Don’t Think Just Because the Stem Cell Thing Was Resolved I Don’t Still Hate You

By John Bloom | 12/04/2007

What was that sound last week when the Great Stem Cell Debate of the 21st Century fizzled into nothing?

It certainly wasn’t very noisy. It wasn’t people celebrating the fact that we now have one less thing to fight about. In fact it almost seemed like the opposite. It was the murmuring anger of the schoolyard brawler who has no reason to scuffle anymore and yet still stalks the quad with his fists clenched and the vein standing out in his neck.

You would think that perhaps we had come to one of those rare moments when two great armies could put down their weapons and shake hands. Research out of the Far East reveals that—hallelujah!—we don’t need embryonic stem cells after all. Plain old skin cells can be used to accomplish the same purpose. Whew! Battle concluded. Everyone gets what they wanted. Research will be sanctioned. Embryos will be undisturbed. Diseases will be cured.

So why does it feel so tense in the room? Why is nobody using the term win-win? The New York Times felt so compelled to make it clear that President Bush is still an idiot that it devoted a long editorial to explaining how his “moral stance” on the stem cell issue was not moral at all and any claims that he contributed to the new research are “far-fetched.” On the other side we have Embryo Worshippers invoking the Almighty, claiming victory over a scientific elite that would have raged like serial killers through the deep freezes of fertility clinics worldwide had the faithful not stood firm.

The fact of the matter is that most people—I would say 98 percent of us—were always somewhere in the middle on this issue. You don’t have to be a froth-mouth inerrantist from Cahokia to imagine that monkeying around with a three-day-old blastocyst—available only from a woman’s fertilized egg—might result in a science fiction plot. The guy who discovered stem cell research said as much—something to the effect of “it would be strange if you weren’t a little bothered by this.”

On the other hand, it seems a crime not to use the embryos at all, if the result of the research might be cures for quadriplegia (we know this because John Edwards told us, “If John Kerry is elected, Christopher Reeve will walk again”), or cancer, or Alzheimer’s disease.

Given this quandary, a reasonable person might say, “Okay, let’s do it, but let’s go slow and let’s be careful.”

This is what President Bush did in August of 2001. He tried to compromise. He didn’t ban the research, but he didn’t authorize it for any stem-cell lines that had yet to be created. He was essentially preventing any profit-seeking entity from creating embryonic stem-cell lines specifically for this purpose. Regardless of whether you believe that a 150-cell embryo is or is not a human being, that seems a way out, especially since scientists confirmed that they did have enough cells to work with.

Conservatives and liberals were both disappointed by that decision. But over the past six years, new stem-cell research facilities have sprung up all over the lot, and in some cases they’ve been sponsored by states instead of the federal government. (California’s project is especially ambitious.) So the work went on, and now the work has been made just a little bit easier.

Shouldn’t we all have a glass of champagne? Or at least half the room have champagne and the other half apple juice? Shouldn’t somebody say, “Yeah, that book I wrote in 2005 maybe overstated the case a little bit”? “Yeah, that speech I made at the National Press Club—whoo boy, what was I thinking?”


You guys are unbelievable.


brian586 | 01:01 pm on 12/04/2007

See this WaPost article for a nice discussion of the issue.

Bush still set US research back by his ban, and while the Kyoto team's research is promising, there is a long way to go from bench to bedside.

Andrea | 07:06 pm on 12/04/2007

Apparently some people don't know when enough is enough. Bush bashing is sooo much fun, regardless of its veracity. Let's see: How many actual cures from embryonic stem cell research are being used at the bedside??? The last line in the article sums it up wonderfully--You guys are unbelievable. Thank you for a great piece.

Blair | 01:23 pm on 12/05/2007

It is very unfair to judge new science based on how quickly it becomes "bed-side". If that were the case we wouldn't have antibiotics or vaccines, let alone transplants or even angioplasties.

Steve | 08:33 am on 12/05/2007

The funniest thing about this article is the immediate reply with a Bush bash. Brian586, you made my day.

I am half suspicious that the author included it at the end of the article as a joke.


brian586 | 04:42 pm on 12/05/2007

Bush put a ban on stem cell research, limiting it to the few established lines already created. This results in stifling progress on embryonic stem cell research. Please explain to me how pointing out a fact is a Bush bash? Turn down your Bush Derangement Syndrome Sensitivity Meter, mkay?

Teddy Bear | 01:57 pm on 12/05/2007

When sperm meets ova, god gives it a soul. How stupid!
God performs an abortion in Hosea Chapter 9.

