Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Educate Yourself About Embryonic Stem Cell Research

California firm launches national campaign to preserve umbilical cord blood -

San Bruno, CA, Jun 5, 2007 / 12:30 pm (CNA).- The Cord Blood Registry, a blood bank in San Bruno, has launched a nationwide campaign to increase public awareness of cord-blood preservation.

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For example, a two-year-old boy recently received a transplant of his own cord blood stem cells to treat his type 1 diabetes.

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Treatment with cord-blood stem cells is more ethical than treatments derived from embryonic stem cells, which requires embryos to be killed in the process. Furthermore, no treatments have come as yet from embryonic stem cell research.
Just make sure you're ready to give a reason why embryonic stem cell research is immoral (not to mention ineffective) - in case you run into... you know culture of death politicians like Giuliani or Schwarzenegger.

11 comments:

Michael said...

Why is embryonic stem cell research immoral? I'm ready to be convinced. Although I'm an atheist I'm somewhat uneasy with some of the things science are doing, especially when it comes to genetic mutations.

But I haven't heard a good case against embryonic stem cell research being immoral.

It;'s not important for me to know the results of it, how it compares to other areas, what the Catholic Church say on the subject, I'm just really looking for a strong case.

I'd love to post on my blog that atheists can be against it on moral grounds, I just haven't seen a viable argument that would allow me to do so.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Well, when theists and atheists dialogue about morality, we're talking about two different things since a theist's definition of morality is something that an atheist could never agree to. To us, morality is a moral code given by the only One who would have the ability to do so - the Creator.

But just for the sake of the argument so we can have some sort of common ground, I'll just pretend like we're talking about the same thing.

Embryonic stem cell research is wrong because life has intrinsic value from conception to natural death. You have to draw the line. I'm sure you will agree that you and I have intrinsic value as adults. But what gives us value? Is it our ability to provide for others? I think you will say no. Even a mentally handicapped child who depends on others their entire life and will never truly contribute anything to anyone has intrinsic value... in fact, he / she has as much intrinsic value as anyone else.

So we agree that we have to draw the line somewhere. Now the question is, when do we go from being a lump of cell tissue, to having intrinsic value? Saying it is at the moment of birth is beyond ridiculous. But then when? And if we say an embryo is merely a lump of cells... well no offense, but so are you. I hope you see where I'm going with that.

Even the secular world recognizes intrinsic value of beings in early stages (just not humans). If you intentionally destroy the embryo or egg of an endangered species, you will be heavily fined or possibly jailed. But why? Why do we care if you destroy the bald eagle's egg? Are we concerned about the bald eagle embryo population? Of course not, we are concerned about the adult bald eagle - and that egg contains an eagle inside it. It's not a lump of tissues without any value.

It's even incorrect to say that it has value because of what it will become. It has value because of what it already is.

I don't really know how to approach this issue from an atheist standpoint. If I were an atheist, I wouldn't believe this to be immoral and I wouldn't care if I did. But that's just me.

You may find this article interesting though. It is a very well written piece (by an atheist who is pro abortion) on the subject of embryonic stem cell research.

Michael said...

I don't think theism or the lack of it need come into the discussion. I think it's really as much about ethics as morality (I do see those as two separate things).

But anyway, ignore that because we'll be arguing semantics for the rest of the day :)

"Embryonic stem cell research is wrong because life has intrinsic value from conception to natural death."

There are two issues I'm wrestling with here. The first is intrinsic value and the second is (if we agree that life has intrinsic value) then at what point do our lives become valuable?

Now I know I'm an atheist, but I'm being totally serious here and I'm not trying to trick you or play a game or win any kind of argument. I saw the topic and thought I might get some ideas off my chest. Please don't think that I'm trying to win anything here or disprove God's existence etc etc. I'm being open and honest.

With that in mind, here goes.

I saw a TV program a few weeks ago. This guy had a dead deer, took it into his restaurant and threw it on the side. He then got a big knife out and cut it up, throwing away anything he didn't like into a black bad for the trash.

I eat meat. I love meat. A nice steak is manner from heaven :)

But that TV program made me think for a moment. I felt really bad for this animal. The lack of respect shown was ridiculous. Horrific actually. There are animals on this planet with abilities and mind power beyond the hypothetical child you mentioned in your post. Even the humble pig is a very intelligent creature, it can show love, create communities, feel pain etc etc.

