Abortion

Steve Chapman's Moral Misunderstanding of Stem Cells

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Reason contributor Steve Chapman condemns embryonic stem cell research as immoral in his column today. He is wrong. Note that the two of us are not arguing about whether or not the government should fund such research. Chapman is claiming that research using embryonic stem cells (whether privately or publically funded) is, in and of itself, immoral.  He is confused. But then again so is President Barack Obama who came out against reproductive cloning. Safe reproductive cloning would be not immoral either.

First, as I explained in my article "Petri Dish Politics" nearly 10 years ago:

One day it may be possible to take any adult stem cell back to the embryonic, and hence protean, stage. But the research to figure out how to do that depends on work with embryonic cells and the resulting cells, of course, would themselves be embryonic. People who oppose stem cell research on the ground that any cell that can become a human being already is a human being are essentially arguing that every cell in your body is another person.

"What happens when a skin cell turns into a totipotent stem cell [a cell capable of developing into a complete organism] is that a few of its genetic switches are turned on and others turned off," writes University of Melbourne bioethicist Julian Savulescu in the April 1999 issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics. "To say it doesn't have the potential to be a human being until its nucleus is placed in the egg cytoplasm is like saying my car does not have the potential to get me from Melbourne to Sydney unless the key is turned in the ignition." Since nearly every cell in the human body contains the complete genetic code of an individual, it is logically possible using biotech to turn every one of a person's cells into a complete new human being. If one doesn't turn on the ignition of a car (or one doesn't strip the suppressor proteins from a nucleus and put the cell into a womb), then the car won't go (or the skin cell won't grow into a human being). In other words, simply starting a human egg on a particular path, either through fertilization or cloning, is a necessary condition for developing a human being, but it isn't sufficient. A range of other conditions must also be present.

"I cannot see any intrinsic morally significant difference between a mature skin cell, the totipotent stem cell derived from it, and a fertilised egg," writes Savulescu. "They are all cells which could give rise to a person if certain conditions obtained." Those conditions include the availability of a suitable environment like a woman's womb. A petri dish is not enough.

"If all our cells could be persons, then we cannot appeal to the fact that an embryo could be a person to justify the special treatment we give it," concludes Savulescu. "Cloning forces us to abandon the old arguments supporting special treatment for fertilised eggs."

The DNA content of a skin cell, a stem cell, and a fertilized egg are exactly the same. The difference between what they are and what they could become is the environment in which their DNA is found. Thus, Savulescu argues, the mere existence of human DNA in a cell cannot be the source of a relevant moral difference. The differences among these cells are a result of how the genes in each are expressed, and that expression depends largely on which proteins suppress which genes. Does moral relevance really depend on the presence of the appropriate proteins in a cell? Trying to base moral distinctions on this level of biochemistry seems a bit quixotic.

So, asks Savulescu, is it immoral for you to take one of your skin cells, put it into an enucleated egg, and begin to grow it in a petri dish with the intention of making new brain cells to cure your Parkinson's disease? The cell was your tissue, with your genes. The transformed cell would not exist except for your intention–it would simply have flaked off and gone down the drain. "It's important to remember that essentially every cell in our body has a full complement of genes and in that sense is potentially totipotent," Varmus, the NIH director, reminded the National Bioethics Advisory Commission. That a cell contains a complete set of human chromosomes, yours, surely does not make that cell the moral equivalent of a baby. But as Savulescu and Varmus point out, if one is committed to the sort of genetic essentialism relied on by many opponents of cloning and embryonic stem cell research, then one is also logically committed to maintaining that the only difference between your skin cell and your twin is which proteins decorate their DNA strands.

The next step in stem cell research will occur when biotechnologists learn how to strip off the suppressing proteins from a mature cell's genes and transform it directly into a stem cell without having to use enucleated human eggs. That advance will take human eggs out of the discussion. Once it is possible to make stem cells without eggs, perhaps the moral intuition of many people will shift.

"It may eventually become possible to take a cell from any one of our organs and to expose it to the right set of environmental stimuli and to encourage that cell to return to a more primitive stage in the hierarchy of stem cells," explains Varmus. "Under those conditions, one might in fact generate the cell with as great a potential as a pluripotent cell [capable of becoming many different, but not all, types of tissues] from a very mature cell. One might even in fact imagine generating a cell that is totipotent in that manner." (Again, a totipotent cell is one that could develop into a complete organism if put in the right circumstances.)

