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Embryonic Stem Cell Research

pudge (3605) writes | more than 8 years ago

United States 32

The most common argument I hear against those who oppose embryonic stem cell research is one that is, to me, completely vapid. It basically goes, "we could save a lot of people with this research, so therefore we should do it."

The most common argument I hear against those who oppose embryonic stem cell research is one that is, to me, completely vapid. It basically goes, "we could save a lot of people with this research, so therefore we should do it."

This argument makes one of two assumptions, as best I can tell. It could be assuming that the embryonic life (and it is a unique human life, biologically speaking; this is a scientific fact not seriously questioned) is not a life that deserves any protection at all. This is, of course, classic question-begging: this is the very crux of the issue, and so assuming it is nonsensical.

The other possible assumption -- sometimes stated explicitly -- is that even if these are lives, it is acceptable to kill them, because other lives are worth more. Humanity has gone down this path before, and I refuse to. It's anathema. And its atrocity is compounded by the fact that it's the government choosing which lives are more valuable.

So please, save your breath. Don't say "we should do this because good may result." (And worse, don't tell me that good will result, because no one can know that.) If you want to convince me, you cannot possibly do so by telling me the potential benefits; you can only do so by convincing me that no human life is being intentionally killed for the sake of research. I don't care if you convince me that we will cure AIDS and cancer tomorrow by killing off a few dozen embryos today, I will oppose it, if I believe, as I do now (because how could I not?), that those are human lives. Period, end of story.

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they will be destroyed anyway... (1)

WGFELyL5 (989566) | more than 8 years ago | (#15746192)

The one I hear most commonly is that there are a lot of left over embryos [wikipedia.org] not used for each In Vitro Fertilization, and they will be destroyed anyway. So why not use them for the good of science?

Re:they will be destroyed anyway... (1)

pudge (3605) | more than 8 years ago | (#15746297)

Another nonsensical thing to say. Since all people are going to die anyway, why not use any of them for research?

Re:they will be destroyed anyway... (1)

SiliconJesus (1407) | more than 8 years ago | (#15747990)

The more logical thing to do is ban Fertility Clinics. If people cannot get pregnant on their own, without the assistance of Doctors, then obviously God didn't want them to have children, and they should live their lives like that. As a matter of fact, since God has so clearly spoken, they shouldn't be allowed to adopt either (that will help keep those pesky fags from adopting kids and turnin' em too!).

*Disclaimer: This entry is at least partially in jest. The writer of this snippet is using a literary tool called sarcasm. If you don't get it, you don't get it.

Re:they will be destroyed anyway... (1)

Bill Dog (726542) | more than 8 years ago | (#15746574)

Couldn't the same argument be used for conducting fatal experimentation on our death row inmate population? They're scheduled for destruction anyways, why not use them for the good of science?

Re:they will be destroyed anyway... (1)

Zeriel (670422) | more than 8 years ago | (#15749261)

Yes and no. An inmate has a chance of exoneration or appeal or commutation of sentence, while a frozen leftover embryo has only two choices--dumpster or research lab.

The situations aren't similar enough to constitute the start of a slippery slope, IMO.

In my opinion, refuting this to my satisfaction will involve pointing out other alternative paths that said embryos can take.

Re:they will be destroyed anyway... (1)

Jaguar777 (189036) | more than 8 years ago | (#15750314)

In my opinion, refuting this to my satisfaction will involve pointing out other alternative paths that said embryos can take.

An alternative path would be embryo adoption.
AKA Snowflake Babies [wthr.com]

It is interesting to think about. If (as an embryo) he would have been sent to an ESC lab Braden Robinson wouldn't exist today. I am a little biased since I am adopted also, and if my biological mother would have decided to have an abortion instead of giving me up for adoption I wouldn't be around either.

Re:they will be destroyed anyway... (1)

pudge (3605) | more than 8 years ago | (#15750379)

Sorry, I am not buying "it is going to die anyway, so it is OK to kill it." Does no compute.

