I’ve not commented on the whole stem cell controversy. Though I follow the literature (and the news), others are much better-versed in the science (and the politics) than I am, so I’ve left it to them to comment on both aspects of the unfolding story. However, I saw this comment over at Framing Science, and thought it was worthy of a post itself:

I’m one of the people who believes strongly in supporting science, ESCR [embryonic stem cell research] in particular, but is opposed to public funding for ESCR. Why? Because that’s what’s required to consistently hold to the traditional liberal principle of freedom of conscience. If we are really to respect the freedom of conscience of those with whom we disagree, we should not be trying to extract support from them in the form of tax revenues to finance research that they believe is immoral. Individual conscience can be trumped, of course, but only on a demonstration that this is necessary to maintain a well-ordered society. I’ll change my position and start to support public funding of ESCR when that demonstration is made. Until then, I’ll try to persuade anti-ESCR people that it is ethically sound science, and support private initiatives to develop the science.

Rick Santorum recently said something similar:

And, uh, because someone has to speak for the people of America who pay their taxes and don’t want to see those tax dollars used for morally objectionable things. And again, no one is stopping them from doing this type of activity. All we are suggesting is that those, like this woman here, should not be forced to pay for it through the federal dollar, with federal dollars.

Is this a valid objection? My thoughts after the jump…

Now, it’s tough to argue against something that sounds as good as respecting everyone’s freedom of conscience. I mean, we shouldn’t force people to pay for something that they find morally reprehensible, right? And even with an exception for the “necessary to maintain a well-ordered society” clause, the problem comes when one realizes that what one person considers mundane and ordinary, another considers an affront to their moral values.

Consider evolutionary theory. To most scientists, it’s the value-neutral core of biology; the basis of our understanding of modern life on this planet. To some, however, it’s the work of Satan, spreading corruption in anyone who believes in it, leading its adherents to see themselves as just apes, rather than the pinnacle of God’s creation. They claim that research into it is nothing more than a lie, a sham, a waste of money at the best and a justification for hedonism at the worst. Does this area count in the “well-ordered society” exception?

Of course, anecdotes like this abound. Many people would like to end all research into sexually-transmitted diseases, claiming such knowledge promotes sexual promiscuity–which goes against their moral fiber. Or any studies involving homosexuality, or transgendered individuals, or abortion, or animal experimentation, or a dozen other hot topics.

I respect the right of others to disgree with me. I know that others view the world differently, and that my views on what is/is not moral may be different from theirs. But we can’t limit federally-funded research because some fraction of the population may find certain experiments immoral, or we’d be eliminating funding for a huge body of science.

Comments

  1. #1 Evil Monkey
    July 26, 2006

    Not just a huge body, all science. Libertarians wouldn’t have any of it in the public domain.

  2. #2 bob koepp
    July 26, 2006

    I think it’s possible to make relevant moral distinctions between opposition to the teaching of evolutionary theory and opposition to the destructive use of human embryos. In other words, there’s no need to take all appeals to morality at face value. In the case of ESCR, however, we have good reason to believe that for many the objections do reflect sincerely held moral beliefs.

    Also, eliminating federal funding for morally contentious research still leaves it open to those who favor the research to organize and support it. In fact, there’s quite a lot of private support for ESCR right now — not enough, but it’s still early in the game.

    I’m a traditional liberal who, in addition to believing in freedom of conscience, believes in freedom of inquiry. While I defend the freedom of conscience of those who oppose ESCR, I am ready and willing to do battle with them when they try to place restrictions on what others can do in the way of ESCR.

  3. #3 zouhair
    July 26, 2006

    I think this is good, now Anti-War Movement can use this moral argument to stop funding the Army.

  4. #4 Cheechat
    July 26, 2006

    My view is simply this – who will speak for the unborn? There shouldn’t be frozen embryos available for research in the first place. It is difficult to type the words ‘discard’ and ‘incinerate’ in the same sentence as ‘human embryo.’ I do not believe in a god. I believe in the right of a human to live, whether that human is four cells old or four trillion cells old.

  5. #5 Deepak
    July 26, 2006

    Science really needs to find a better funding model. The one that exists today is very susceptible to political shifts and bandwagon approaches. I have no clue what the correct approach is, because funding from exclusively private sources has its own problems.

    I wonder if some sort of opt in model would work? This would be a scenario where someone could choose to contribute x number of dollars in taxes to support 5 scientific research initiatives? The government can then match appropriately. Won’t fly in reality, but worth a thought.