Stem cells produced this way would be identical to the human embryonic stem cells that currently must be harvested from embryos. A cell whose suppressor proteins have been stripped off could become a nerve stem cell, a liver stem cell, or a baby–depending on the intentions of the patients and doctors. Researchers are experimenting right now to see if new embryonic stem cells could be formed by introducing the nucleus of an adult cell into an already existing enucleated embryonic stem cell, thus bypassing the need to use human eggs.

Ten years later the good news is that researchers, thanks to earlier work on embryonic stem cells, can now flip genetic switches to turn adult cells into stem cells. These induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) may be the path toward regenerative medicine in which old and damaged tissues and organs can be repaired or replaced.

With regard to reproductive cloning, Chapman is right is that President Obama is morally incoherent on the issue of reproductive cloning.  As I explained my column "The Twin Paradox" 12 years ago: 

What would a clone be? Well, he or she would be a complete human being who happens to share the same genes with another person. Today, we call such people identical twins. To my knowledge no one has argued that twins are immoral. Of course, cloned twins would not be the same age. But it is hard to see why this age difference might present an ethical problem–or give clones a different moral status. 

Links to my arguments about the moral status of embryos here and about the reproductive cloning here

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  1. “Chapman is claiming that research using embryonic stem cells (whether privately or publically funded) is, in and of itself, immoral. He is confused an imbecile.”

  2. Oops. Erroneous name.

    Capitalism: not dead yet.

  3. Why doesn’t Bailey respect the authority of the Catholic church?

  4. First Mr. Chapman’s pro-inflation article, now this.

    I applaud the innovation of Reason hiring a humor columnist, but he needs some editorial intervention, because clearly his humor is so dry as to be misunderstood.

  5. Chapman’s arguments are a waste of time because the average libertarian doesn’t recognize any limits on their reproductive rights for the sake of their own children.

  6. On whos moral values are you going to base this on. my moral values say that scientific research on discarded tissue is just fine. Now if we are talking about religious morals, well thats a personal choice not a goverment function to enforce religious morals. let scientests and the englightened do all the work, you religious cult members just hold on. we will get the work done whhile you pray to your figures or beings or gods or whatever.

  7. Thank you Ron. I know you’re just shilling for big petri dish. But it’s nice to see some Chapman hate coming from the staff.

  8. People who oppose stem cell research on the ground that any cell that can become a human being already is a human being are essentially arguing that every cell in your body is another person.

    This is a rather obvious strawman. No one opposes killing human embryos for their stem cells because they think human embryos “can become a human being.” They oppose it because they recognize the scientific fact that human embryos are already human beings and believe human beings shouldn’t be killed for their cells.

    After having your arguments destroyed by Robert George and Patrick Lee, I’m surprised you’re still using them as if they were valid.

  9. they recognize the scientific fact that human embryos are already human beings

    Which is odd because embryos still voted for Obama 2:1 over McCain.

  10. Now if we are talking about religious morals, well thats a personal choice not a goverment function to enforce religious morals.

    It’s not a government function to enforce your secular, atheistic morality that you claim to have derived from pure reason, either. The government exists to protect the life, liberty and property of individuals. The question here is what constitutes an individual.

  11. For just one second, let’s abandon the concept of researching embryonic stem cells for “the potential to advance our general knowledge for the future” and also “the religious morality debate”.

    I know this is a huge request but bear with me. Let’s only assess the wisdom of pumping huge amounts of funding into embryonic stem cell research under the “pretense” that scientists, the government, the FDA and the AMA are actually interested in embryonic research for the development of treatments for deadly and debilitating diseases.

    We have to start with the reality expressed by Dr James Thomson, father of embryonic research when he said: “…embryonic stem cells are not being used in any clinical applications yet, while alternatives such as adult stem cells figure in scores of therapies.” and “Ten or 20 years from now…there will be transplantation- based therapies (from ESC) , but even if there was none, and it was a complete failure, this technology is extraordinarily important”

    Then consider: “The iPS (induced pluripotent stem cells) discovery even prompted Ian Wilmut, who led the team that cloned Dolly the sheep, to abandon his license to attempt human cloning, saying that the researchers “may have achieved what no politician could: an end to the embryonic stem cell debate.”

    And, just several days ago, Dr. Bernadine Healy, director of the National Institutes of Health under the first President Bush, wrote in U.S. News & World Report that these recent developments “reinforced the notion that embryonic stem cells . . . are obsolete.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/10/AR2009031002842.html

    These are not “religious freaks” (as the pro ESC like to refer to them), these are not even “pro adult stem cell advocates”; these are the top minds in embryonic research deciding, based solely on the scientific research potential of ESC that “embryonic research for treatments has little to no life left in it”.

