Monday, March 9, 2009

Stem Cell Research: Change Some of Us Won't Live With

No question about it: 'Boldly rejecting the trammeling shibboleths of outmoded ideologies, the American President has pledged to lift a ban imposed by his diabolical predecessor. As a result of this new, enlightened, policy, beneficial research will thrive at last, jobs will be created, and, stock prices will soar.'

Sure, babies get whacked in the process: but they'd just soil their diapers, anyway.

President Barack Obama lifted the Bush administration's ban on embryonic stem cell research. Think I'm exaggerating the response? Take a look at today's news:
  • "WASHINGTON — Pledging that his administration will 'make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology,' President Obama on Monday lifted the Bush administration's strict limits on human embryonic stem cell research...." (The New York Times)
  • "President's executive order will allow US human embryonic stem-cell research to thrive at last...." (
  • "NEW YORK (AP) — Shares of stem-cell therapy developers continued gaining ground Monday after President Obama said he would overturn restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research...." (AP)
  • "This afternoon the University of Michigan is poised to announce plans to invest in 'major embryonic stem cell research projects' after Michigan voters in November repealed the state's ban on research that results in the destruction of embryos...."
    (Ann Arbor Business Review)
The only thing I added was the adjective diabolical: and that's from my experiences in online discussions. And reading op-ed pieces, for that matter. As for media response to Obama's decision, all I did was turn up the rhetorical volume a little.

Embryonic Stem Cell Ban: Reality Check

Those news items didn't lie: the Bush administration did place restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. A rather less breathless article started this way:

"WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Obama signed an executive order Monday repealing a Bush-era policy that limited federal tax dollars for embryonic stem cell research.

"Obama's move overturns an order signed by President Bush in 2001 that barred the National Institutes of Health from funding research on embryonic stem cells beyond using 60 cell lines that existed at that time...." (CNN) [emphasis mine]

That was then. Now, scientists can chop up new babies for research.

This is About Human Life, Not Politics

Even if embryonic stem cells were a panacea, someone would have to be killed each time a 'therapeutic treatment' was administered.

Since I take Catholic teachings seriously, I think that human beings are human beings: even if they're not old enough to vote, or don't look good enough to walk down the red carpet at the Oscars. I even give a rip about babies who aren't ready to breathe air yet.

The big problem with embryonic stem cell research is that you need embryonic stem cells. The easiest way to get those is to cut up embryos. Sounds innocent, doesn't it? Sort of scientific, too. All you have to do is forget that the embryo you just sliced and diced would have grown up into someone who is more obviously "human:" if he or she hadn't been killed.

Experimenting on human beings isn't anything new. European nations and America had quite a fit of righteous indignation over medical experiments conducted back in the early 1940s. German scientists were involved, and Germany had just lost a war.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not making excuses for the Nazi high command and the likes of Dr. Sigmund Rascher. I am recalling what a wise man wrote: "What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun." (Eccl 1:9)

It's well to remember that, although technologies change, people have been people at least since we started keeping records. And, sometimes we do things that are evil.

The Humanity! What About All Those Benefits of Embryonic Stem Cell Research?!

I agree: medical research can be very helpful. I prefer that the good doctors not torture people or chop up babies while being compassionate, though.

It's been years since British and Texan researchers "produced large amounts of embryoniclike stem cells from umbilical cord blood...." (USCCB) If you didn't know about that, I'm not surprised: it hasn't exactly been a big news item.

If You Liked "The Mutant Chronicles" - - -

One of the advantages of embryonic stem cells is that they can grow into any sort of cell: bone, liver, cancer, you name it. That's a little problem that 'stem cell therapy' has. The risk isn't so much what "The Mutant Chronicles" is about: it's getting cancer, or having brain cells growing the wrong way.

It seems to be a bit safer, using adult stem cells (yes, they exist - and you don't have to kill the adults). As Tulane scientist Brian Butcher (in this context, what a name!) said, "we think there are advantages to using adult stem cells." (USCCB)

Why Use Embryonic Stem Cells?

For one thing, there are lots of dead babies left over after a busy day at every abortion clinic: so why not use them?

Besides, I have a notion that hyping embryonic stem cell research may be a way of legitimizing a "woman's right to choose." Something along the lines of 'how can you be against abortion? Where will we get all those embryonic stem cells for medical research?

Facts, Ideologies, and Human Lives

In public debate, an "ideology" is what someone else has. Some more formal definitions are:
  • Political orientation, ideology, political theory
    • An orientation that characterizes the thinking of a group or nation
  • Imaginary or visionary theorization
    (Princeton's WordNet)
Catholic teachings are "an orientation that characterizes the thinking of a group..." so I am being ideological in my assertion that it's not nice to chop babies up into little tiny pieces. Being "ideological" that way is something I can live with.

Although it's a debated point, I think that non-WASPs, non-Aryans, and babies are as human as anyone else.

That being the case, I can't, as a practicing Catholic, support genocide, abortion, or the sort of embryonic stem cell research that the president okayed today.

That doesn't mean that I don't care about people, or medical research. I'm in the same boat with American bishops who wrote:

"The Catholic Church 'appreciates and encourages the progress of the biomedical sciences which open up unprecedented therapeutic prospects' (Pope Benedict XVI, Address of January 31, 2008). At the same time, it affirms that true service to humanity begins with respect for each and every human life...." (USCCB)

I just don't think therapy should involve chopping up babies.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.