at what the pro-lifers are imbueing with rights here. We're talking about a tiny blob of cells here...

  • mr simple||

    But it's a blob of cells whose only possible outcome, assuming survival, is to become a living, breathing human. If you're going to debate, you might as well use honest arguments.

  • ||

    You could make the same point about jerking off into a sock. But those sperm cells could become "a living, breathing human!" They're alive!

  • ||

    Don't be silly. Sperm cells only have half of the necessary genetic information required to form a human being, or, even, a single human cell (23 chromosomes in gametes, 46 in proper human cells).

  • Odd Barker||

    So life begins at conception. Very well.

  • ||

    Depends on your definition of life. Embyros don't adapt to their environment, reproduce (sometimes they do split, fuse with another [Chimeraism or something like that], but it's a bit fuzzy), but they qualify for a lot on this list.

  • ||

    Yes they do. And people are being fundamentally dishonest and in denial of the relevant science when they claim it is just a blob of cells like so much skin shedding from your finger tips.

  • CONCERNED CITIZEN||

    If they're not alive, why kill them? If they're not human, then interspecies reproduction is fairly widespread.

  • ||

    That would explain the election of Obama.

  • slutmonkey||

    It's not dishonest, merely (in your opinion) inaccurate.

    I don't argue about when it's "life" because the relevant question is when is it an "individual person".

    Notice I did NOT say "human"--fingernails are human, so "human" is as irrelevant as "life".

  • DLM||

    Embyros don't adapt to their environment...

    Sure they do, their natural environment is the mother's uterus.
    Let's put you a mile under the ocean (or many other environments) and see how well you adapt.

  • Metazoan||

    Ah, but if someday we can induce totipotency in a somatic cell (we can already induce pluripotency, the next level down, in a somatic human cell), then will EVERY cell in our bodies be "humans?"

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • DesigNate||

    +100 for Monty Python

  • mr simple||

    Not only that, but God kills a kitten!

    That never gets old.

  • mr simple||

    What you should be arguing is if there are thousands of embryos being created and destroyed for IVF, especially the ones deemed unfit for use, they should at least be put to good use.

  • DLM||

    What you should be arguing is if there are thousands of embryos being created and destroyed for IVF, especially the ones deemed unfit for use, they should at least be put to good use.

    Right. More generally, if someone is going to die anyway, we may as well salvage what body parts for whatever use we can dream up we can whether they want us to or now and not worry about any behavioral incentives. Why should this line of logic be restricted to embryos?

  • ||

    Would the offspring be a sock puppet?

  • DLM||

    Thought it might be helpful to take a look at what the pro-lifers are imbueing with rights here. We're talking about a tiny blob of cells here...

    As opposed to a large blob of cells like yourself? I suppose size *does* matter.

  • MJ||

    " We're talking about a tiny blob of cells here..."

    Which is an irrational, emotional argument if there ever was one. Perhaps there is a reasoned argument that a human embryo is totally undeserving of moral consideration, but that ain't it.

  • Ghost of Margaret Sanger||

    What we really need is government funded abortions, no questions asked.

    Especially in low income neighborhoods to discourage blacks, the feeble minded, and other subhumans from reproducing.

    This aborted tissue can be used for research to extend the lives of those who are worth living.

    It's a win-win!
    We clean up the gene pool and save lives at the same time!

  • mr simple||

    Honest question: is someone who is against embryonic stem cell research automatically against fertility treatments? Doesn't that industry necessarily create embryos that will be discarded?

    Also, I think at the very least we can agree that federal funding has no place here. And Obama's statement about automatic deference to scientists is troubling. Sure science is important, but scientists can be very wrong. Skepticism is always an important check.

  • Atanarjuat||

    Good points. Especially with regard to skepticism about scientific consensus.

  • iamtheeviltwin||

    Also, I think at the very least we can agree that federal funding has no place here.

    This was always my thoughts on the "Bush Ban on Stem Cell Research"...cutting Federal funding of something is not the same as banning it.

    I don't remember the exact numbers, but in the articles that came out at the time President Obama changed this policy there was talk of hundreds of new stem cell lines that had been created since the "ban"...seems like the research was still ongoing even without Federal dollars.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    The biggest complaint from a practical standpoint (as opposed to crying about lack of federal funding) was that equipment and resources could not be shared between the two lines of research (adult vs. embryonic stem cells). Valid, I guess, but more of a nuisance than anything.

  • slutmonkey||

    yeah a lot of labs have to buy two of everything--often in the same room--with labels to let the scientists know if each particular piece is ok to use on the embryonic stem cells or if it's not because it was bought with government funds.

  • ||

    The immediate question in my mind is: If they can afford to purchase the 2nd identical piece of equipment using private money, why take the government handout in the firstplace?

    If all it is doing is cluttering floorspace, and introducing beauracratic red tape why is the federal funding needed at all?

  • bubba||

    I don't know that it's "automatic" but there is a lot of overlap between the two.

  • DLM||

    Honest question: is someone who is against embryonic stem cell research automatically against fertility treatments? Doesn't that industry necessarily create embryos that will be discarded?

    Good question, although is it a 'fertility' treatment if it's already at the point of creating embryos? Wouldn't this be more a 'pregnancy' treatment? I'd always considered fertility treatment as injecting sperm to fertilize a pre-existing egg.

  • ktc2||

    Can't we just give all the knuckle dragging, bronze age invisible man in the sky worshipping morons their own state or group of states so they can make their little christian dystopia mini-iran and leave the rest of us the hell alone so we can actually progress?

  • Andrew Ryan||

    Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow?

    'No,' says the man in Washington, 'it belongs to the poor.'
    'No,' says the man in the Vatican, 'it belongs to God.'
    'No,' says the man in Moscow, 'it belongs to everyone.'

    I rejected those answers. Instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose...

    Rapture.

    A city where the artist would not fear the censor,
    where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality,
    where the great would not be constrained by the small.

  • ||

    Here, have a +1.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Actually, the next game in the Bioshock series, BioShock: Infinite has early 20th century-style eugenics as a major theme. Take a look at the trailer here.

  • ||

    give all the knuckle dragging, bronze age invisible man in the sky worshipping morons their own state or group of states so they can make their little christian dystopia mini-iran

    Alaska is available.

  • ||

    Sarah is trying hard!

  • Joe Miller||

    You betcha!

  • GRRRR||

    Alaska is not made up of Sarah Palins. Grrr, I wish I could kick that woman.

  • ||

    Only a knuckeldragging moron could think life begins at conception even though we are probably a decade away from being able to grow children in labs. And that babies born as small two pounds or less are now viable outside the womb.

    Isn't it possible that science can settle these arguments? That as science progresses and our ability to create people outside of the womb increases, we have to conclude that life begins a lot sooner than we thought before? You may not agree with that argument. And it is reasonable to see it either way.

    But there is more to this issue than knuckle dragging morons versus everyone else. If anything, people like you are the knuckle dragging morons.

