Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Stem-Cell “Quandry”

I was made aware of Michael Kinsley’s Daily Beast piece about Obama’s decision to end the government ban on stem-cell research, and a report about British and Canadian scientists having come up with a method for harvesting stem-cells without killing an embryo, through a post by Ross Douthat at The Atlantic. I wanted to put my two-cents worth into the discussion. (Not that they will ever be aware of this post, but never mind…)

On the whole I am in agreement with Kinsley, in that when it comes to stem-cells, “There is only the appearance of an ethical quandary, created by people who either don't understand or willfully misrepresent the facts.” I think Kinsley is also right to point out that conservative positions on the issue are somewhat hypocritical: “Your actions are too different from your words.” His argument then becomes a little… odd:

“You are doing absolutely nothing about the millions of fertilized eggs that are destroyed naturally every year (in miscarriages so early that the potential mother is not even aware of them), or the thousands that are produced and unused by fertility clinics going about their normal work (which are either discarded or pointlessly frozen in the hope of some miraculous ethical breakthrough).”

Now, while I think the second half of that argument (about the discarded fertilized eggs) is a valid point (and one that crops up in Season 6 of The West Wing, incidentally), his remarks about miscarriages is simply bizarre, and weakens his entire position; by adding a comment like this, he renders much of what follows useless by touching on the improbable idea that anyone would ever prosecute or become morally outraged at a mother for suffering a miscarriage – Douthat: “I will pass over his line about miscarriages, which seems to imply that a ‘serious’ pro-life movement would be trying to pass laws against accidental deaths.” This detracts from the fact that Kinsley’s discussing an scientific advance that shouldn’t be objectionable to rabid pro-lifers (not killing the embryo), but instead this remark receives the attention.

This was a disappointing inclusion by Kinsley, whose writing I have followed for quite some time, and who I usually agree with almost completely. The rest of the article’s very good, though. Given his suffering from Parkinson’s, it is understandable that he is an enthusiastic supporter of stem-cell research. His conclusion is good:

“The essence of today’s report is that scientists have found some incredibly complicated way to create—someday, maybe even soon—a valuable research tool that already exists by the thousands and has for years. Some people think we should have been using it for years, while others say they think using it would be immoral, but can’t give a coherent reason.”

Anyway, that’s my take on the article.

1 comment:

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