  6. #6 PaulC
    July 26, 2006

    zouhair: Yeah, I was going to say that I oppose capital punishment. I also oppose much of the way our military policy is carried out. I.e., I can understand how in a total war for national survival we might wind up bombing targets that inevitably kill civilians, but under the usual circumstances–and, no I do not view the “War on Terror” as a matter of survival; asymmetric warfare cannot bring down a powerful nation-state–I oppose it. When many people die as a result of our action just because they happen to live in the wrong place, there has simply got to be a better way. That they happen not to be US citizens is irrelevant to my moral reasoning here.

    I pay my taxes anyway. It’s called the “social contract.” I benefit enormously from being a US citizen and I understand that I do not have complete discretion for moral or other reasons to decide how my money is spent.

  7. #7 PaulC
    July 26, 2006

    Oh, and in case it’s not clear, as part of the social contract I accept complicity in all the actions of our nation that I consider wrong. The fact is that I benefit from them. If I were to find this situation intolerable, I would have to emigrate I guess. But apparently I do find it tolerable. I have little trouble insisting that others either acknowledge complicity or get the f— out. It is impossible to carry out the business of a diverse, powerful nation while adhering to everybody’s ideal of morality. Insisting on doing the provably impossible is not “idealism” but a form of insanity.

  8. #8 Tara C. Smith
    July 26, 2006

    Libertarians wouldn’t have any of it in the public domain.

    As a moral objection, though?

    I think it’s possible to make relevant moral distinctions between opposition to the teaching of evolutionary theory and opposition to the destructive use of human embryos. In other words, there’s no need to take all appeals to morality at face value. In the case of ESCR, however, we have good reason to believe that for many the objections do reflect sincerely held moral beliefs.

    No true scotsman? It’s OK to fund research into evolution, because it’s not a “sincerely held moral belief?” Who decides what “sincerely held moral belief” gets funded by the government, and which one doesn’t–or which one isn’t sincere? This is the crux of the problem. It’s not that there’s private funding available for stem cell research, it’s that your (and Santorum’s) argument inevitably falls down the slippery slope when applied universally.

    My view is simply this – who will speak for the unborn? There shouldn’t be frozen embryos available for research in the first place. It is difficult to type the words ‘discard’ and ‘incinerate’ in the same sentence as ‘human embryo.’ I do not believe in a god. I believe in the right of a human to live, whether that human is four cells old or four trillion cells old.

    So you would end all IVF, or you would force all embryos to be implanted? The first is political suicide, and the second leads to other ethical issues medically (e.g., if they all implant, do you then abort some of them to allow the others a greater chance of survival? Do you force the woman to carry them all to term, even though it increases the risk both to her and to all the fetuses?)

  9. #9 bob koepp
    July 26, 2006

    This isn’t a case of the no true scotsperson fallacy, and I’m not afraid of slippery slopes. With regard to the latter, there are things called handrails, safety lines, etc, to help us to navigate treacherous terrain. Unless one thinks that discussion of ethics is not subject to normal standards of rationality, we need to draw relevant distinctions between the kinds of harms and benefits at stake.

    Perhaps people should acquaint themselves with the tradition called liberalism. People like JS Mill have addressed the kinds of concerns being expressed here and still managed to come down on the side of liberal values.

  10. #10 quitter
    July 26, 2006

    Does anyone remember a few years ago when some congresscritters made a big fuss about NIH funding research into sexual behavior? Here’s a WaPo article

    The most recent round erupted last fall, when Rep. W.J. “Billy” Tauzin (R-La.) and others questioned more than 200 NIH grants, many focusing on sexual behavior. The list was provided by Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition.

    Among those targeted were a study of the sexual habits of older men, a study of gay and lesbian Native Americans who believe they have both male and female “spirits,” and a study of sex workers, known as “lot lizards,” who frequent truck stops.

    “We’re shaking the NIH tree,” Lafferty said last week, “and a lot of rotten fruit is falling.”

    But a thorough review, Zerhouni said, has concluded that in every case “the grants are extremely relevant to our public health needs.”

    One study that stirred controversy, awarded to a researcher at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, called “Mood Arousal and Sexual Risk Taking,” addresses an important but poorly understood issue in the age of AIDS, NIH officials said: Why is it that many people, despite knowing better, take enormous sexual risks once they become aroused?

    The question is important, experts said, because educational programs designed to reduce risky sexual behavior typically appeal to the rational mind, which is not necessarily in charge at such times.

    Once you start giving people the idea they can oppose public funding of things based on their morality everything goes to shit. If this were 1984 again they could object to scientists studying HIV because it was, as they said at the time, a plage against gays for their immorality.