  • ||

    The viability argument is a valid one, but it pertains to actual fetuses living in actual wombs. It has nothing to do with stem cells, which are not and never will be fetuses.

  • ||

    They only never will be fetuses because we won't let them be. And as technology increases, the womb will become less and less important.

  • Odd Barker||

    "They only never will be fetuses because we won't let them be."

    Then you would have to argue that fertile people currently not engaged in the act of biological reproduction are comitting a sin.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    Not reproducing is not the same as reproducing for the sole purpose of killing the offspring for medical research. Or do you also think that Congress has the right to force us to buy health insurance under the argument that not buying insurance is interstate commerce?

  • DLM||

    And as technology increases, the womb will become less and less important.

    I'm pretty sure most women are not all that keen on the 9-month pregnancy thing anyway.

  • ||

    They only never will be fetuses because we won't let them be. And as technology increases, the womb will become less and less important.

  • ||

    The other problem is where do we draw the line? How many cells before it is viable? Eventually, I think we will be able to grow children totally outside the womb. In that environment how many cells do you need before you say no it is a life and you can't experiment on it?

  • ||

    how many cells do you need before you say no it is a life and you can't experiment on it?

    Yahoo!® Answers informs me that the correct response is 751,879,699,200,000 cells.

  • ||

    LOL

  • John||

    "Isn't it possible that science can settle these arguments..."

    Sure it is. Perhaps they'll be settled in 10 years and unsettled again 40 years hence. I 'd recommend Thomas Kuhn's 'Structure of Scientific Revolutions.'

  • ||

    Only a knuckeldragging moron could think life begins at conception even though we are probably a decade away from being able to grow children in labs.

    As a knuckle-dragging (it's not one word, you moron) moron, I must take issue with that statement because a lot of non-knuckle-dragging morons also believe it. The actual knuckle-dragging morons are the people who believe that human "life" is defined as "being kinda like an adult person in good health" - having certain brain waves, having a certain amount of independence, etc (A 2 year-old kid is "dependent" on other people, therefore he's not human?). It's laughably stupid.

    Anyway, I'm an atheist and believe that abortion is very obviously killing another person - a person who just happens to be at a different stage of life than most other people - but that it's OK to kill people under certain conditions, an idea already accepted by all(?) societies.

  • Jen||

    +1 for possibly the first honest pro-choice argument I've ever seen.

  • DK||

    Thank you. I've never understood how this so-called debate about when life begins had anything to do with the abortion/stem cell issue. After all, we kill living things all the time. Think about that the next time you take antibiotics (literal meaning: anti-life) or kill an insect, people. There is a scientific definition of living. It's imperfect (ie it's hard to account for the living/non-living status of viruses), but it'll work. Aborting a fetus is killing, whether or not stem cells are harvested. The real moral judgment to be made is determining what characteristics of a living being imbue it with individual rights.

  • ||

    life begins at conception

    A nit-pick: a new human being, but not life, begins at conception. Unless you believe in the spontaneous generation of living beings or of life per se*, life must be continuous through generations until an organism dies without reproducing.
    *might happen in the lab, sort of, some day.

    As for the killing justification: Despite the culpability of the adult actors, I see it as a kind of self-defense, though perhaps partly refudiated by "slippery slope" arguments.

    And if the mother has options, so should the father, namely the legal right to decide not to be a parent. The woman still has more choices than the man, though, since she would be able to choose to be a parent independently of the man's decision (which isn't good enough for most feminists).

  • slutmonkey||

    We already have created the first synthetic life.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHIocNOHd7A

  • DBN||

    Isn't it possible that science can settle these arguments? That as science progresses and our ability to create people outside of the womb increases, we have to conclude that life begins a lot sooner than we thought before?

    If so, and I doubt that the things you say about growing children in labs are remotely plausible in our lifetimes, it will not be so much that we conclude that life begins sooner, but that we make it so that life begins sooner. The beginning of anything is not a matter of measurement so much as definition, and it is these definitions that will be open to refinement with further technological advances, just as they have been in the past.

    But there is more to this issue than knuckle dragging morons versus everyone else. If anything, people like you are the knuckle dragging morons.

    Pot, kettle, black.

  • Southern Slave Owner||

    Amen, brother. It ain't human lest I says it's human. Now, give up your kidneys, mine are shot.

  • DBN||

    Either that's horribly anachronistic or you've never visited the south.

  • ||

    This is what the Democrats get for being craven. They control Congress. All they have to do is change the law. If federally funded stem cell research is so important, change the law. But they don't have the guts to do that. So instead they tried to override the law with an EO. An EO that relieves all the congress creatures from responsibilities. That is bullshit. No matter what your opinion on stem cell funding, if you care about the rule of law, you should applaud this decision.

  • ||

    All laws are good laws?

  • ||

    No. But they need to be followed or changed in accordance with the law. If the Democrats think this is a bad law, then they should change it. But they shouldn't be able to override it via EO. If you can override this law via EO, what law can't you override via EO? That power pretty much makes the President King.

  • sarcasmic||

    "When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law." - Bastiat

    I kept my moral sense.

    Fuck the law.

  • ||

    That is fine but what happens when other people do the same thing? When Sarah Palin or someone like her wins the Presidency in 2012, are you prepared to give her the power to override laws via EO based on her conscience?

    I will take the law thank you. And further what is immoral about not giving federal funding to something? If you think this research is so important, fund it yourself.

  • Adolf Hitler||

    Yes, respect the law. Remember, everything I did was legal.

  • sarcasmic||

    "Adolf Hitler|8.26.10 @ 9:31AM|#

    Yes, respect the law. Remember, everything I did was legal."

    Exactly.

  • Godwin||

    dingdingding!

  • sarcasmic||

    "That is fine but what happens when other people do the same thing?"

    It's only a matter of time.

    "When Sarah Palin or someone like her wins the Presidency in 2012, are you prepared to give her the power to override laws via EO based on her conscience?"

    I would rather see the scope of the law limited.
    Then you wouldn't need to slay that absurd straw man.

  • ||

    It is not an absurd strawman. If Obama can use EO to override the laws for his sacred cows, any other President can do the same. Once the precedent is set, future Presidents will walk right away with it.

    Are you really so stupid that you think this kind of thing will only work in your favor?

  • sarcasmic||

    "Are you really so stupid that you think this kind of thing will only work in your favor?"

    Are you really so arrogant that you can presume to know what I consider to be in my favor?

  • sarcasmic||

    "And further what is immoral about not giving federal funding to something?"

    The correct question would be: What is moral about giving federal funding to something?

    Or better yet: What is moral about taking money from people against their will and using it to fund things that they find to be morally repugnant?

  • ||

    "What is moral about taking money from people against their will and using it to fund things that they find to be morally repugnant?"

    Exactly. So why is the law so bad?

  • sarcasmic||

    "Exactly. So why is the law so bad?"

    The fact that we are even having this argument is bad, not this particular law.

    If the federal government was not in the business of giving out stolen money for pet projects then it wouldn't matter now would it?