Now this is really an argument in favor of what you're saying. I believe that if we have intrinsic value, then so do those animals. You talked about life. These animals are alive. We again, can play semantics and talk about why we're different to animals but ultimately we are both alive.

You may agree with me.

I'm sitting here wondering whether I should become a vegetarian. Not because I dislike meat but because perhaps, I feel that animal life is as valuable as our own. Life is life after-all.

However there is something holding me back. that is, when does life become valuable and is all life valuable? Should we attribute value to life? If I'm going to eat meat then is it not hypocritical of me to attribute a level of value to myself and a lower level to another life form?

I'm not sure.

You ask, "But what gives us value? "

I might be inclined to answer that we are not valuable. We are merely a way of the human species to grow.

That sounds a bit harsh though, even for an atheist :)

But if I were to believe that we are valuable, then why not an animal?

The only way I could answer that is by saying that value comes from consciousness. There are of course varying degrees.

But you ask, where do you draw the line. What if I were to say 'we draw the line at the point at which an organism has the ability to think. (not feel pain because there are plenty of organisms that feel pain that we don't attribute value to)

So, the moment an organism is conscious and able to think, that's when it has value.

Now I don't know if I believe this, I'm not sure. It's one argument though.

I'm also not a big fan of abortion. I personally think that many Catholics are evil and disgusting humans with some of the dogmatic bile that comes out of their mouths when it comes to abortion but that's not to say that there isn't an argument for pro life. I think the argument is there or there abouts but the methods are despicable.

Sorry, rambling...

So, I'm not a big fan of abortion. But at what point is the ending of life acceptable? Take the morning after pill. that is taken after conception but is there any issue with this type of 'abortion'? I don't think so.

You may argue about the idea of potential life. Okay, I get that but I have a major issue with this. You are then only giving life value if it has the potential to succeed. That therefore isn't an argument against stem cell research because none of these cells would have ended up as lives.

It also brings up many philosophical problems. Masturbation is one. Every time a male masturbates, if we accept the 'life potential' argument, he is, in fact, committing genocide.

"Now the question is, when do we go from being a lump of cell tissue, to having intrinsic value? "

When we become conscious.

I may not believe that but let's say I do. What would your problem be with that argument?

Also, would you be able to answer that without referring to the potential of life? You can if you must but I'm interested if there are other arguments against it.

As I say, I'm just thinking out loud really and interested in what you think about it all!

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Michael - excellent questions - all very reasonable and well thought out. Everyone - regardless if you're a theist or not has to answer these questions.

About animals - I would say that animals do have intrinsic value - just much less than humans. I don't think the specific dividing line is intelligence though. I can't make a scientific argument for the intrinsic value here though, this is spiritual in nature to me. I cannot prove by science or maybe even philosophy that a human has more value than a snake.

Imagine the very plausible scenario of a severely handicapped human being versus an abnormally intelligent chimpanzee. Which one is more aware of its surroundings? Which one more intelligent? Which one more valuable? I think the argument from science cannot say "the human" - even if by 'the benefit of society' logically the mentally handicapped is not benefiting the human society at all and in fact hindering it - draining resources, not being productive. But I think we all know deep inside, that his/her life is intrinsically valuable - regardless of their intelligence level.

About animals, I am very sympathetic to vegetarians although I am not one. I think it is a disordered (though temporarily permissible act) to kill animals. That is why in the Judeo-Christian belief system, animal blood counts for something. Without getting too far down that road bc I know you're an atheist, I just wanted to mention that is what makes the ancient sacrifices meaningful - the fact that the animal lives did have intrinsic value.

On the subject of value being assigned by consciousness, that argument / theory is very reasonable but I think it leads us into two difficult scenarios:

1 Someone knocked out in a fight. He is unconscious though we still say he has intrinsic value. If we kill him while he's out cold, we still have to face the consequences. Ok - it's a little extreme, but why do we say he still has intrinsic value even though he is unconscious? Is it not because we have a very realistic expectation that he will regain consciousness at some point if not very soon? Then the same could be said of the embryo - even in its most primitive stage of development. We have a realistic expectation - in fact we have 100% confidence that (barring outside interference such as abortion or miscarriage) this (human) embryo will achieve consciousness. I don't think the fact that it has yet to experience consciousness can negate the argument.

