Thursday, July 20, 2006

The slippery slope

In the debate over the President's impending veto of legislation that would greatly expand stem-cell research, many of the proponents of the legislation on both the left and the right (and there are many on the right) have failed to address a critical question:

What about the slippery slope?

I wouldn't expect certain people on the Left to care, since they seem to be fixated on the idea that aborticide is just fine. However, there is a distinct possibility that at some point in the future, we could farm embryos to harvest these stem cells from. I am very aware that the Senate also passed legislation that prevents embryo farming, but I am deathly afraid that we are going down a long slippery slope that has profound ethical implications for the future. I wouldn't for a single minute want to deprive anyone of a cure for cancer, Alzheimers, Parkinson's disease, or one of the many diseases or illnesses that it is believed embryonic stem cells could cure. Beyond the fact, however, that the effects of embryonic stem cells have yet to be proven to cure these diseases, even if stem cells could yield many cures, do the ends justify the means?

The idea that we are creating babies in test tubes at all and then playing God by using the bodies of the test tube babies for our own ends reminds me of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-8:

And the earth was of one tongue, and of the same speech. And when they removed from the east, they found a plain in the land of Sennaar, and dwelt in it. And each one said to his neighbour: Come, let us make brick, and bake them with fire. And they had brick instead of stones, and slime instead of mortar. And they said: Come, let us make a city and a tower, the top whereof may reach to heaven: and let us make our name famous before we be scattered abroad into all lands. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of Adam were building.

And he said: Behold, it is one people, and all have one tongue: and they have begun to do this, neither will they leave off from their designs, till they accomplish them in deed. Come ye, therefore, let us go down, and there confound their tongue, that they may not understand one another's speech. And so the Lord scattered them from that place into all lands, and they ceased to build the city.

The Lord did this because mankind believed that he could reach to Heaven and gain an equivalency with God, the moral of the story being that we as human beings should never assume that we can or should do things that ought to be within the realm of God alone. Likewise, I am forced to wonder if many in the scientific community who advocate this sort of research are viewing the world through the prism of atheism or agnosticism where they might not see the inherent dangers of playing God.

The stem-cell research debate is not as clear-cut politically as abortion itself. There are a lot of good people (Congressman Jimmy Duncan or Nancy Reagan for example) who view this as an opportunity to bring some good out of something that is otherwise a great evil. I fear, however, that in our attempt to do something wonderful in finding cures for these many diseases, we as a society will lose sight of the reality that these tiny babies are human beings, indeed so many others have lost sight of that fact already. We will take for granted that these unborn children are there to be used and disgarded by us and for our purposes, rather than recognizing that they are a human being and that-tube or no tube-they are made in the image of God.

I fear that the day may come that we are headed to the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre of Brave New World fame (after all, the World State could conceivably exist in some form). If you think that could never happen, recall that many things have happened that many people said could "never happen" when something was started to bring some good out of something otherwise bad.

Careful of the slippery slope.


At Wednesday, July 19, 2006 6:27:00 PM, Blogger Steve Mule said...

Thye embryo's already exist. They were produced to facilitate in-vitro fertilization. If they are not used for this research they simply be thawed out and discarded as bio-medical waste.
No research to even answer the question of IF stem cells can be used to cure anything just bio-medical waste, what a waste.
Bush is simply pandering to his hardcore Christian base which is about the only support he has left.


At Thursday, July 20, 2006 12:51:00 AM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

The3 point is, Steve-where is this leading-what could it lead to? I am not comfortable with the possible future implications here.

At Tuesday, July 25, 2006 1:28:00 PM, Blogger Matt Daley said...

David, you are entirely correct.

It's not necessarily the inherent idea (or the intentions) that are bad, it's the execution of the idea...which means we use to arrive at our goal.

The problem here is that research proponents want to do this without having the ethical debate first, much the same as what happened with abortion. The SCotUS forced aborticide upon us and figured society could hash the ethics of it out later. And we've seen what's been wrought from THAT decision.

The ethical debate surrounding this type of research is incredibly important, for the reasons you have spelled out here, David. Take this question for example...

Let's say it is discovered that certain types of cells in the human body (be it adults or children, your choice for this hypothetical) could possibly help cure diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's, etc. Let's also say that the harvesting of these cells would cause the donor to die or live a very poor quality of life.

Would current research proponents find it to be acceptable to force people to become donors in such a situation, against their will, for the betterment of science and humanity as a whole?

This type of question is what David is talking about. And while I imagine that very few (if any) current research proponents would answer "yes" to the above question...I can imagine that such an idea could gain future acceptance.

Good intentions are only as good as the methods used to arrive at the desired goal.



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