  • Mike the Grouch||

    No matter what your opinion on stem cell funding, if you care about the rule of law, you should applaud this decision.

    No. The only correct opinion on stem cell funding is that it should be voluntary. The rule of this "law" is based on the faulty assumption that taxation is ever moral and that distinctions about how to spend ill-gotten gains can somehow change the nature of this activity.

  • slutmonkey||

    +1

  • DLM||

    An EO that relieves all the congress creatures from responsibilities.

    That's probably one of the main problems with Congress. They want to pass their responsibities to either the Executive or the courts.

  • ||

    Inquiry: does consciousness, or the lack thereof until a certain timeframe, have any sort of influence on anyone's opinions? What about the general inability for an embryo to survive outside the mother until it has developed enough?

    And I swore there was research being done on stem cells acquired from umbilical cords that were just as viable/flexible as stem cells acquired from destroying embryos. Kinda solves the problem of this debate, really.

  • ||

    The problem is once you say being a person means having this or that set of capabilities, then where do you draw the line? And doesn't that also mean there are varying degrees of person-hood based on capabilities? If something has all the capabilities and something else has most but not all, isn't the first something less of a person than the second?

    As far as viability goes, they are viable just with machines. Lets say the transhumanists are right. And 200 years from now people merge themselves with machines such that we can't live anymore without our machine augmentation. Would we no longer be a viable life form entitled to human rights? I think whatever makes us human, it is something besides the ability to live without a machine.

  • ||

    To give a set of capabilities/qualifying factors for what qualifies something as a human being is probably the hard way of doing things rather than saying outright that zygotes are off limits right from the start. However, does the ease of the latter necessarily mean it's better than the former?

    If something has all the capabilities and something else has most but not all, isn't the first something less of a person than the second?
    Yes, Socrates, that is the case (I've been reading The Republic lately).

    As far as viability goes, they are viable just with machines.
    Is this a lead in to the rest of the paragraph or a statement in itself?

    As for the rest of your comment, if we cannot live without a machine, then does that mean people on respirators are not alive/shouldn't be on them?

  • ||

    My point is that a person who can't live without a machine is still a person entitled to human rights. Just because I need a respirator to live, doesn't give you the right to kill me. So if that is true for me, why not for fetus?

    The point about saying one person is less human than the other is that then leads to some very bad consequences. If people are more or less human based upon their capabilities, then the sick and the weak and the deficit are less human and entitled to less respect as human beings. If is that line of thinking that gave us eugenics and euthanasia.

    And as far as where to draw the line passed the zygote, I would say it is not just hard it is impossible. This kind of stuff never ends. Thirty years ago when IVF was first developed people said we shouldn't do it because it will inevitably lead to making embryos for the purpose of scientific experiments. Everyone who made that argument was called an idiot and informed that would never happen. Now here we are and that is exactly what happened. Once we head down this road, I don't think there is any stopping.

  • ||

    Just because I need a respirator to live, doesn't give you the right to kill me. So if that is true for me, why not for fetus?
    Should we then do everything we can to make sure a fetus comes to term if it is so deserving of life? Monitor it right from the get go?

    Fair points all around. It's given me food for thought.

  • ||

    We generally do that don't we? Once a woman is pregnant, taking abortion aside for a second, she pretty much does everything to stay that way. And it is devastating when it doesn't go to term.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    There is a difference what women voluntarily undertake and what the State should do. In other words, John, how vigorously should the State defend the rights of the rights-having-being within another rights-having-being, without violating the autonomy of the latter?

    Most anti-abortion advocates, to their discredit, forget that there is a person involved, and that person is called "the mother" (or, more clinically, the impregnated).

  • ||

    The same things we do with any other children. What should we do to prevent people from killing or abusing their children? There is a mother involved there to.

  • slutmonkey||

    "The same things we do with any other children."

    So we should make unwanted fetuses a ward of the state. The woman can legally have the fetus removed and turned over the state. If the state can't care for the fetus and it dies, then that is a problem with the system, and we need more scrutiny+money for the state fetus program...

  • Ann Coulter||

    Unintended pregnancy? Is that anything like an unintended hangover?

  • prop||

    One person's set of right in these cases must always come first. I wouldn't say that anti-abortion people forget that here is another person involved, or at least I never did. My views changed from pro-coice to pro-life when I considered which person is effected greater by an abortion and which of the two positions is the lesser of two evils. A person forced to carry a child she doesn't want or a person whose life is terminated before they even have a chance to breathe.

  • THE UNBORN||

    Thanks, man.

  • Lt. Commander Data||

    Easy on the machine theory, fella.

  • DBN||

    And it is devastating when it doesn't go to term.

    It can be. But it's not as devastating as losing the baby a week after birth. Which is in turn, not as devastating as losing a ten-year old child (all generally speaking).

    If people are more or less human based upon their capabilities, then the sick and the weak and the deficit are less human and entitled to less respect as human beings. If is that line of thinking that gave us eugenics and euthanasia.

    It's much more complex than this. It's really more the idea that we could engineer a better society that gave us eugenics; a paternalistic impulse more than a drive to dehumanize. You wouldn't consider making medical decisions for you children dehumanizing; neither did most eugenecists. This should be separated from the genocidal impulses of some other well-known social movements, for which dehumanization is a necessary step.

    In a sense there is a continuum, but it's not as blurry as you make it.

    Oh yes, and slippery slope fallacy, etc.

  • Odd Barker||

    The philosophical issue with attributing potential qualities is that you are easily running into counterfactual conditionals. And then any biological action that can be conceived of with interfering in the creation and growth of life can be justifiably restricted. That is pretty much the line of thought that explains why the Roman-Catholic Church is okay with chastity and calculating fertility periods but condoms and the pill are a no-no.

  • Odd Barker||

    That should read: "And then any biological action that can be conceived of as interfering in the creation and growth of life can be justifiably restricted."

  • ||

    A fertilized embryo is not a potential. It is a real thing. It contains all the genes of a person, unlike a sperm. I don't see how my argument necessarily causes you to reject contraception.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    John,

    You are aware that The Pill can and routinely does cause fertilized eggs to abort, right?

  • SIV||

    So you want the Federal government to pay for all of those too?

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Please do your best to be coherent. Not everything is about politics, you shallow moron.

  • ||

    Not everything is about politics
    =(

  • SIV||

    RTFA Nancy

    This is about Government funded "scientific research"

    something we tend to abhor when it is outside the limited legitimate functions of government

  • ||

    That is a problem. But the accidental side effect of the pill is different that growing them to do experiments on them or to use them in treatment.

    It is a tough issue. On the one hand emotionally we are not as attached to an embryo the way we are to say a three month fetus. On the other, you make valid point in that if life begins at conception it begins there with all of the implications.

    I will freely admit I am still on the fence on this one. I am not ready to ban the pill. But I also am not ready to endorse growing embryos for medical purposes either. It is a very tough philosophical issue.