    And yet, the critics of ASC argue onward while simultaneously turning a blind eye to the huge advancements around the world that adult stem cells have made in therapeutic treatments. http://repairstemcell.wordpress.com/category/victories-success-stories/

    Embryonic…Adult…Induced Pluripotent… Which one(s) will be the victor(s) in the stem cell wars (for treatments)? Let’s address these points briefly.

    While Embryonic stem cells (ESC) were previously thought to be more powerful than Adult Stem Cells (ASC) because they can become any cell in the body (pluripotency), new studies on ASC are showing that they can become virtually anything. Scientists recently turned Skin cells into ASC into Neuron-ASC. http://repairstemcell.wordpress.com/2009/02/25/researchers-make-nerve-cells-from-new-stem-cells-science-reuters/

    A decade of ESC research around the world has resulted in no human treatments & because the ESC continue to divide beyond the scientist’s control, they can turn into tumors. ESC also require immunosuppressive drugs, which one of the most common forms of ASC (autologous) used in treatment do not.

    Over the same decade of research, adult stem cell treatments have given thousands improved health, extended lives, helped paraplegics to walk? http://repairstemcell.wordpress.com/2009/02/10/spinal-cord-injury-sci-stem-cell-trials-japan-plays-catch-up/

    Gave a man with AIDs 2 years (so far) free of symptoms? http://repairstemcell.wordpress.com/?s=aids+symptom+2+years

    Successfully improved MS & Cerebral Palsy patients, the list goes on and on? http://repairstemcell.wordpress.com/category/victories-success-stories/

    ASC are already helping improve & extend the lives of patients with dozens of “incurable” diseases,” 73 diseases when you count only US published scientific papers & well over 100 if you read all of the papers from outside the USA.

    Additionally, Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSC) are ASC modified to be able to become any cell in the human body & seem to have all of the benefits of ESC with significantly less of a rejection issue; not to mention without the political & religious controversy. http://repairstemcell.wordpress.com/2009/02/26/embryonic-stem-cell-alternative-has-another-advance-ips-cells-yield-nerve-cells/

    And iPSC don’t have the tumor and cancer potential that ESC do either: http://repairstemcell.wordpress.com/2009/03/06/cancer-threat-removed-from-stem-cells-scientists-say-los-angeles-times/

    Even the NIH is jumping into the ASC research and treatment pool. http://repairstemcell.wordpress.com/2009/02/26/nih-says-adult-stem-cells-are-ready-for-the-prime-time-yah-baby/

    Why is there still so much focus on ESC when both ASC & iPSC seem capable of achieving everything ESC can do with a fraction of the obstacles?

    The world is treating thousands successfully with ASC. We are 8 years behind most of the stem cell research in the world and focused on the dead end road (for treatments) of embryonic stem cells?

    Fund ESC or don’t fund ESC. That’s your battle with the religious right. All the while, the rest of the world is being treated with ASC and people in the US are dying in huge numbers while they hold their collective breath for embryonic treatments that the top ESC scientists have emphatically stated in words and actions: will not come.

    And the facts are that we CAN and SHOULD do what it takes to develop treatments for the multitude of dying and debilitated patients NOW. Treatments are in our grasp, we have only to reach out and grab them. That is my challenge for and the critical path and priority responsibility of scientists, doctors, politicians, atheists, agnostics, catholics, muslims, jews, christians…and most importantly… of human beings.

    David Granovsky, http://repairstemcell.wordpress.com

  12. He is wrong…..He is confused.

    Jeeze. Not to sound like I’m trying to defend Chapman here (I’m not and I can’t), but you’re sounding awfully Marxist there. Why stop short of saying he is not correct?

  13. Good post, well-put. The thing that bothered me most about Chapman’s earlier article was Obama’s spiel about cloning being so, so bad. Uhh, really? On what grounds? If you ignore religious dogma (which the government absolutely should do), there is no justification.

  14. Dear Ron Bailey,

    Thank you for (intellectually) ripping that bio-luddite a new asshole.

    Sincerely,
    The Expatriate

  15. They oppose it because they recognize the scientific fact that human embryos are already human beings and believe human beings shouldn’t be killed for their cells.

    What science are you smoking?

  16. People who oppose stem cell research on the ground that any cell that can become a human being already is a human being are essentially arguing that every cell in your body is another person.