    Oh, and Cheechat, give me a break. 4 day old embryos simply are not equivalent to human life, those “every sperm is sacred” arguments are too absurd because when it comes down to it, no one really believes it. I think some genius came up with one of those annoying Hobson’s choices to demonstrate the problem. If a fertility clinic is on fire and you have the choice of saving either 50 frozen embryos, or a 5-year-old child, which would you choose? Anyone but the insane would choose the actual child. If we allow this idea that all human life, from the lowliest sperm to the brain dead human vegetable (remember all donated organs do come from humans who are brain dead but otherwise alive), to an infant or adult are equivalent, then you’re against more than just ES research. You’re against sperm donation, IVF, organ transplantation, hell you might as well be against cell culture of human cancer cells. They are all forms of human life, the question is, which ones do we really care about. I think the idea I should care about a 4 day embryo as equivalent to an infant, or an adult human is patently absurd, and if you thought about it hard enough, you’d probably think so too.

  11. #11 Evil Monkey
    July 26, 2006

    Last I checked, bob, funding work that keeps knowledge in the public domain was a liberal value. Mill’s views on positive and negative liberty are exactly what Tara’s addressing here, in so many words.

  12. #12 bob koepp
    July 26, 2006

    EM -
    Sure, keeping knowledge in the public domain counts as a liberal value. What follows?

    I’m familiar with the distinction between positive and negative liberties — that terminology is usually traced to Berlin. So where does Mill express his views on positive and negative liberty? And leaving Mill aside (he is after all, just one of many liberal thinkers), please explain how this distinction maps onto Tara’s discussion.

  13. #13 trrll
    July 26, 2006

    Basically, this is the claim that some people’s votes should be weighted more than everybody else’s if they claim some sort of moral objection. The government funds lots and lots of things that I don’t agree with, and quite a few that I find morally reprehensible. Should my objections count for more than my vote, giving me some sort of veto on government activities where I have a moral objection? Or if I am not enough, how many people do I need to get to agree with me for our votes to outweigh everybody elses?

    I suppose that we could imagine that our tax forms might come with a long, long checklist, where we crossed off all of the things that we had a moral objection to our money being used for (without reducing our taxes, of course). So fundamentalists would cross out teaching of evolution and birth control, libertarians would cross off everything except maybe the military, pacifists would cross off the military, etc., etc., and Congress would be prohibited from spending more money that individuals authorized (not sure how to deal with deficit spending, keep in in proportion, perhaps). It would be a lot more work for everybody. And I have a sneaking suspicion that in the end, we’d end up with a distribution of money very close to what we have now.

  14. #14 Evil Monkey
    July 26, 2006

    Mill expresses his views on the subject in On Liberty, which focuses primarily on negative liberty (although I don’t recall that he ever actually uses Berlin’s terminology). I don’t recall if he used it elsewhere either, and to be honest the only other work I’ve read of his is Utilitarianism and I don’t remember much of it at all.

    The distinction in this debate is obvious; we are attempting to balance considerations of positive liberty (taking tax dollars may impede short-term financial success, while keeping knowledge in the public sphere provides the common man with more ability to use said knowledge, and thus more freedom which offsets taxes in the long run) and negative liberty (freedom from coercion, the spending of tax revenue on issues some find morally repugnant, balancing the amount of revenue one is justified in taking for scientific endeavours, etc). Obviously our society has rejected the more “classical” American Libertarian arguments against taxation and embraced more liberal approaches; the question before us is really one of degree.

  15. #15 Evil Monkey
    July 26, 2006

    As a moral objection, though?

    The American Libertarian Party is founded on the notion that taxes, especially on income, are pretty much immoral.

  16. #16 Cheechat
    July 26, 2006

    Thank you for your wonderful responses. I need to hear them to think and rethink my current stand.

    Yes, Tara, I wish that IVF was considered unnecessary. It is fate that a particular woman could not conceive. It is not a bad fate – there are so many children available for adoption. I respect you immensely, Tara, but how does political suicide figure into this debate? Simply that a candidate might not be elected for wanting to abolish IVF? Hmm…

    And, quitter, it is difficult for me accept that an intelligent fellow human would actually say that a four day old embryo is not equivalent to human life. Your words frighten me and I am always suspicious when an impossible scenario is presented. A frozen embryo isn’t able to scream when it is being incinerated.

    It is amazing to me that every time I get into a debate about this subject I am forced to define human life. It seems so obvious to me. Human life begins at the moment of conception. Sperm is not human life. Sperm donation is wonderful. IVF is fine but why can’t we do it one egg at a time? Organ donation and transplantation is wonderful. I am a donor. (Is a cancer cell human life? Hmm…)

    If I may restate: My view is simple. Why must we destroy potential humans for research purposes?

  17. #17 bob koepp
    July 26, 2006

    EM -
    Yes, in “On Liberty” Mill champions what later came to be called negative liberty. You apparently view the public availability of knowledge as an issue of positive liberty. That’s a stretch, but even granting it, I don’t think it poses any serious challenge to the principle of freedom of conscience. Is there any reason why private citizens who organize and support ESCR (or any other research) cannot make the results of the research publicly available?