2. The second scenario as you might have guessed is the very real possibility of an adult human that suffers some sickness or injury that (as far as we can tell) will deprive the human indefinitely of their consciousness. At this point do they lose their intrinsic value? I don't think we can say that - even if the doctors are 100% confident that they will never again be able to function.

Now as for the morning after pill - I don't know the exact degree of moral culpability in relation to that of abortion - but I can say this: contraceptive pills are literally poisonous pills that work to harm / damage natural reproductive abilities. The best scenario is when a pill works to prevent fertilization but they also work to destroy the lining of the uterus to the point where the fertilized egg is unable to implant itself. This is abortifacient (again, particularly due to ignorance, the moral culpability may very well be lesser than in cases of traditional abortion).

I understand your argument about masturbation, but it (along with condom use) is a completely different moral situation than abortion. Although the Church would call such acts sinful - they are certainly not abortifacient. We believe life (not the potential for life) starts at conception; no sooner and no later.

Like we both have already agreed, everyone has to draw the line somewhere. It's unintelligible to say life begins before conception. But after conception, the fierce debating begins. If we are to err, why not err on the side of life?

About embryonic stem cells - and their lack of potential to become adult humans, the scenario in which they lack potential was part of a deliberate human intervention which could rightly be labeled as part of the greater immorality. If natural order and (what Christians would call ethical practices) had been followed to begin with, these embryos would not be in a situation unable to achieve natural development.

This may be a bit extreme and not directly applicable, but consider the scenario where a prison guard loses his temper with a prisoner sentenced to die the following day and shoots him. Is the guard any less culpable for his actions knowing that the convict was going to be killed anyway?

This topic is extremely interesting though to discuss with an atheist. I have never put much thought into this angle of things but you bring up a lot of great questions.

Michael said...

Okay, a couple of questions.

First, on animals. Let's not use snake, let's use something more cuddly :) Why is a human life worth more than a dolphins? You can answer that spiritually if you like. I'm trying to get a grasp how this can be argued. As a Catholic, unlike, let's say a Baptist, you probably wouldn't argue that the Bible offers evidence to this effect. So what is the argument? You eat pork I assume, pigs are one of the most feeling species on the planet yet you value a pig's life so little that you eat for appetite as opposed to hunger.

I do the same but I'm having great difficulty justifying it. The more I think about it, the more I'm thinking I ought to be a vegetarian.

Second, intelligence. Perhaps intelligence is not a factor. But that leaves us another problem. There are many people that see life as life and will go out of their way to make sure they do not harm it. That goes for all life. Take the Jain religion. Do you swat a fly? Or Kill a bee if you're scared of it? Or a big spider? They may not be intelligent but they do constitute life and, in fact, are not so different in terms of cells than stem cells.

Three. Consciousness.

"Someone knocked out in a fight. He is unconscious though we still say he has intrinsic value."

No, that's not consciousness. It's not an analogy worth using.

But....

"The second scenario as you might have guessed is the very real possibility of an adult human that suffers some sickness or injury that (as far as we can tell) will deprive the human indefinitely of their consciousness. At this point do they lose their intrinsic value? I don't think we can say that - even if the doctors are 100% confident that they will never again be able to function. '

Yes, there's a problem there. But let's say I were to continue arguing this. What is so different between me taking this stance and you taking yours that the moment of conception is where we draw the line? Both are arbitrary. You might say I draw the line a little late but I could say that you draw it too early. After all, why stop at conception? There's no real reason to do so. Why not go back a step further? After all, God is in control and he knows if a sperm will result in life. It's pre-determined. If we have 1000 conceptions, how may of those turn into a child? Going by your belief system, God decides what's life not us. So, why not go one step further?

Fourth

"Now as for the morning after pill - I don't know the exact degree of moral culpability in relation to that of abortion - but I can say this: contraceptive pills are literally poisonous pills that work to harm / damage natural reproductive abilities."