Re:they will be destroyed anyway... (1)

Zeriel (670422) | more than 8 years ago | (#15756146)

That's more or less a question of values for me--I see options of "it's effectively dead, we can (do something useful) or (let it die)." For me it boils down to minimizing harm--and from that standpoint, if I'm going to throw it away, I might as well get some use out of it first. Then again, I also plan to devote my corpse to science and organ donate, and I also don't believe there's fundamentally anything sacred about human life, per se--just human consciousness. (which, incidentally, is how I justify allowing experimentation on frozen, slated-for-destruction embryos and not, say, death row inmates or terminally ill patients) Different premises and such.

I am interested in this embryo adoption stuff that my other respondent posted about, because that (and changing the IVF/infertility processes to produce fewer viable non-used embryos) seems to me to be the "best" solution.

Aside from the issue that you and I agree on in the first place, which is that federal money really should be going to fewer things in general.

Do you oppose fertility treatment? (1)

sulli (195030) | more than 8 years ago | (#15746214)

You should, if you feel that way about embryos. Bush on the other hand is a flaming hypocrite unless he pushes for legislation to ban it.

Re:Do you oppose fertility treatment? (1)

pudge (3605) | more than 8 years ago | (#15746332)

You should, if you feel that way about embryos.

It's different. Look at what I wrote. There's a difference between intentionally killing something, and what happens in fertility treatments, where some embryos inevitably die, but are not intentionally killed.

That said, I do find the practice, to be polite, distasteful.

This appears to me to be the inverse of the slippery slope argument, and it's no better than the slippery slope argument itself is. I could say "I oppose fertility treatments because they might lead to research on embryos," and would be rightly criticized for such a sloppy argument, but it isn't significantly different from saying "if you oppose embryonic research, you should oppose fertility research."

Bush on the other hand is a flaming hypocrite unless he pushes for legislation to ban it.

That makes no sense to me, at all. What did he ever say that implies he should, to be consistent, try to prevent private people from doing it, especially when there is zero chance of success in the attempt?

Re:Do you oppose fertility treatment? (1)

sulli (195030) | more than 8 years ago | (#15746543)

There's a difference between intentionally killing something, and what happens in fertility treatments, where some embryos inevitably die, but are not intentionally killed.

I disagree. In both cases embryos are killed, and the participants make a decision that leads to their being killed. If you oppose one you should oppose the other.

What did he ever say that implies he should, to be consistent, try to prevent private people from doing it

Isn't that exactly what the GOP "moral values" agenda is about - preventing private individuals from doing things they disapprove of?

Re:Do you oppose fertility treatment? (1)

pudge (3605) | more than 8 years ago | (#15746842)

If you oppose one you should oppose the other.

That's obviously false, since they are, in fact, different. Again, in one you are actually intentionally killing something, and in the other, you are not. You may not see a difference between doing something that leads to the death of something, versus actually intentionally killing it, but it is unreasonable for you to say I should not see a difference.

Isn't that exactly what the GOP "moral values" agenda is about - preventing private individuals from doing things they disapprove of?

No, and it never has been. And certainly no moreso than it is also the longstanding Democratic agenda to ban individuals from doing things they disapprove of: gun control, regulation of property rights, criminalizing hate speech, environmental controls, workplace restrictions, etc.

Re:Do you oppose fertility treatment? (1)

robi2106 (464558) | more than 8 years ago | (#15747184)

Right. The difference is that Bush (and many people in this country) are against the governmetn forcing us to give it money so that it can pay to have these experiments carried out.

If someone is so in a hurry to kill babies for research, they can do it on their own dime, or in another country.

jason

Re:Do you oppose fertility treatment? (1)

SeanAhern (25764) | more than 8 years ago | (#15747018)

There's a difference between intentionally killing something, and what happens in fertility treatments, where some embryos inevitably die, but are not intentionally killed.