    My original point above was more that there is a lot more to this than science loving atheists versus dark ages theist. I actually don't think God has anything to do with the argument. It is a question of what we as a society are going to decide is and is not life. And that is a very tough issue.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    John,

    I appreciate that you think you are being thoughtful on this issue, but your indecisiveness is unbecoming. If you think life begins at conception, stick with it and all of its consequences. If you do not, pick a time and stick with that and all of those consequences.

    I am not trying to be a dick, but you basically captured the spirit with which the Average Joe treats this issue: "I don't like where my conclusions lead, so I'll be ambivalent".

    Screw that; if an embryo is not a rights-having being, then it is not (a tautology rendered for emphasis, I admit), and we can, therefore, do what we like with embryos. We create chickens, pigs, and cows for the sole purpose of their utility to the human race; why not other non-rights-having entities?

  • ||

    You make good points about that. But there still is a difference between taking the pill and risking the possible death of a person and creating that person specifically to do medical experiments on it. The first is more akin to say drunk driving. The second is more like Mengle.

    And what are the real risks of the pill actually killing someone? There are things we do all the time which create the risk of death of other people but we allow people to do it anyway. By allowing people to drive we are knowingly consigning thousands of people to their deaths. Yet the advantages of doing that outweigh the deaths. So we allow people to drive. Perhaps the pill is much the same decision. The advantages of birth control is greater than the inevitable albeit lamentable death of people.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    By permitting driving, you are conceding that people will die in car accidents. And yes, by permitting use of The Pill, you are conceding that abortions will happen as a result.

    The key part is that we hold people accountable when they kill someone in a car. Should we hold people accountable when they "kill" this "person" through use of The Pill?

  • ||

    But we don't hold people accountable when it is an accident. It is not like they mean to have an abortion. They mean not to get pregnant at all. Some accidents are just bad luck. We don't hold people accountable for those, at least not criminally.

  • slutmonkey||

    Careful with this analogy. I would liken the pill to driving on the wrong side of the road and then saying it was an "accident" because all you really wanted to do was not drive on your side of the road.

    It's not quite as extreme as that--maybe more like driving with your tires on the yellow line.

  • ||

    A fertilized embryo is not a potential. It is a real thing.

    Correct. It is a real fertilized embryo. Not a baby.

  • ||

    "It is a real fertilized embryo. Not a baby."

    Why? It has the same genes as a baby. Are not our genes what make us who we are?

  • The Angry Optimist||

    No, they are not. Identity as an epistemological concept is far, far deeper than certain series of ACTG. This really is not a question for science.

  • ||

    AO,

    How is someone a human other than they are born of a human? To me that really is what makes a human being. I can't say any particular atribute makes someone human because I am unprepared to say that people who lack particular attributes are any less human than I am. The only statement I can make categorically is that someone born of as in created biologically by two humans is a human.

  • Wind Rider||

    Replicantphobe.

  • ||

    It's not a baby until it gets its own iPhone.

  • Koba, Too||

    But these days that happens during the first trimester.

  • slutmonkey||

    or to quote Bill Hicks, you're not a person until you're in my phonebook.

  • Mike the Grouch||

    If genes make us human, what characteristics do we use to delineate the human genome from another genome?

  • DK||

    The short answer to this is that you're asking one of the basic questions in the philosophy of biology, to which I've never found an acceptable answer. We have a hard enough time defining a gene in the first place. In the early days of molecular biology, it would have been a sequence of DNA in a particular location in the genome which gives rise to some characteristic such as skin color. Then we found out there are characteristics which require multiple pieces of DNA from different locations in the genome - multi-genic traits. So, we'd say a gene is a piece of DNA which, when transcribed and translated, produces a protein. Then we found regions which code for mRNAs and other things. So maybe a gene is a piece of DNA which codes for some biological molecule? Nope - there are non-coding genes as well.

    The general rule for delineating one species from another is that individuals of two different species should not have viable offspring. If we look at this from a genetic standpoint, it's much harder to make a distinction. To answer your question, we'd basically have to combinatorially knock out genes unique to a human until it no longer had the traits we consider human - we'd have the minimum unique set of genes for qualifying as a human. It's tough to see how this would be accomplished ethically, even if it could be done technologically.

  • slutmonkey||

    I would define "gene" as "one or more letters of genetic code"

    In most cases this means that the singular and plural are interchangeable, but I think this meaning is becoming the common usage.

  • Metazoan||

    The genes of the beta cells in my pancreas have a human genome. So do the rods and cones in my eyes, etc. In fact, with the exception of mature RBCs (no nucleus) and certain immune cells (which use somatic recombination to come up with different genes), all 3 trillion + cells in my body have the same human genome. Are they all humans?

  • DK||

    Metazoan, this is another basic question in the philosphy of biology? What is an individual? Are our cells all individuals? That would go against our basic intuition on the matter? Is an individual the sum of his cells? Your cells are constantly reproducing and dying so that every seven years on average (I seem to remember seeing this number in a Science article), every cell in your body has been replaced by a descendant. So, that can't be it. All interesting questions to which there is currently no pleasing answer.

  • slutmonkey||

    more to the point, are those immune cells which have different genetic code from the rest of your cells SEPARATE humans?

    Your mitochondria have their own DNA. What about them?

  • Confucius||

    On abortion:

    If life doesn't begin at conception then it ends by means of deception.

  • Aborted embryo||

    And to think I was going to cure cancer when I grew up.

  • DBN||

    It is a real thing. It contains all the genes of a person, unlike a sperm.

    Because genes do not a person make; this is a materialist position so extreme as to be nonsensical, and I suspect you would agree. So please start over.

  • Jen||

    Condoms and the pill have not been a "no-no" with the Catholic Church for decades. Definitely not condoms. The pill, depends. The Church would have a problem with pills that prevent implantation but not conception, but no problem at all with pills that prevent conception.

  • Jen||

    Nevermind; I'm wrong on this.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    And zygotes or whathefuckever we want to call them don't have that yet either.

  • mr simple||

  • Jay S||

    The properties and potential of embryonic stems cells are vastly overrated too. Things like the immune system rejecting them and the cells turning into cancer when they don't become the desired tissue type. Even if you clone your own cells, there is no guarantee that you do not reject the cells and clones generated to date have shown health problems that could make the cure worse than the disease.

  • Metazoan||

    Well, I would say that attempting to clone your own cells and growing yourself a new liver is worth the risk of rejection, considering the alternative is no liver aka guaranteed death. As an aside, can you point out a case of an animal without an autoimmune disease that rejected its own cells?

  • Metazoan||

    Well, I would say that attempting to clone your own cells and growing yourself a new liver is worth the risk of rejection, considering the alternative is no liver aka guaranteed death. As an aside, can you point out a case of an animal without an autoimmune disease that rejected its own cells?

  • DLM||

    The properties and potential of embryonic stems cells are vastly overrated too.

    Yes. Proponents like to speak as if any positive, even hugely so, results are guaranteed.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Resident Smartass,

    What about the general inability for an embryo to survive outside the mother until it has developed enough?