Mark | 10:40 pm on 12/05/2007

I am sorry that you such clouded sentiment toward the blessing of children, but could you be more specific on your calling our of scripture? Are you referring to v. 14? Explain how you see God, performing an abortion.

Teddy Bear Mohammed | 02:05 pm on 12/07/2007

God terminates a pregency at the request of Hosea (aren't there better things to pray for?). To terminate a pregency is an abortion.
And how many babies do god drown during the flood?

Mark | 11:14 pm on 12/10/2007

First, it would appear that you are defeating your argument with your scriptural reference. In order for you to say that God performs an abortion, you are beginning to argue that there is life within the mother. That aside, the scripture that you are referring to is Old Testament, a time that God was active in his wrath. As you recall the flood was to destroy a wicked human race, having favor on Noah for his faithfulness and devotion. As for children being killed in the flood, an understanding of original sin will assist with the comprehension.
As for Hosea, one must read chapter 9 in context. Hosea saw the failure to acknowledge God as Israel's basic problem. Disloyalty to God was spiritual adultery. They had turned to Baal worship and had sacrificed at the pagan high places, which included associating with the sacred prostitutes at the sanctuaries and worshiping the calf image at Samaria. Thus there is the resulting prophesy of judgment, nothing new in the Old Testament.

Siarlys Jenkins | 04:15 pm on 12/08/2007

I love children. I spend as much time nurturing and teaching and playing and showing them around as possible. Anyone's children. Traditionally, there were plenty of children around for each adult. The fact that I have had none of my own doesn't really matter. Today, there are more children than there are sufficient adults to really bring them up in the way they should go. On the other hand, if a pregnant woman is not going to raise children in a halfway decent way, if she doesn't want to face it, I would just as soon that she had an abortion, as early as possible. The women most likely to get abortions are the ones most likely to inflict a terrible childhood upon their baby. Oh, and the women most likely to campaign to overturn Roe v. Wade are probably doing wonderfully by their children. Keep it up ladies. Just don't make it The Law. Frozen embryos? Most of them ARE going to be destroyed eventually. I have no problem with using them for research. God knows what is going to happen to them, perhaps he reserves souls for those who are going to be implanted and carried to term.

Doug | 07:34 pm on 12/07/2007

Yes, but after all, he is God. How about Romans 9:13, skippy?

The Untouchable | 10:45 pm on 12/05/2007

Okay.How Is This Supposed To Help Me??

DocKnowles | 02:35 pm on 12/06/2007

I was totally with you until you got GW involved. PLUEEEZE! When he's gone, maybe there can be some legitimate and conservative comprimise on the issue. Research can never be a problem. It's what is done WITH the research that gets stupid. Georgie should have kept his mouth shut.

Doug | 07:43 pm on 12/07/2007

911 to the cult police...Bush is not the answer to every negative question you have. The bunch who loathed Clinton and blamed everything on him was ridiculed by the same group that now returns the favor to Bush. Can we all at least admit that our executive branch bears nothing remotely close to the power we like to imagine (and please save your posts giving me all the examples of how I'm wrong here; keep reading and you'll get the point). If the disciples of Jesus on either side of the political aisle would spend so much as one tenth the energy on actually getting the whole hands and feet thing right as we do bitching about politics, perhaps the world wouldn't believe so poorly about us and our professed savior. I know, I used to be one (albeit on the other side of the aisle) and frankly, I'm sick not only of the whole lot of them, but taking a page from Jesus' playbook, I'm ready to simply ignore them in favor of things that actually matter.

Nate | 02:25 am on 12/17/2007

I would encourage any of you actually interested in getting a good ethical understanding of the Christian position on abortion and biomedical ethical issues to read the relating section in Norman Geisler's "Christian Ethics."

Just a couple of quick pointers from Geisler that I've learned:
It is a time tested logical fallacy that "Because something is going on means that it is OK" (female genital mutilation is the norm in some societies but that doesn't make it OK).

Also, "Because we can do something means that we should" (Think about Nazi human experiments on Jews--they could do it but doesn't make it right).

Additionally, the ethical system of thought represented above by certain comments is called Utilitarianism--"That which promotes the greatest good should be done." This ethical system seems to be legitimate until you run into real life problems. In real life the 'ends do not justify the means.' The means are justified only by the standard which has been established to judge human action. Those who live Biblically are called to a Deontological ethical system by which they are required to live up to a standard--obviously Scripture. This system is called Graded Absolutism and is too complex to finish here. Read the book.

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