    Finally, I haven’t said anything about classical American libertarian objections to taxation. I’ve only appealed to the principle of freedom of conscience (and wondered how people who call themselves liberals can ignore it).

  18. #18 trrll
    July 26, 2006

    it is difficult for me accept that an intelligent fellow human would actually say that a four day old embryo is not equivalent to human life. Your words frighten me and I am always suspicious when an impossible scenario is presented. A frozen embryo isn’t able to scream when it is being incinerated.

    For that matter, an unfrozen four day embryo is not able to scream when it is being incinerated. Nor would it have a reason to, since it has no nerves to feel pain with, nor any brain to receive those signals or to object to being incinerated. For those who think that what makes us human has something to do with our brain and its associated functions (mind, thought, personality, emotion) and is not simply a function of our DNA or some undetectable magical essence, the idea that the life of a brainless ball of human cells should outweigh the suffering of people with brains, nerves, families, personalities seems utterly perverse.

  19. #19 quitter
    July 26, 2006

    Cheechat

    That was very obnoxious by the way, purposefully putting my email address into a response so that I get spam once the spiders find this post. [removed it--TS]

    As far as your “life begins” argument goes, that’s a flamewar waiting to happen. But here goes: your view of life is fundamentally unscientific and unsound.

    Life doesn’t begin. It is continuous. The sperm is alive, the egg is alive, the two combine and are also alive. Life began once, over a billion years ago and has not stopped. There is no “dead” stage in reproduction. I’m not saying embryos aren’t alive, I’m saying I don’t care, everything is alive. I just don’t distinguish it from sperm, the egg, my skin cells. Whatever. Human lives are more than just living cells, and they’re more than just a beating heart.

    Your idea that life begins at conception is fundamentally flawed. Life does not begin The previous components of the mixture were not dead they were also alive. What you’re talking about is ensoulment, and you can take your theologic beliefs and shove off, because we’re not going to have the whole country regulated by when you think god comes down on a mystical chariot and shoves a soul into a ball of cells. I’m not interested in debating with the relatively new concept of ensoulment at conception (catholics used to believe in ensoulment at a much later time point), it is unscientific and irrelevant to decisions made by a secular society.

  20. #20 quitter
    July 26, 2006

    Wait, nvm, I noticed it doesn’t have the .com. I apologize, I’ve protected that account from spam for a long time.

    What I should bitch about is how you ignored my Hobson’s choice.

    Would you save the 50 frozen embryos? Or would you save the 5-year-old girl? If you really think those are 50 lives you should choose the embryos and let the girl painfully burn to death. If you’re a rational human being who understands that human life is more than just a ball of material in a freezer, with no nerves, no thoughts, no personality, no feelings, no nothing, then you save the little girl.

    So what’s your answer? 50 embryos or one 5-year-old girl? It’s not an impossible choice, it’s an easy one. Tell me.

  21. #21 Cheechat
    July 26, 2006

    No nerves to feel pain with… yet. That is why embryonic stem cell research exists – because those cells will eventually feel pain. And become organs and spinal cords. And think…

    Quitter, I did not realize that I used your actual email address – I simply was trying to say that I was responding to an intelligent person who uses the name ‘quitter’ who lives over at giveupblog, which is a fascinating blog. Jeez!

    Flamewars are idiotic. Why can’t differing opinions be compared in a peaceful way?

    I do not believe that life is “continuous.” You do. Excellent! We are two humans and we have the right to live and express ourselves.

    I do not think that what makes us human has anything to do with our brain (and functions), trrll. It has to do with whatever that magical chain of events is that occurs with conception. It will become a human, therefore it is a human.

    Interesting, also, that you said the “life” of a ball of human cells and thank you. It is indeed a life and we have no right whatsoever to abort it. It does not outweigh the suffering of people with brains and families; it is equal to them. That you do not see that very simple fact is simply beyond my understanding of humanity.

    As usual, there seems to be no such thing as a peaceful debate. That people of dissenting opinion get so worked up gives strength to my peaceful stance. I wish to do no harm.

  22. #22 Cheechat
    July 26, 2006

    Apology completely accepted, of course. And, regarding Hobson’s Choice, which do you mean? The African or European Hobson’s choice? All right. I would save the life of the five year old child. (What would I do with all those thawing embryos? : ) Later, however, I would lay in bed looking at the ceiling in the dark and cry for the needless waste of beautiful human potential.

  23. #23 quitter
    July 26, 2006

    You also wish to give no answers to questions you can’t answer.

    And believing life is continuous vs discontinuous isn’t some philosophical disagreement. You either understand the way human reproduction occurs, in which two living cells recombine to make another living cell, or you don’t. It is continuous, that is just a fact, you might as well deny evolution too because the two are intimately tied. Life is one long chain since the first bacteria to us. It’s really kind of amazing when you think about it.

