Wednesday, November 28, 2007

GREAT NEWS! An Ethical Solution Found to the Stem Cell Problem

From "Brave New Future" an NRO Symposium, posted 11/21/07

A week ago, two scientific journals announced news of a breakthrough that could put an end to our dead-end political debates about stem-cell research. Scientists for the first time have turned ordinary skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells -- without having to use human eggs or make new human embryos in the process.

In response to the news, National Review Online asked a group of experts: How big is Tuesday’s new somatic-cell reprogramming news? Where does the stem-cell/cloning debate go from here? How should politics respond? Here’s what they had to say:

Peter Augustine Lawler
We’re clearly on the verge of developing one or more ways of readily acquiring pluripotent stem cells without having to destroy embryos. We can marvel that there is a technical solution to a moral problem, until we remember that the problem was the product of a very specific stage in scientific or technological progress. Even before the most recent breakthroughs, there was no reason not to expect such a solution.

This solution should be welcome news to all Americans. Fair-minded Americans see the nobility in both sides of our moral division over the destruction of embryos. Those who defend the embryo and those who promoted the unlimited progress of medical science both mean to serve human life, and it serves no one to believe that science — especially medical science — and morality are fundamentally opposed to each other. For our scientists, the moral resistance to the destruction of embryos — which they usually regard as nonsense-has gotten in the way of public funding for their research, not to mention grateful public acceptance of the beneficial results of their work.

Those who have resolutely defended the moral status of even early-term embryos have the most reason to cheer this latest episode of scientific progress. Their position would have probably become politically untenable had it turned out that the destruction of embryos is indispensable for the progress of regenerative medicine. But it turns out that it wasn’t only right — it was prudent — for them to hold out.

— Peter Augustine Lawler is Dana Professor of Government at Berry College and a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics.

Read other opinions.

Bioethicist Wes Smith isn't nearly as optimistic about the reception of this fantastic news by embryonic stem cell advocates. Here's what he has to say:

If anyone thought that the pro human cloners would fold up their tents and steal away after the news was released that patient-specific, pluripotent stem cells had been derived from normal skin cells, they just didn't understand how fervently some scientists and their camp followers want to clone human life--and how hopeful some are that the stem cell issue can be the vehicle that wins the culture war. Case in point: Science Live's Christopher Wanjek. who bemoans the breakthrough because it could "stifle" science.
Read the rest of "Lead Into Gold:" Stem cell Counter Attack"

Given what God tells us about human nature, I suspect Wes is right.