    What about the general inability of a human baby to survive outside the mother until it has developed enough?

    Or a toddler?

    Man, I like relativists - they're silly!

  • ||

    I was wondering (because I am curious) if that given factor had any bearing on people's thoughts on this whole issue. Trying to see if I can understand more about how people come to their views and opinions on stem cells.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Resident Smartass,

    Trying to see if I can understand more about how people come to their views and opinions on stem cells.

    You're being distracted by the concept of stem cells. Stem cells can be gathered from many parts of the body, including discarded umbilical cords, which are plentiful and cheap. Embryos are NOT cheap, nor plentiful. The push for embryonic stem cell research may have to do with finding a political justification for funding abortions with Federal (i.e. stolen) money.

  • ||

    Embryonic stem cells have been shown to be the most versatile, thus the most useful. Hence why people are so hellbent on using them.

    You'll note that I linked to umbilical cord stem cells above 'cause I think that's a wonderful way to get around the whole durn debate. It's always good to have your cake and eat it too (just not a baby cake).

  • SIV||

    The separation of State and Science has to start somewhere.

  • Odd Barker||

    Hooray for Feyerabend!

    Actually, the state should be constitutioanlly seperated from as many instutions that are not essentially statist as possible.

  • DBN||

    The separation of State and Science has to start somewhere.

    Of course, it will end here as well. This debate is not about the legality and appropriateness of federal funding in general; don't pretend it is.

  • SIV||

  • libertarian||

    Wow am I the only one who felt this article was just horrible?
    Such a retarded string of strawman arguments, if you destroy a single cell it's the same as murdering babys. I can't believe this reasoning is meeting with such an acceptance.
    I sure hope reason.com isn't catering to repuplican idiology just to gain popularity...

  • DG||

    This could have been better if you threw in a line that began with "For a place called Reason..."

  • ||

    Drink?

  • DesigNate||

    absolutely

  • ||

    Awesome. I'll take any excuse.

  • mr simple||

    I think the point of the article was to say federal funding for ESC research is still illegal regardless of Obama's EO. But Chapman is not a strong writer, to be kind.

  • THE TERMINATOR||

    Bring me John Connor's embryo!

  • Dee||

    Thanks for your concern, Moby-tarian

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Hey, how 'bout that Ground Zero mosque, huh?

  • ||

    Get your terminology right, you hack. It's called The Near Ground Zero Community Center and Falafel Bar.

  • Odd Barker||

  • Mullah||

    It's called The Monument to Those Who Died in the Service of Allah!

    When you hear what your president calls "the most beautiful sound in the world" at the site of our great victory, then you will know that Allah is Greater!

    Allahu Akbar!

  • BEEVIS||

    The streets will run red with the blood of the non-believers!

  • Drunken Islamist at a bar||

    Blow up, everybody! The virgins are on me!

  • DesigNate||

    I am Cornholio! I need tp for my bunghole!

  • Drunken Islamist at a bar||

    Are you threatening me?!

  • The Angry Optimist||

    In brief, my argument is such that when developing fetuses emit brain waves that are uniquely attributable to those whom we consider rights-having persons, then those fetuses are persons.

    Unfortunately for me, "I am pro-choice until on or about the time a fetus develops adult-level brainwaves" is too cumbersome for a bumper-sticker, so I automatically lose.

  • CONCERNED CITIZEN||

    Better keep your brain waves above the threshold!

  • Wind Rider||

    That's cool. Although all cells funtion via electro chemical means, with such activity being detectable, although rendered in fragments of patterns discernible enough to identify what could be described as bench testing the unit, you're not there yet. Birth is the final QC check, until ya pass that, you're just a 'candidate'. Something that never actually really changes, in the determination of whether any of us makes it to see the sun rise one more time. Cause shit happens.

  • MJ||

    Of course to the pro-choice crowd actually advocating restrictions on abortion based on brain wave activity makes you a radical pro-lifer. These are people who object to saying that a fetus that survives an abortion attempt does not have a right to live because it was supposed to die.

  • ||

    When developing fetuses emitting brain waves that are uniquely attributable to those whom we consider rights-having persons are outlawed, only outlaws will have developing fetuses emitting brain waves that are uniquely attributable to those whom we consider rights-having persons.

  • mr simple||

    I'll give you this embryo when you take it from my cold, dead hands!

  • Nihixul||

    This article would have been much better had it been pruned to about two paragraphs.

  • ||

    This has got to be the most disappointing article I have ever come across on this website. The rhetoric of Abrahamic religious values over science and REASON should have no part here. Not to mention the praise of government regulations that uphold these ideologies against the interests of knowledge and free markets.

  • DesigNate||

    The article was about how Obama can't issue an EO to allow federal funding when Congress made a law that banned the use of federal money on such things. Chapman was asking questions that a lot of everyday American's ask about these things. He never said that ESCR should be outlawed and neither did the 1996 law. Maybe if your reading comprehension was better you would have seen that.

    (I'll repeat it for you: Federal MONEY may not be used for research where human embryos are destroyed.)

  • ||

    ""It is very hard for us to describe something higher than health, or more important than the relief of suffering, so when relief comes at a cost, even the cost of cherished principles or self-evident truths, we all too often pay up."

    This article is not about Obama overriding Congress, or the un/constitutionality of a president or congress's actions. It's a moral argument for state control and regulation.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    I submit that the entire debate about whether an embryo, zygote, fetus, unborn baby, or whatever is "life" or not misses the real debate.

    It doesn't matter "when life begins". The law, for centuries, has identified and defined circumstances under which it is either excusable or even justifiable, to take the life of a LIVING, fully-developed, independent, functioning human being. For example, you can justifiably kill another person when acting in legitimate self-defense. The vast majority of society agrees that although killing a person in general is morally objectionable, in certain circumstances, it is ok.

    So - I don't care whether an embryo is or is not "life", or at what specific date in gestation it converts from "potential life" to "life." Let's go ahead and say, fine, "life" begins when a sperm fertilizes an egg. Given that, it still does not answer the question of whether abortion should be legal. Because, after all, the law would allow us to kill that person 20 years later, under certain circumstances.

    So let's say sure, that little blastula - glob of cells - is a "person." The question then is whether, and under what circumstances, the law should recognize another exception to the general rule that killing a person is illegal.

    Many argue that the answer should be "never." The curious thing is that these often are the same people who are staunch defenders of their individual right to kill others in self-defense (or sometimes even in defense of mere property, not even involving threats to life or safety), and the right of the state to kill others (i.e., the death penalty).

    And the other irony is that most of those who argue in favor of the right to kill this "other person" (i.e., the "unborn child") typically argue AGAINST a right to kill the person when they are an adult (i.e., the death penalty, and in extreme cases, even in self-defense).

    As far as I can tell, no matter how you frame the debate, however, ne'er the twain shall meet. It is an irreconcilable difference, in which both sides believe their position so strongly that some are willing, ironically, to kill those on the other side, as we have seen.