    You are saying however that “life begins at conception” which is an inherently religious belief, not a factual statement. That is a belief about the soul, not about any scientific definition of life. Your ideas about mystical objects should have nothing to do with how we do science in this country, sorry. You are in the minority on this one, and your argument against this is religious. The whole point of this thread is that science shouldn’t be subject to the religious morality of some minority in the population that finds some science objectionable (as I noted in the WaPo link, it doesn’t get restricted to ES research). If that were the case, nothing would ever get done because fundies could object to studying sex, HIV, STDs, or whatever they don’t agree with, like evolution, sex ed etc. You simply don’t have a leg to stand on here.

    You might as well say life begins when the kids move out and the dog dies, as my father used to say. It’s about the same level of logic, as you’re talking about an event that doesn’t actually occur anymore on this planet. Life is done beginning, now it just persists.

  24. #24 David
    July 26, 2006

    Back onto the subject of paying taxes, it seems that childless homeowners pay property taxes which are 3/4 plus used for primary education. This is certainly not a moral issue, but shines some light on the issue.

  25. #25 trrll
    July 26, 2006

    No nerves to feel pain with… yet. That is why embryonic stem cell research exists – because those cells will eventually feel pain. And become organs and spinal cords.

    Of course, so will a sperm and egg, given the opportunity. Compulsory sex, anybody?

    I do not believe that life is “continuous.”

    To deny this is to say that the sperm and egg are not alive. Do you really think that this is reasonable?

    I do not think that what makes us human has anything to do with our brain (and functions), trrll. It has to do with whatever that magical chain of events is that occurs with conception.

    So you admit that your belief is derived from magical thinking? Here, the question is whether it is morally justifiable to deny suffering people the opportunity for a cure on the basis of nonscientific magical notions held by some, but not all, people in our society.

    It will become a human, therefore it is a human.

    This is true of sperm and egg as well. Of course, not every sperm and egg becomes a human, but neither does every zygote (a large fraction spontaneously abort). So what level of probability of becoming a person (with brains, organs, etc.) is required to deserve protection?

    Interesting, also, that you said the “life” of a ball of human cells and thank you.

    It’s human and alive, so of course I consider it to be human life. Of course, I apply the same description to sperm and egg, and to the thousands of living human cells that each of us sheds every day. Lots of things are human and alive. Very few of them qualify as people.

  26. #26 Cheechat
    July 26, 2006

    If life is continuous then why should I save the child rather than the fifty frozen embryos? Shouldn’t I take into consideration the furthering of the species? I have a nice cooler here – I can fit fifty frozen embryos around my eight Newcastles.

    It’s interesting that you changed the fire victim from a five year old child to a five year old girl, btw. How did that happen?

    Why is it so important to destroy human embryos? Why can’t you and yours be happy with umbilical cord blood? Also, why do you and yours depend so much upon federal funding? If destroying human embryos was such a good thing to do in the name of science, I would think that persons like Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffet would get on board.

    I am not basing my beliefs upon religion. I do not believe in a god. I do not believe in a heaven or hell. I believe in doing no unnecessary harm. Even if I sever my spinal cord in an accident, or develop Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s, I would not want my tax money used to fund research on cures using four-celled human beings.

  27. #27 bob koepp
    July 26, 2006

    OK, so we’ve got a couple people here who disagree in a very fundamental way about some moral questions. Liberalism was fashioned as a way to allow both sides to act in accord with their beliefs up to the point where they would start to impose on each other. That strikes me as a reasonable sort of compromise.

  28. #28 Davis
    July 26, 2006

    If life is continuous then why should I save the child rather than the fifty frozen embryos?

    Is this an argument against the continuity of life? If so, it’s a weird one.

    Life is continuous, there’s no reasonable way to deny the scientific fact of that. You could argue that personhood is not continuous, which takes the discussion into the philosophical realm of what it means to be a person.

    The point of the Hobson’s choice above is that if you choose to save the child and not the embryos, then regardless of what you say or think you believe, you don’t actually believe an embryo is morally the same as a person. Otherwise, you would choose to save the 50 frozen, embryonic “people,” as presumably you think it’s better to save 50 people and let 1 die than vice-versa.

  29. #29 Cheechat
    July 26, 2006

    Trrll, if the sperm and egg do not connect, it is the end of the sperm and the egg. I have to admit that the question of whether or not an egg or a sperm is alive is fascinating and I see that one could take the next step and then question whether a fertilized egg is really any different than an unfertilized egg. Hmm… But a sperm cell dies a sperm cell if it swims on and on and doesn’t connect to an egg cell. And an egg cell dies an egg cell if it is never fertilized. But an egg cell fertilized by a sperm cell eventually becomes a human being.