    Either this is a complete strawman or you’re not looking hard enough to find thoughtful critiques.

  17. Thank you for (intellectually) ripping that bio-luddite a new asshole.

    A brave new world of bio-engineering.

  18. Either this is a complete strawman

    There you go. I’m not aware of anyone, not even George W. McEvil, who opposed stem cell research. Embryonic stem cell research, sure, but not all stem cell research.

  19. Granovsky, you lost me in the first paragraph. If I wanted a reasoned discussion, I certainly would not have come to a blogsite the majority of whose “libertarian” contributors voted Obama.

    Somebody get back to me when they find a way to grow embryonic stem cells into a viable John Stossel mustache.

  20. Bring it on.

  21. I told my 14 year old daughter that some politicians believe that stem cells are essentially human beings, and must be protected from being killed.

    She burst out laughing and said, “Good one, dad. I’m not falling for that one.”

    Took another minute or so to convince her that this time I wasn’t shining her on, seeing how gullible she was by feeding her a line of BS with a poker face.

  22. ‘a complete strawman’

    Yes

    ‘Took another minute or so to convince her that this time I wasn’t shining her on’

    this time?

  23. And, in fact, you *were* shining her on, because so far as I know, the opponents of embryonic stem cell research oppose it on the grounds that the *embryo* is a human being, not the stem cells themselves. The problem is that you have to destroy the embryo to get the stem cells you want.

  24. These cells are a new DNA combination though, representing the code of a new person. The skin cell is your DNA, her skin cell is her DNA, and when you do the inevitable both strands combine into something found in neither of your skins.

  25. David Granovsky: It’s not either/or –it’s both. And just how do you think researchers learned how make IPs cells?

    Why do you think it took the FDA so long to approve the first embryonic stem trial? Hmmm. Let me think. Why yes. the Bush Administration.

    JivinJ: You obviously haven’t read my debate with George and Lee carefully enough. They lost.

  26. This is a rather obvious strawman. No one opposes killing human embryos for their stem cells because they think human embryos “can become a human being.” They oppose it because they recognize the scientific fact that human embryos are already human beings and believe human beings shouldn’t be killed for their cells.

    Aside from this not being remotely a scientific fact, even if you remove the “potential,” that doesn’t detract from the point that the difference between a fertilized egg and any other cell is a matter of a few proteins. To label this cell a “person” and that one not a person is both arbitrary and absurd–certainly not a strong enough moral case to deny the therapeutic promise of stem-cell research.

  27. Mr. Bailey, what do you think of the part of the Lee-George article where they challenge the very title of your article, Are Stem Cells Babies?

    Lee and George declare:

    ‘Bailey’s article is entitled “Are Stem Cells Babies?” The title itself is fallacious. No one claims that stem cells are human beings (or “babies”). Rather, human embryos, from whom stem cells are sometimes obtained, are living, albeit very young, human beings. What has been proposed is the obtaining of stem cells by dissecting these living human beings. We object, not to the use of stem cells as such (which can be obtained elsewhere, without killing), but to the dismemberment of live human beings as a means to obtain them.’

    In his response to Lee and George, Mr. Bailey doesn’t mention their point about the fallacious title.

  28. MM: In fact some stem cells may be totipotent.

  29. That would make it equivalent to a zygote in the immediate post-fertilization stage.

    I’m sorry to say your original article – at least the title – suggested that you were refuting people who attributed humanity to each and every stem cell as such.

  30. Or would it? What happens when you implant a totipotent cell in the womb. I actually haven’t tried this before, but I would be interested in knowing.

  31. A stem cell taken out of an embryonic human being, or an adult human being, is certainly not a baby, nor am I aware of anyone who claims these cells are babies. In the embryonic case, taking the cells has traditionally involved killing the embryo. That’s the basis for the prolife objection to killing embryos for research, not the attribution of humanity to the stem cell derived from the research.

  32. that doesn’t detract from the point that the difference between a fertilized egg and any other cell is a matter of a few proteins.

    Doesn’t matter. What matters is that the fertilized egg is a whole and complete human, albeit a young one.

  33. And, in fact, you *were* shining her on, because so far as I know, the opponents of embryonic stem cell research oppose it on the grounds that the *embryo* is a human being, not the stem cells themselves. The problem is that you have to destroy the embryo to get the stem cells you want.

    Many people with your position accept a “personhood from conception” definition, which would, absolutely, define a single totipotent stem cell as a person, since that is what a single-cell embryo is.