    This is why Roe v. Wade was such a fuck-up. It imposed one rule, nationwide, as a constitutional right. I find nothing in the Constitution about abortion. The question should be left to each state to decide. In fact, this is where the country was headed when Roe jumped in and basically jumped forward several spaces in the game. If left up to the states, some (e.g., most of the northeast) surely would enact legislation to keep abortion legally available, but perhaps regulated as a medical procedure to make sure it is safe and done properly, while other states (e.g., Arkansas, Kansas, Texas) likely would outlaw it, perhaps allowing exceptions for rape, incest or as medically necessary to protect the life of the mother.

  • sarcasmic||

    I've also found it curious that the most fervent supporters of abortion rights tend to oppose the death penalty on the grounds that innocent people die, while the most fervent supporters of the death penalty tend to oppose abortion for the exact same reason.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Sarcasmic,

    I don't support either - you cannot have a right to someone else's life, even if it is growing inside you or is rotting inside a jail cell.

  • misanthrope||

    I support both.

    The less people the better.

  • Jen||

    I've actually met plenty of people on both sides of the debate that were consistent on these issues.

  • DK||

    It's actually possible to consistently oppose the death penalty while supporting abortion rights. I recognize the right of a would-be mother to abort and support the right of an individual to kill in self-defense. In both cases, an individual is acting. However, I am anti-death penalty, as this is an activity of the state. Shouldn't be too hard for the so-called libertarians on this site to follow.

  • sarcasmic||

    "Shouldn't be too hard for the so-called libertarians on this site to follow."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman

  • matt||

    I thought Reason was a libertarian site. Just like Ron Paul, you use your libertarian ideals as a mirage -- upon arrival all that remains are the inedible sands of a would-be Christian Theocracy.

  • sarcasmic||

    I know plenty of self described Christians who support abortion as well as non-Christians who oppose it.

    But that's OK, it's much easier to debate a straw man than an actual person.

    retard

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    Painting with a broad brush, there Matt me boy. Do not confuse the people who comment here with libertarians - many are not. And do not confuse the libertarians who comment here with all of the rest of the libertarians.

    As an example, "Christian Theocracy" is a term that cannot rightly be used to describe very much of what I believe. To be sure, I do adhere to traditional Judeo-Christian values, as in tell the truth, always treat other people as you would expect them to treat you, don't steal, be an all-around nice guy, etc. But I have no strong belief in any majickal deity floating on his cloud. I find many who do hold those beliefs to be some pretty scary people.

  • DesigNate||

    The libertarian part of the article was where Chapman agreed with the judge that Obama can't write an EO to bypass a law made by congress. Oh and that the money forcibly taken by the government shouldn't be used on shit that isn't the responsibility of the government.

  • Dee||

    Sock puppets doing drive-by concern trollings are the best.

  • Metazoan||

    Why would a scientist let an embryo develop into a fetus for months to harvest stem cells? Most of the cells would be highly differentiated and be of little use outside the fetus's body...

  • ||

    It's just something Chapman said to make people who don't know much about the science recoil in horror.

  • bubba||

    They could be very useful if you needed cells of a certain type. If you had Parkinsonism, or some such degenerative disease, we could clone your DNA, produce a fetus, let it develop the necessary cell types and then graft those into your brain, or whatever.

    We can produce many different cell types in a petri dish, but certainly not all of them.

  • Metazoan||

    Yeah, later embryonic cells. Not fetal cells though... you'd want to, for instance, harvest neuroblasts from an early embryo and culture them, allowing them to differentiate outside the embryo (perhaps in the patient). I don't see how injecting fully differentiated neurons is going to help anybody.

  • ||

    inedible sands

    Worst...metaphor...ever.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    Do you know of any edible sands?

    I felt those words of pure genius flow through my very soul!!

  • Old Mexican||

    The problem with embryonic stem cell research is that the goals are so desirable that they override our usual moral impulses.

    Same can be said just about every other utopian nightmare prescribed to humanity: the ends are so desirable, what's a few eggs (120 million) broken?

  • sarcasmic||

    The problem is that there is no end, so only the means matter.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Sarcasmic,

    The problem is that there is no end, so only the means matter.

    That doesn't make any sense. Purposeful action presupposes a desired end, otherwise there would be no purpose, just reactions (like a mindless beast.)

  • sarcasmic||

    "no purpose, just reactions"

    Sounds like an apt description of government to me.

  • sarcasmic||

    "Purposeful action presupposes a desired end"

    If the desired end is an impossibility, then only the means of getting there matter.

  • Wind Rider||

    Oh good grief, the stupid embryonic stem cell thing, AGAIN? Seems the only talent Skippy has is for bringing teh stoopid.

    Why the fuck are they pushing this? Long winded debates that ultimately trigger Godwin's law aside, this is absolutely fucking pointless. Since the whole issue eexploded on W's watch, hasn't anyone noticed that Science and those devious, crafty scientists doing it, have come up with about a dozen or so other sources for stem cells, that work just as well as a procedure that the mere mention of drives people batshit insane wetting themselves and yelling at each other? It's enough to make one think the only reason he's doing it is to suck some hard core progressive cock on principle, while poking a good portion of the electorate in the eye, just because he thinks he can. Is the whole thing going to make Christopher Reeve show up on Dancing with the Stars? FUCK NO, HE'S DEAD, JIM!

    And just to enable another round of Urinary Olympics, I'll go with the Religious Arguers own position, and point out that GOD seems to have pretty well laid out where life begins - at around 20-24 weeks, the point at which a baby can survive as a seperate and distinct individual sans the mommy direct support system. Before that, one and the same, and consideration tips towards the part that can get along quite well on its own.

    Re-commence beating each other up over this.

  • Wind Rider||

    And for the smartasses wondering "what is it before the point it can get along by itself?" A Potential. The potential for a viable human being. Not all potentials come to fruition in life, shit happens. There's the potential I could get some Morgan Fairchild Cougar poon. Probably won't happen, but it's a potential. Nothing more, nothing less. Wanna cry about things not turning out the way you want? Go watch Old Yeller again.

  • Curious?||

    If a woman has the right to abort a part of "her body" then why can't I donate my heart to my brother before I die?

  • Wind Rider||

    Uhm, cause the laws are fucked up?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Curious,

    If a woman has the right to abort a part of "her body" then why can't I donate my heart to my brother before I die?

    Because YOU, your body parts and women's belong to the State. It is the State that decided the fate of both YOUR heart and a woman's embryo.

    Welcome to hell.

  • sarcasmic||

    "Welcome to hell."

    As long as the road is paved with good intentions we can't go wrong!

  • Caleb Turberville||

    It takes more than just having the genetic makeup or the "potential" to be human.

    If we are talking about potential, it would be wrong to engage in any activity in which human sperm or eggs are destroyed.

    If merely having the genetic makeup of humans grants sanctity to life, then we should protect tumor cells.