    I liken a sperm cell to a fish. Do what you want to a fish, sir. Experiment away! An egg cell is a bit more difficult to extrapolate. A sperm cell is to a fish as an egg cell is to a what? A tree? Do what you want to a tree, sir. I can say these things because I am comfortable killing flies, and so I must allow the killing of fish and trees and all things not human. But I am not comfortable with killing humans, whether they are in the earliest stage of their “continuous”-ness or the later stage. A four-celled embryo may not “feel” pain but it will develop the capability eventually. A sperm cell, on its own, will not.

    Another thing that troubles me is that we don’t know why one stem cell becomes a heart and another becomes a brain. The inherent mystery gives me another reason to ask mankind to pause before continuing embryonic stem cell research. I say again, I do not believe in a god. I believe in the right of all humans to live.

    If there is a doubt, please let mankind continue debating before proceeding. Preferably until after I die, having fulfilled my rightful destiny as a human being.

  30. #30 quitter
    July 26, 2006

    This is hopeless. When faced with this kind of magical thinking there is no more point arguing.

    You have an irrational, unscientific belief. You’ve revealed you don’t understand human reproduction. You also don’t have a clear understanding of the science here. Whether or not you have a specific religion your belief in ensoulment at conception is a religious belief, not a rational one.

    70% of Americans want this research, and clearly don’t have a problem with the existence of IVF, or ES research, they simply don’t believe in your definition of what kind of human life is valuable. This empty definition of “do no harm” doesn’t make sense if it means you can’t end the life of any cell, period. Should it be wrong for me to take chemotherapy because it kills human life (the cancer cells)? Should organ donation be halted because you have to kill a brain-dead body to harvest the organs? We don’t consider a brain dead human to be meaningfully alive, despite all their cells being alive, why should we consider a ball of 100 cells so valuable as to halt research that can help millions. Especially if there are 400k of them awaiting destruction? There is no additional harm to be done here, they are not going to be used, they were generated in excess, and have no future.

    Further the cord blood thing is a joke. I study ES cells, adult stem cells, etc., adult stem cells simply do not have the same potential as ES cells. ES cells can make every cell in the body, and do so by default, they don’t need any special encouragement (your idea about which ES cell having a fate is incorrect, all the ES cells have identical potential at the beginning and polarity of the embryo as determined by the polar body – the remnant of the sperm – is what creates the initial head/tail specification of the embryo).

    I simply do not see destruction of embryos as harming a human being, just as I don’t see harvesting organs from the braindead as being harmful. Organ donations save thousands of lives each year, and one organ donor can save or help dozens of people, but that doesn’t mean you don’t stop a beating heart to get those organs. That is ending human life according to your definition, albeit one most people don’t value anymore because the brain is dead, for the benefit of others. Embryos don’t have brains, feelings whatever, there is no human life to end there, it should be even less of an ethical problem than organ donation.

    What makes a human is having a brain, thinking thoughts, being a sentient individual. This isn’t a crazy idea, this is how we currently operate as a society. Further, you’re continuing insistence in not answering the Hobson’s choice I think really shows you don’t understand what is valuable about human life. If you would save the embryos you’re hopeless, I’m not the one with the warped ethical sense in the room, and neither are the majority of Americans who favor this research.

  31. #31 anon
    July 26, 2006

    If a fertility clinic is on fire and you have the choice of saving either 50 frozen embryos, or a 5-year-old child,……..

    I dunno- is the child from another country living in an oprphanage (so cute and they need us soooo bad) —–or is the child an urban poor american?

    From what I have seen of religious people that I know who are right right right—– only the first ones get saved. THe other ones are left behind.

  32. #32 Evil Monkey
    July 26, 2006

    EM -
    Yes, in “On Liberty” Mill champions what later came to be called negative liberty. You apparently view the public availability of knowledge as an issue of positive liberty. That’s a stretch, but even granting it, I don’t think it poses any serious challenge to the principle of freedom of conscience.

    A stretch? How is making information available to all, for “free”, a stretch?

    I view it as an issue of both positive and negative liberty, I just didn’t feel like writing a dissertation on Tara’s comments.

    Is there any reason why private citizens who organize and support ESCR (or any other research) cannot make the results of the research publicly available?

    Because some biotech company will have already done it and patented it. Plus if the theocrats have their way, there won’t be such a thing as ESCR.

    Finally, I haven’t said anything about classical American libertarian objections to taxation. I’ve only appealed to the principle of freedom of conscience (and wondered how people who call themselves liberals can ignore it).

    That was directed at Tara, the author of the comment. Regardless, nobody here is ignoring freedom of conscience.