Well some say using Wi Fi might do the same thing. What if this were proven? But let's skip this one :)

Fifth:

"I understand your argument about masturbation, but it (along with condom use) is a completely different moral situation than abortion. Although the Church would call such acts sinful - they are certainly not abortifacient. We believe life (not the potential for life) starts at conception; no sooner and no later. "

Why? Using a condom, to all intents and purposes is abortion. As is masturbation.

Sixth:

"Like we both have already agreed, everyone has to draw the line somewhere. It's unintelligible to say life begins before conception."

No, perhaps it doesn't begin but the potential is there. In fact, if you go back to my God argument, life does begin before conception. Because he decides which sperm become children. Or do you not believe that?

Seventh:

"About embryonic stem cells - and their lack of potential to become adult humans, the scenario in which they lack potential was part of a deliberate human intervention"

A bit like condoms?

Sorry, that was more than a couple of points :)

Michael said...

BTW, I saw your post about whether or not a case can be made against embryonic stem cell research from an atheistic stand point with regards to this discussion. You ended with the words 'as well'.

.....

:)

I would like to say that I'm unsure whether there's a theist case against SCR. Possibly there is but if you want my honest opinion, if we, you, I, could find a case without invoking God, you would, IMO, have a much stronger case than you do now. (again, if you really have one at all) ;)

Take the idea about, I don't know, let's say condom use. The idea that it is somehow immoral and against God's will is a very very very weak argument. It may be right, I'm not judging it on whether it's correct, but philosophically, scientifically and sociologically it's really not one a reasonable person would pursue.

But, there are fantastic arguments in defense of the Catholic Church's stance. They are just never used. Give it 5 years and the Catholic Church will have changed it's stance. 10 at the most. If they argued it correctly and put the funds in the right place then they would be fine.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Actually I don't eat pork (but not because they're smart or have feelings).

"No, that's not consciousness. It's not an analogy worth using."

I disagree here - I think the analogy is perfectly applicable. We'll have to agree to disagree unless you have a reason why it's not applicable.

"Going by your belief system, God decides what's life not us. So, why not go one step further?"

Same reason why it's wrong to murder - life belongs to God not to us, it is not our right to take it.

"Why? Using a condom, to all intents and purposes is abortion. As is masturbation."

If you can't discern a difference between a sperm and an embryo then our differences are of scientific rather than moral nature.

"Because he decides which sperm become children. Or do you not believe that?"

We're getting into philosophy and determinism here, let's keep it simple.

"About embryonic stem cells - and their lack of potential to become adult humans, the scenario in which they lack potential was part of a deliberate human intervention"

"A bit like condoms?"

- Yes and both are wrong.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

"Give it 5 years and the Catholic Church will have changed it's stance. 10 at the most"

Michael, I admire your willingness to dialogue with a Catholic but your comment shows a very limited understanding of how the Church works. The Catholic Church is not just one denomination among many and she will not change her stance on contraception or the sanctity of life from conception until natural death ever. Although all other Christian sects have done so since 1930 when the Anglicans became the first, the Catholic Church will not.

Michael said...

Okay, let's change the word stance for policy.

Anyway, that's a red herring.

Let's get on with the interesting stuff!

Michael said...

"Same reason why it's wrong to murder - life belongs to God not to us, it is not our right to take it."

Ah, but in terms of stem cell research, we're taking taking it, we're preventing it. Which leads to an interesting philosophical discussion. Do you see where I'm going with this? :) Can we prevent life that God has deemed will exist? Anyway, you then go on to say:

"If you can't discern a difference between a sperm and an embryo then our differences are of scientific rather than moral nature."

Of course I can, but the comment was relevant to the discussion. If we're talking about potential life then a sperm can be classified as such, no?

"A bit like condoms?"

- Yes and both are wrong."

Related to my comment above.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Like I said about Embryos:

"It's even incorrect to say that it has value because of what it will become. It has value because of what it already is. "

An embryo is a fertilized egg - it's a human being in it's earliest form of development. Again - we have to draw the line somewhere, is it at 2 months? 3 months? After birth? Even at 15 years old the body is not fully developed.

You said the line is at consciousness. I gave reasons why I rejected that. You disagreed. Now we've circled back to "is the embryo a life or just potential life" again.

I think the whole determinism angle on things is a completely different discussion.