    That being said, I wonder what the libertarian viewpoint on the rights of feti should be. I've always been troubled by the notion that merely passing through the birth canal grants one the right to life as there really isn't much difference between the newborn baby and the fetus that was just inside the mother's uterus (except for the fact that the fetus was involuntarily placed inside the mother's uterus).

    But I also have trouble granting rights to a blastocyst, which is just a ball of unspecialized cells, which may or may not have impregnated itself into the uterine wall yet.

    So, it seems to me that there has to be some blurry, middle of the road approach to this debate.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    I've even heard some defend the rights of parents to kill unwanted newborns.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Also, I think stem cell research should be privately funded. Well, I think ALL research should be privately funded. Let people who support the research fork up the dough and let the people whose morality conflicts with the research do something else with their own money.

  • Wind Rider||

    The position that takes the potential argument in the direction of considering it wrong to destroy (or even waste) the components, egg and sperm, is irrational, as it's patently ridiculous when removed from contexts involving human beings. My great idea has the potential for making me millions, but there's a show stopper along the way, and I know it. Should I just blindly continue, simply because the idea has the potential to make millions? Or I think that it does? Show me in writing where the millions at the other end are guaranteed! Can't do it, because such a guarantee does not exist. Nor does it exist that the potential human being consisting of mommiy's egg and daddy's goo dripping down her leg cost the world another Einstein. The point at which it seems more relevant to focus is that of realization - when we have a realized potential in the form of a baby making really loud noises because it just got evicted.

  • bubba||

    I like how most of these comments are about what the law "should" say and not at all about what it *does* say.

    Whether or not I agree with the details of this particular law, I'm not happy about a President rewriting it to suit his whim.

  • bubba||

    I'll also note that W, for all his scientifically backwards reputation, managed to "liberalize" the intrepretation of this law, perhaps illegally, but did it in such a way as to not piss off the wrong people.

    As a result of Obama's overreach, regulations will be more restricted than under W.

    LOL

  • DownsizeDC||

    Federal funding for science is unconstitutional. It's also pork. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • Fire Tiger||

    Not certain about the unconstitutional argument, however it is interesting to seeing people arguing for higher taxes and greater federal debt the moment their moral beliefs are challenged.

  • Wind Rider||

    Nonsense. It's very easy to get to federal funding of of basic scientific research under the Constitution, as written, no jedi-progressive mind tricks involved. The document specifically includes direction of the maintenance of armed forces. It is certainly no stretch of the imagination that this includes the improvement of military capability such that they are competent, current, and able to fulfill the role intended by the framers, that of providing for the common defense, and that the science of such endeavors is worthy of study. . .

  • The Angry Optimist||

    So...brain waves? NOBODY's buying off on the brain waves thing?

    You'll all be sorry someday!

  • sarcasmic||

    If it means open season on unthinking progressives who say government is the answer to every question, I'm in.

  • -||

    This debate will have reached its absurdist climax when lab workers begin to name the stem cells and rock them to sleep in pink and blue Petri dishes.

  • Fluffy||

    Steve Chapman in this article defends a court decision holding that scientists pursuing one course of federally-funded research can sue to stop research in competing areas, if such research might threaten their stream of funding.

    Steve Chapman therefore apparently endorses the progressive "New Property" view of federal law.

  • Dr Frankenstein||

    If there is federal funding for aborted embryos then I want access to the bodies of dead homeless people for my scientific experiments and federal funds to further my research.

  • Joe Biden||

    Done!

  • elMarko||

    I think we need to place some of this burden on Debussy's ballet 'Toybox' - oh the woe he hast begat.

    On a different tact, do all those in favor of no gov't funding refuse flu shots and all other vaccines? Just wondering.

  • irishpoetry||

    An embryo, a feotus, a baby, a child, an adult. It's one unique life, it is a person, from the moment of conception, which will never again have a chance to exist on this earth. For the mother whose egg was used - it is her son or daughter. For the father whose sperm was used - it is his son or daughter. For research, we allow others to create our offspring and experiment on them and dispose of them as though they were commodities. And for what reason? They have lost all their reason those who partake in this dirty business. Cures? How many innocent lives have been taken and how many cures have we seen? Who are we to say who lives and who dies? These are human lives. We should hold our heads in shame at this destruction of human life.

  • Nihixul||

    "An embryo, a feotus (sic), a baby, a child, an adult. It's one unique life, it is a person, from the moment of conception, which will never again have a chance to exist on this earth."

    If you say so, then hell it must be true!

  • Ronald Reagan||

    "It's one unique life, it is a person, from the moment of conception, which will never again have a chance to exist on this earth."

    True that, if allowed to go through the process which begins at conception each and every embryo is an individual and as Ayn Rand says the tiniest minority on the planet is the individual.

    "With regard to the freedom of the individual for choice with regard to abortion, there's one individual who's not being considered at all. That's the one who is being aborted. And I've noticed that everybody that is for abortion has already been born." -Ronald Reagan

  • Al Fabrizio||

    I'm actually surprised that this article, which speaks to the religious morality of some persons passes muster at Reason. I thought this site was interested in neutral inquiry. I guess not.

  • ||

    Really? See, I see a child just before birth as a child. A day before that, same thing. A week before that, less developed, the same, basic thing, a human being. Going back, I know that it's life began when it was conceived. If force is not initiated against it, it usually survives. Science, remember?

    The main Libertarian principles, as I understand them, are opposition to the instigation of force or fraud. While drugs that do not cause implantation might not fall under the category of force, the destruction of embryos to harvest their stems cells most certainly does.

    Maybe I missed it but initiating lethal force for scientific research doesn't seem particularly Libertarian to me.

    No less than Ron Paul is a member of Libertarians for Life.

    Perhaps you have confused Libertarian with Libertine. It happens a lot.

  • Dee||

    Sock puppets doing drive-by concern trollings are the best.

  • ||

    Based on the title of this article, I was expecting a litany of scientific reasons for not crying over the Judge's decision. In fact, there was one reason - and it was legal - that federal law trumps the executive order. This news was not worthy of a whole reason article that has served only to rehash the whole abortion debate.

  • Shoeless Chris||

    Regardless of where you come down on this issue, all signs point to a simple truth:

    It is always bad when government gets involved in the business of morality.

    Be it abortion, pornography, or ensuring "social justice" it always ends badly for all. Although it does keep the legal profession highly lucrative.

  • Abbot Arnold Amaury||

    Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.

    Kill them all. Let God sort them out.

  • Chad||

    Shouldn't libertarians be AGAINST federally funded stem-cell research?

  • slutmonkey||

    Generally yes, libertarians would be against federally funded research with the broad exception of Wind Rider's excellent argument from providing for the common defense.

    http://reason.com/archives/201.....nt_1873169

  • Some Guy||

    The money in question comes from one big pool, generally, and putting a restriction does not make that pool smaller.

    So libertarians would be opposed to the money being spent, but as long as it is being spent, it would hopefully be spent as effectively as possible.