  33. #33 trrll
    July 27, 2006

    Trrll, if the sperm and egg do not connect, it is the end of the sperm and the egg. I have to admit that the question of whether or not an egg or a sperm is alive is fascinating and I see that one could take the next step and then question whether a fertilized egg is really any different than an unfertilized egg. Hmm… But a sperm cell dies a sperm cell if it swims on and on and doesn’t connect to an egg cell. And an egg cell dies an egg cell if it is never fertilized. But an egg cell fertilized by a sperm cell eventually becomes a human being.

    Not in a dish it won’t. The sperm and egg cells in in vitro fertilization would die sperm and egg cells if not for human intervention. They have essentially zero chance of making a baby–that’s why the parents were using in vitro fertilization in the first place. And after being brought together, they still have zero chance of making a baby, because a zygote cannot develop very far in a dish. Only by additional human intervention is it possible to alter their original destiny and (sometimes) create a baby.

    I liken a sperm cell to a fish. Do what you want to a fish, sir. Experiment away!

    I disagree. A fish is almost certainly capable of suffering, which entails some moral obligation on my part as an experimenter, considerably more so than for a sperm, or an egg, or an early zygote with no brain or nerve cells.

    A four-celled embryo may not “feel” pain but it will develop the capability eventually.

    A four celled embryo in a dish has exactly as much chance of developing that capability as a sperm does–none. But there are things that we can choose do to a sperm cell, or a 4-cell embryo that may result in such an outcome. But even there, there is no certainty–many, probably most 4-cell embryos, even those fertilized within the body, never go on to produce a baby.

    Another thing that troubles me is that we don’t know why one stem cell becomes a heart and another becomes a brain. The inherent mystery gives me another reason to ask mankind to pause before continuing embryonic stem cell research.

    It’s the other way around; if we already knew the answers, we wouldn’t need to do the research. As it is, we have pieces of the answer, just not the complete story.

    If there is a doubt, please let mankind continue debating before proceeding.

    Scientifically, there is no doubt. There is no doubt that a 4 cell embryo cannot feel pain. There is no doubt that an in vitro fertilization embryo has no chance of becoming a baby without artificial human intervention to bring about that outcome. There is no doubt that sperm and egg cells are both human and alive. And there is virtually no doubt that research on cells for such embryos will make an important contribution toward relieving the suffering of aware, feeling human beings.

  34. #34 Cheechat
    July 27, 2006

    Life is indeed magical, trrll.

    Excuse me for feeling queasy at the thought of a human embryo “in a dish.” Get that embryo out of that dish, sir, and into a human and let it live its life. And I hope to see, in my lifetime, a halt to IVF because there is no way to avoid the destruction of human life while it is practiced. Creating humans in a dish is unnatural and selfish. Now all these IV couples are feeling guilty about the frozen embryos they left behind. Good!

    You have forced me to rethink my position and I thank you. I have a better understanding now. I see now that what I use to help me decide is whether a human is produced naturally. I am only speaking of human embryos here. I am comfortable with all other research being conducted by “unnatural” means. Now I see that human hairs have stem cells: http://www.livingonearth.org/

    Also, I do support organ donation.

    It has been interesting debating. I paced the floor for some time over your words. I wavered. Now I am safely back on secure ground. Good day!

  35. #35 bob koepp
    July 27, 2006

    EM -
    I’m not going to write a dissertation either, so let’s not wrangle about how freely available information intersects with notions of negative and positive freedom. But your worry about biotech companies obtaining patents doesn’t seem to me to constitute any sort of reason to think that privately organized ESCR cannot make it’s results publicly available. Biotech companies can behave this way even if there is government sponsored ESCR. Or maybe you want to ban all privately sponsored ESCR, whether by commercial interests or public interest groups.

    Well, if nobody is ignoring freedom of conscience, it’s because I’ve made a point of raising the issue — only to have people raise objections.

  36. #36 trrll
    July 27, 2006

    Excuse me for feeling queasy at the thought of a human embryo “in a dish.” Get that embryo out of that dish, sir, and into a human and let it live its life. And I hope to see, in my lifetime, a halt to IVF because there is no way to avoid the destruction of human life while it is practiced.

    An odd attitude, considering that no human lives are lost as a result of IVF that would not have been lost anyway. And that’s even without considering the potential medical benefits of stem cell research. Indeed, IVF saves human lives–the lives of living human sperm and eggs that are enabled to to on to live a life as a feeling, breathing beings, and that but for IVF would have been condemned to death. If you, and others who share your beliefs succeed in banning IVF, you will yourself be responsible for the loss of human life.

    Creating humans in a dish is unnatural and selfish.

    What is more natural and selfless than the desire of people to create and raise a child? And in the process, they save human life–the lives of human sperm and egg cells that by virtue of IVF are preserved from death and allowed to create a breathing, aware child.