Hm. It's my understanding that, in many fertility treatments including IVF, many embryos are intentionally culled so as to leave only the viable ones. Only the ones that are most likely to survive are implanted into the womb for further sustenance. Most others are destroyed (unless they are frozen).

Re:Do you oppose fertility treatment? (1)

pudge (3605) | more than 8 years ago | (#15747073)

But that's talking about a specific form of the procedure, rather than the broad discussion we're having.

Re:Do you oppose fertility treatment? (1)

SeanAhern (25764) | more than 8 years ago | (#15747120)

Yes, and no. I agree that it's taking the discussion farther afield than that of embryonic stem cell research, and I should probably desist from exploring the tangent further.

But generally speaking, fertility treatments that involve creation and direct manipulation of embryos are not respectful of life in a similar sense to the disrespect that embryonic stem cell researchers employ.

So the consideration of the topic of fertility clinics, with regard to whether one approves or opposes their treatment of embryos, is only pertinent to this thread with regard to whether a stance on embryonic stem cell research is morally tied to that approval or opposition. My feeling is that it is tied, but it still may be a worthy topic of discussion. Though possibly not in this thread, depending your viewpoint, pudge.

Re:Do you oppose fertility treatment? (1)

pudge (3605) | more than 8 years ago | (#15747175)

But generally speaking, fertility treatments that involve creation and direct manipulation of embryos are not respectful of life in a similar sense to the disrespect that embryonic stem cell researchers employ.

Yes, but the actual actions taken are not entirely similar. Similar enough to compare, but not similar enough to say "if you oppose embryonic stem cell research, you should therefore oppose fertility treatments." That said, I would not personally engage in such treatments, but my time is too valuable to even think about trying to turn back the clock on them (though I do oppose federal funding, of course, but then, I oppose almost all federal funding :-).

Another assumption... (1)

nandorman (742258) | more than 8 years ago | (#15746264)

...is that even if an embryo isn't a life, that it's STILL worth it just because it may save lives. They wouldn't accept that reasoning behind researching cloning or weapons, would they? Researching mustard gas gave us a whole new perspective on how poisonous gases move through the lungs - research that later was used to help deliver life-saving drugs.

Just so I'm clear (1)

Iamthefallen (523816) | more than 8 years ago | (#15746415)

Am I correct in saying that you're absoloutely opposed to the taking of one innocent life for the benefit of another?

Re:Just so I'm clear (1)

pudge (3605) | more than 8 years ago | (#15746847)

No, you are not, as I've not commented on such a thing.

Re:Just so I'm clear (1)

Iamthefallen (523816) | more than 8 years ago | (#15747036)

Then what do you mean by "sometimes stated explicitly -- is that even if these are lives, it is acceptable to kill them, because other lives are worth more. Humanity has gone down this path before, and I refuse to. It's anathema. And its atrocity is compounded by the fact that it's the government choosing which lives are more valuable."

Or does this anathema only apply within the scope of research? Or even just within embryotic research?

Re:Just so I'm clear (1)

pudge (3605) | more than 8 years ago | (#15747076)

Or does this anathema only apply within the scope of research? Or even just within embryotic research?

Yes, my comments were specific to the context of killing for the sake of research. Sorry if that wasn't entirely clear before.

Permission vs Funding (1)

mwlewis (794711) | more than 8 years ago | (#15748807)

I'm somewhat ambivalent about the research myself. As you brought up, the key is how one views the individual lives of the embryos, similar to how the abortion debate often revolves around when a fetus is presumed to be viable. Personally, I've never really settled on a firm answer, so my approach is to err on the side of preserving life where possible. That said, all Bush said is that our federal taxes won't pay for this research.

While fairly socially conservative, I usually don't advocate that my views be legislated, and I think that Bush has made a pretty good compromise. Private and state funds (see California's multi-billion dollar bond issue) can still be used. It's an interesting example demonstrating the difference between how people would spend other people's money vs their own.