  • ||

    There are a LOT, probably a majority, of people in this country that feel very strongly that an embryo should have the same chance as anyone to develop. I don't get why the few people who, for whatever reason, are relatively apathetic, can't be gracious enough to let this slide. Law should reflect the people and the people generally think that embryos shouldn't be harvested for research.

  • Some Guy||

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/216.....earch.aspx

    Never been over 40% opposed to the research, nor under 50% in favor.

  • Racist||

    Law should reflect the people[...]

    Yes, like Jim Crow laws. Back in the good'ole days. Now get back in the kitchen.

  • Some Guy||

    What's wrong with destroying a 5-day-old embryo that would be discarded anyway? Nothing, unless you think there is something wrong with killing a human embryo ostensibly for some greater good.

    I don't get why putting it in a petri dish is murder when the alternative is putting it in the trash.

  • MJ||

    But one of the plaintiffs in the case was an outfit involved in embryo adoption so there are alternatives beside biomedical waste.

  • Some Guy||

    Unless you are suggesting that the government should mandate that all embryos be stored indefinitely until they can be adopted, regardless of the wishes of the biological parents, I don't see the relevance.

  • slutmonkey||

    I would like to take this opportunity to invoke Parkinson's Law: the amount of
    debate on an issue is inversely proportional to the issue's actual
    importance.

  • ||

    stupid article - not up to Reason's standards

  • d3athp3nguin||

    You are all missing the point.

    Everything has a soul. EVERYTHING- everything from the plants you eat and the insects that splatter onto your windshield. You can't win.

    So... might as well harvest those embryos!

  • fendi bags||

    The money in question comes from one big pool, generally, and putting a restriction does not make that pool smaller.

  • CSI||

    We must be in Bizarro world, Reason Magazine publishing an article that looks like it belongs in a right-wing Christian pro-life journal?

  • Tadcf||

    Would it be better to let a complete person with complete consciousness suffer from disease and paralysis, or the destroy an incomplete human embryo with no consciousness?

  • ||

    The people saying that an embryo will "naturally", "by itself" develop into a human child are evading a vitally important fact. Embryos do not develop by themselves, as an independent organism; they only do so within the environment provided by the mother's body and with the nourishment she provides. She has no obligation to continue to provide these, and it is therefore completely irrelevant when "ensoulment" happens. Those embryos, if taken out of the test tubes, would not develop; they would die, and no one has any obligation to carry them to term or keep them frozen, rather than use them in research. In other words, this whole debate is being carried out on the wrong terms.

  • dude||

    A question for those of you who are against stem cell research: how come I never hear you guys complaining about in-vitro fertilization? If you're against destroying embryos, why are you not against the process used to create them? Do you think it's ok to create embryos as long as they are kept in a freezer forever?

  • ||

    "What's wrong with destroying a 5-day-old embryo that would be discarded anyway?," this article asks, reframing stem cell polemics. Is destroying it for science any better or worse than destroying it because it is 5 days and must be discarded? It would the implication for this decision conflating 6 of one with half dozen of the other.

  • Graham||

    There is either something precious about "life," and therefore harvesting a plant is every bit as wrong as harvesting a human embryo, or there are varying degrees of importance, in which case these embryos, which are NOT human beings, are still no more precious than plants. Any argument beyond this becomes religious, which has no place in the discussion.

    If the idea that something has a "soul" is what bothers you about these embryos being used, then you can rest easy, because there's no such thing. Just because these embryos contain the building blocks necessary for creating a human life doesn't make them equal to a fully developed human. As creatures, we are far greater than the sum of our parts, and that's all these embryos are: parts.

  • Enzo||

    0. Lamberth ruling has a devastating impact on stem cell research in general and contrary to what is portrayed in the media is not limited to the derivation of new lines. In fact it stops all federal funding to any research which has anything to with human embryonic stem cell lines including the preexisting lines. Even if we assume a torturous (and logically wrong) reasoning that the ESC are result of a "murder", it is still ethically accepted to use materials and evidence gathered from such ethically tainted source, based on premise that no further harm happens and there is a significant potential benefit for humankind.

    1. Dickey-Wickers amendment in my opinion likely violates establishment clause since it forces a sectarian view on the rest of us.

    2. Dickey-Wickers and some other budgetary amendments that restrict scope of research (for instance regarding recreational drugs) cause a serious harm to our advancement of knowledge. The very notion of basic science is to uncover "unknown unknowns" and thus we cannot a priori exclude certain avenues of intellectual pursuit.

    3. I take an exception to the wide spread notion that creation of embryonic stem cells results in destruction of an embryo. The embryonic stem cells are in fact such same cells that constitute an early embryo and they are just propagated indefinitely. The animal experimentation (tetraploid complementation) demonstrates that stem cells can in fact form a normal embryo at later time, thousands of them if one needs.

    Which brings me to the last point:

    4. Discussions about embryonic stem cells are marred by an equivocation fallacy. This becomes evident in any discussion threads on this subject when inevitable paradoxes start to crop up. For instance:
    - skin cells have the same genome as ESC cells, are they human?
    - embryo can split into two giving rise to twins, was the blastocyst a single human or two?
    - two early embryo can fuse giving rise to single individual. We clearly do not observe such fusion of two human beings. If blastocyst A was a murderer and and B a saint should the A+B go to prison?
    - skin cells can be reprogrammed to ESC like state and give rise to a individual (a sort of clone), are the skin cells fully formed humans?

    This confusion arises from an equivocation, use of the word "life" to describe two analogous but distinct processes. Any careful student of biology will recognize that there exist two separate processes of life, that meet the definitions of life:
    a) cellular life – organized from molecules as building blocks
    b) organismal life – organized from cell as building blocks – a metalife
    Human as we know them exist at the level (b), we do not care about level (a).
    Life at level (a) is a continuous process that started ~3 billion years ago. Life at level (b) periodically emerges from the level a). Can we definitively determine when life (b) starts and ends? Not really, mainly due to lack of necessary knowledge. However, there are periods of time when we can determine with certainty presence or absence of life (b), based on criteria of life. In particular we would expect: i) clearly defined borders (blastocyst has one at level (b) ), ii) existence of metabolism (only level (a) in the case of a blastocyst), iii) existence of regulatory system ( only level (a) in the case of blastocyst, no nervous system). Thus the preimplantation does not meet criteria for life (b). In case of humans, life (b) likely emerges around ~40-50 days post fertilization.

    Thus: in objective and factual sense embryonic stem cells are not a result of destruction of an embryo or human being.

  • ||

    The idea of letting the embryo gestate for a longer time is silly, and its trying to make stem cell research sound much more sinister than it is.

    The whole point of stem cells is that they are pluripotent (have the ability to differentiate into multiple different cell types). The longer you wait or go into the development, the more the fate of the cells is determined, and the less useful they are for the purposes of research (in as much as, you can't induce them to differentiate into a desired cell type as easily if at all).

    I'm not convinced of the ability of stem cell research to cure all that ails mankind, but it certainly has offered us insight into human development that we might not have had, and offered us inroads in understanding the ways (through induced pluripotent technologies)oncogenes work.

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