    If I were to create a totipotent stem cell from, say, a mammary cell, and implant it into the womb, it would grow into a fetus. Your differentiation between “embryo” as generated from the union of sperm and egg and a totipotent stem cell generated by any other means is not based on any actual physical difference between the two.

    This is what Mr. Bailey is saying.

  34. A stem cell taken out of an embryonic human being, or an adult human being, is certainly not a baby, nor am I aware of anyone who claims these cells are babies.

    One embryonic cell is as much a “baby” as three. If I took an embryo in the morula stage of development (~4-8 cells) and removed one of the cells, then implanted it seperately, it would grow into another embryo and you would have identical twins. In fact, this is how identical twins form in nature.

    In the embryonic case, taking the cells has traditionally involved killing the embryo. That’s the basis for the prolife objection to killing embryos for research, not the attribution of humanity to the stem cell derived from the research.

    One can take a cell from the embryo without killing it. It’s just that there’s no reason to preserve a very early stage embryo, since it won’t grow to adulthood in a petri dish, and there’s no womb waiting for these embryos to be implanted in.

  35. Or would it? What happens when you implant a totipotent cell in the womb. I actually haven’t tried this before, but I would be interested in knowing.

    It would grow into a fetus. This is because a totipotent stem cell is definined, essentially, as a unicellular embryo. As far as I know, we haven’t created these from somatic cells yet, but it is one of the goals of stem cell research.

  36. In his response to Lee and George, Mr. Bailey doesn’t mention their point about the fallacious title.

    That’s because Lee and George don’t recognize the physiological equivalency between a single-celled embryo and a totipotent stem cell.

  37. But then again so is President Barack Obama who came out against reproductive cloning. Safe reproductive cloning would be not immoral either.

    So Obama supports cloning a zygot to run experiments on it, but opposes cloning a zygot to bring it to term. I don’t see how anyone can reconcile those two opinions.

  38. A stem cell taken out of an embryonic human being, or an adult human being, is certainly not a baby, nor am I aware of anyone who claims these cells are babies. In the embryonic case, taking the cells has traditionally involved killing the embryo. That’s the basis for the prolife objection to killing embryos for research, not the attribution of humanity to the stem cell derived from the research.

    So then what is the moral argument against using aborted or failed embryos from IF treatments? Or what about fetuses that would be aborted regardless? We already use organs from deceased people, and that is not usually considered morally abhorent even by your kin, Max, so how are ‘deceased’ fetuses different?

  39. What’s the difference between a baby and an onion?

    I don’t cry when I chop up a baby.

  40. How do you make a dead baby float?

    Two scoops of ice cream, one scoop of dead baby.

  41. What’s 18 inches long and makes women scream all night?

    Crib death.

  42. How do you know your baby is dead?

    The dog plays with it more.

  43. Why is there always hot water at childbirth?

    So you can have soup if it’s stillborn.

  44. See, Pro-Lifers have better jokes. FAIL

  45. Bullshit! He’s not wrong… but I could be.

    Denney Crane

  46. So Obama supports cloning a zygot to run experiments on it, but opposes cloning a zygot to bring it to term. I don’t see how anyone can reconcile those two opinions.

    Simple enough, the current state of the art in cloning produces a lot more defective embryos than viable ones. The damage cannot always be detected before birth. Unless the technology can be perfected without throwing a lot of newborns in the dumpster, seems a rather simple moral decision.

    According to Chapman, Obama said:
    We will ensure that our government never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction. It is dangerous, profoundly wrong and has no place in our society, or any society.

    Chapman seems to assume that this was some confused philosophical decision by Obama. I ahh, err, hope that it was a moral decision guided by an understanding of today’s science.

    To summarize:
    Slicing and dicing the zygotes – fine by me.
    Signing up women to carry defective embryos to full term – not so cool.

  47. “If human embryonic stem cell research does not make you at least a little bit uncomfortable, you have not thought about it enough.”

    I guess Bailey thinks Chapman peed in his cornflakes by using that quote.

    “People who oppose stem cell research on the ground that any cell that can become a human being already is a human being are essentially arguing that every cell in your body is another person.”

    Bailey argues that because you can possibly make a cell derived from a skin scraping, after considerable biogenetic tinkering, behave as a fertilized ovum, that means that all fertilized ova must have ethical significance of the discarded cells from the skin scraping. How does that logic work? Why does the fertilised ova status have to be lowered to an unmodified skin cell? Why is not the modifed cell’s status raised?