Re:Permission vs Funding (1)

pudge (3605) | more than 8 years ago | (#15750395)

Personally, I've never really settled on a firm answer, so my approach is to err on the side of preserving life where possible.

Right, the Star Trek approach: "look, that little blip of light is showing possible signs of intelligence, so we can't terraform this planet!"

Yup (1)

mgessner (46612) | more than 8 years ago | (#15749328)

The most common argument I hear against those who oppose embryonic stem cell research is one that is, to me, completely vapid. It basically goes, "we could save a lot of people with this research, so therefore we should do it."

FWIW I agree with you.

RG recently mentioned in his journal that it seems that ESC doesn't produce good results; in fact, tumors have been a result.

I'm very much against ESC for a simple reason:

- it destroys that which, if left alone, could grow into a human being (those who submit that male masturbation leads to the same conclusion need to read a simple biology text on sexual reproduction -- and I've had that discussion with a couple of them).

If you read into this that I am Pro-Life and not Pro-Death (some call that Pro-Abortion or Pro-"Choice" (a euphemism)), you're right: I am.

I think Bush is right on this one. (No, I don't think he's always right nor infallible.) When there's so much promise being shown in other areas of stem cell research that don't involve cells that could become full human beings, it doesn't seem to make sense to exploit the innocent.

If someone can point to reputable research that shows that ESC is the only way to do important research that can't be done with ASC or USC, fine, bring it on.

Otherwise, there's no point. I'm betting it's way less expensive to harvest ASC and/or USC that it is ESC. And you only need one person to do it.

Re:Yup (1)

pudge (3605) | more than 8 years ago | (#15750411)

If someone can point to reputable research that shows that ESC is the only way to do important research that can't be done with ASC or USC, fine, bring it on.

I disagree. If it is wrong, the fact that it is the only viable method to accomplish something important doesn't make it right. There are some lines I am unwilling to cross, and experiments on what are (again, this is indisputable biological fact) unique human lives is one of those lines.

Re:Yup (1)

mgessner (46612) | more than 8 years ago | (#15750850)

This wasn't meant to be "fine, then go ahead and do it," although I can see where you could draw that conclusion.

I meant, "fine, show the research, although I doubt you can prove anything by it."

It's still wrong, even if it's the only way.

What happens... (1)

cascadefx (174894) | more than 8 years ago | (#15778833)

What happens to the fertilized eggs from fertility treatments that go unused now, Pudge?

Re:What happens... (1)

pudge (3605) | more than 8 years ago | (#15781728)

I don't understand the relevance of the question.

Re:What happens... (1)

cascadefx (174894) | more than 8 years ago | (#15783968)

As the average couple engaging in invitro fertilization techniques generally has anywhere from 4 to 29 fertilized eggs left over after a successful procedure, what should be done with those eggs? As they are human life at that point, what needs to happen with those eggs and who foots the bill? Even with donation, there isn't enough demand, probably due in part to the high cost of the procedures, for the eggs that are left.... also, if possible, most people that can afford inivtro and have their own functioning eggs are likely to harvest their own.

Some couples keep eggs for future children, but with 29 potentially viable embryos, even with a string of failures, there is still a good chance of left overs. Some donate, but that has its own limiting factors. Many are destroyed or acquired when clinics go under financially.

So what do we do with those eggs. Disposal is a problem and repurposing is a problem, and storage into perpetutiy is unlikely.

Given this problem, I wonder why pro-lifers would support these procedures at all.

Re:What happens... (1)

pudge (3605) | more than 8 years ago | (#15785027)

This is an important issue, but it's not the one I posted about, or have given much thought to.

Given this problem, I wonder why pro-lifers would support these procedures at all.

Do some support them?

Middle ground (1)

thing12 (45050) | more than 8 years ago | (#15785433)

Why not allow an embryo to divide to 8 cells, then split it into two parts. One half goes to it's intended purpose (fertility treatments, indefinite storage, etc...) - the other half goes to research. No life created or destroyed for the purpose of research.
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