Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Monster Farming - The creepy solution to the stem-cell debate

Slate's William Saletan describes in this article how some conservatives on the President's Council on Bioethics are celebrating a possible method of harvesting embryonic stem cells without destroying a human embryo.

The solution: disrupt mother nature's controls during the pre-embryonic stage such that the embryo has no hope of ever developing into a human being. Rather than dividing and organizing itself into an organism (that word is quite apropos), it would develop specialized cells haphazardly and randomly - forming teeth where the brain stem should be, growing an arm where a liver should be, etc., etc. The result would be a meaningless heap of ill-formed parts. A monster, as Saletan puts it.

In reality this embryo-gone-wrong would never develop beyond a tiny clump of cells. Before specialization could occur the stem cells would be harvested for research purposes.

The conservatives relish the idea: no viable human embryo - and therefore, by their definition, no human life - would have been destroyed. I'm not religious nor conservative by any means, but even I question if it's appropriate to satisfy God by short-circuiting Him.

I once heard a fable about Buddhist monks who believed it was wrong to even pick a piece of fruit off a tree to eat for their own selfish gain. But if that fruit were already lying on the ground, it was fair game. The monks' solution then was to have one shake the tree while the other consumed the now-fallen fruit. The tree-shaker had no intention of eating the fruit while the fruit-eater merely found that fruit on the ground. Both were morally satisfied by the result.

The letter of their belief was followed, but the spirit of it was not.

Same goes here. I don't believe that life begins at conception (a clump of cells is just a clump of cells) but I do think it's inherently creepy to breed monster embryos.

Anyone see Alien Resurrection? Shudder.


Post a Comment

<< Home