    “I cannot see any intrinsic morally significant difference between a mature skin cell, the totipotent stem cell derived from it, and a fertilised egg,” writes Savulescu.

    Probably because Savulescu is a logically sophomoric moral retard.

    What he’s saying is that if I deliberately deprive a creature from the enviroment conducive to its growth and survival, I am not morally accountable for its death. In fact, I do not have to wait for it to die, I can kill it with impunity.

    Its hard to imagine these arguments being compelling to someone who was not already convinced that embryos deserve no ethical consideration.

  48. MJ,

    When the day comes that cloning humans is possible, I wonder if Bailey will say that he is morally equivalent to the cells that wind up on his handkerchief when he blows his nose…since, with the proper treatment, they could become another one of him.

  49. MJ, crimethink,

    You really seem to have confused the set of potential humans with the set of actual humans.

    With apologies to Charles Babbage:
    “I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such an opinion.”

  50. I think the moral outrage for the anti-stem cell people needs to be placed with in vitro fertilization. If they are so against discarding embryos, then those are embryo discarding factories.

  51. jasa,

    A human embryo is a potential human adult, but it is an individual human, it cannot by definition be anything else.

    Appending “potential” is an exercise in thoughtless semantic sophistry.

  52. Obama’s poicy is ideologically driven in a really ungly way:

    “For this reason, the previous administration-you know, the divisive ideologues who hated science-issued executive order 13435 in 2007 that directed federal funding toward alternative, non-controversial human pluripotent stem cell research. Although some critics argued this action didn’t go far enough, and that further embryonic stem cell research should also be funded, no one could legitimately oppose the funding of this universally welcomed breakthrough.

    That brings us to the nasty, gratuitous, and nearly entirely unpublicized action President Obama took amidst the hoopla of overturning Bush’s policies. Right after he told the country he supported for alternative, non-destructive stem cell research, Obama signed the actual order. Buried at the very bottom of the document was this line: “Executive Order 13435?is revoked.” That’s right, he abolished President Bush’s funding for the type of stem cell research upon which everyone could agree. Just like that.

    In my August 2008 column, I speculated as to why then-State Senator Obama had repeatedly opposed no-brainer, pro-life legislation that passed the US Congress without a single dissenting vote. I wrote, “[One] possibility is that Obama’s a hyper-partisan ideologue. The driving forces behind the Born Alive Infant Protection Act were pro-life groups that generally support Republicans. Perhaps Obama’s fierce partisanship and leftist ideology were simply too strong for him to stomach handing any conservative group a political victory. If this is the case, his vote was petty and appallingly callous. It also would entirely undermine the overarching message of his famous 2004 DNC speech in which he decried blue vs. red state polarization and embraced America in with a big, royal purple hug of bipartisanship and inclusion.”

    In the face of yet another grotesque Obama policy decision on the issue of life, famed bioethicist Wesley J. Smith pondered a similar question. On his blog, he wondered why on earth Obama would take the totally unnecessary action he did in undoing excutive order 13435. Smith’s conclusion: “I can think of only two reasons for this action?First, vindictiveness against all things “Bush” or policies considered by the Left to be “pro life;” and second, a desire to get the public to see unborn human life as a mere corn crop ripe for the harvest. So much for taking the politics out of science.” – Guy Benson

  53. Appending “potential” is an exercise in thoughtless semantic sophistry.

    Bullshit. It makes sense to call an embryo “a human embryo” but it is nonsensical to call an an embryo “a human”. Humans have many well understood characteristics, one of which is sentience. You are attempting to conflate the two, which is indeed semantic sophistry. Likely not thoughtless, I think you are being intentionally disingenuous. Stop the bullshit.

  54. jasa,

    A human individual at the earliest stages of development is non-sentient, that does not make it non-human. The development of any complex animal is a continuum, but an embryo is as much a member of the species as an adult.

    When you say “…it is nonsensical to call an an embryo “a human””, you are leaving out a qualifier before “human”, such as “adult”, “adolescent” or “infant”. Only you do not seem to understand that you are leaving out a word.

    Sad, really.

  55. Or, less snarky, you are using a metaphysical definition of “human”, while I am using a mere biological definition. I do not think any more is needed to show that a human embryo derserves some ethical consideration.

  56. *** DO STEM CELL TREATMENTS WORK?
    http://www.repairstemcells.org…..100909.htm

    *** ARE STEM CELL TREATMENTS MERELY A PLACEBO EFFECT?
    http://www.repairstemcells.org…..102209.htm

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