    Now I see that human hairs have stem cells

    Not all stem cells are equal. Embryonic stem cells still have the greatest potential for medical applications, although it is likely that embryonic stem cell research will ultimately lead to ways of achieving the same clinical goals without the need for cells derived from IVF.

  37. #37 Julie
    July 27, 2006

    Fast forward ten years and let’s see if that same person who “morally objects” to stem cell research now, still “morally objects” after being tragically paralyzed and learning that stem cells can restore his ability to walk.

  38. #38 arthrob
    July 27, 2006

    There’s a lot of logical confusion here. Nobody’s prohibiting research into stem cells, HIV, Joys of Gay Sex, or any other favorite research topics of anyone here.
    Restricting federal funding is not identical to a federal prohibition. Not teaching logic in schools I see.

  39. #39 trrll
    July 27, 2006

    Restricting federal funding is not identical to a federal prohibition. Not teaching logic in schools I see.

    However, the fact is that academic biomedical research is so heavily dependent upon federal funding that such a prohibition enormously impedes research in the area. It may not be as bad as a general prohibition, but it is still pretty bad. I personally know scientists who have left stem cell field because of the impact of these restrictions on federal funding. There is some work being done in industry, but this kind of very basic research, where there is not a short-term prospect of a profitable product, is not a very attractive investment for private industry. Moreover, even when industrial labs do engage in such research, they are likely to hold results confidential until they are at a point where they are able to file patents. This also slows progress. Foundations and individual states have tried to step into the gap, but these are more limited sources of funding, and funding that is restricted to a particular state does little good for researchers at institutions in other states.

  40. #40 viji
    July 28, 2006

    I’ve just read about ‘virgin birth’ stem cells based on limited human parthenotes in ‘virgin birth’ (as oppose to fertilised by a sperm) embryos?

    Technically they are not even embryos, as the technique involves a electric or chemical source and tricks the female egg to be activated as if it has been fertilised. Parthenogenesis occurs and E3 cells can be harvested. these cells exhibit pluripotency – ability to differentiate into any cell type of the body.

    Because genes needed for human developments (a baby) are only activated in chromosomes contributed by the fertilising sperm, human parthenotes that don’t involve a sperm can never develop past a few days and can never become a human. This whole procedure analogous to growing a new tail for the humble lizard, perhaps very much more complicated and expensive in the human sense, and almost never successful, but at least there seems little ethical strings attached. Like growing new skin.

    New Scientist 1 July 2006 No 2558 pp 19

    So how would this impact on ethical and religious objections? I wonder.

  41. #41 Cheechat
    July 28, 2006

    I have absolutely no objection to the use of virgin birth stem cells for research. Perhaps all we had to do was wait for a peaceful (and humane) solution.

    I read an interesting statement in a letter to the editor of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader today. The writer wrote, “I have never heard of a woman giving birth to a dog or a cat.” She was referring to the fact that some people do not believe that a human begins its life at the moment of conception. It is certainly not just a “ball of cells.”

    And Julie, I am 100% positive that I would still object to research on human embryos if I were paralyzed. That’s an easy one.

    Thank you, Tara, for your terrific blog. It forced me to reevaluate my position and ultimately strengthen my belief.

  42. #42 trrll
    July 28, 2006

    The writer wrote, “I have never heard of a woman giving birth to a dog or a cat.” She was referring to the fact that some people do not believe that a human begins its life at the moment of conception. It is certainly not just a “ball of cells.”

    That seems a remarkably idiotic remark. After all, nobody is denying that an embryo is human, in exactly the same sense that sperm and ova are human.

  43. #43 Cheechat
    July 28, 2006

    Sperm and ova are not human, they are of human origin. A sperm is only a sperm and an ovum is only an ovum and a skin cell is only a skin cell. If the sperm and ovum successfully “connect the dots” then they have combined to become a fertilized embryo which I consider to be an extremely young human being. The only ethical reason to kill it is to prevent the mother from dying.

    I can predict what you’re going to say: an embryo is also of human origin. My rationale is this; a sperm cell cannot make an ovum and vice versa, a skin cell cannot produce a sperm, but an “adult embryo” can make a sperm, an ovum, and a skin cell. Why must we argue? Now we have virgin birth stem cells. Have fun!

  44. #44 trrll
    July 28, 2006

    Sperm and ova are not human, they are of human origin.

    Now that is a bit like imagining a human giving birth to a cat. If they are not human, then what species are they? See what an awkward corner you paint yourself into when you insist upon a notion of humanity that does not make sense biologically? Perhaps you should think more deeply upon why you are so attached to such an irrational definition of humanity.

    A sperm is only a sperm and an ovum is only an ovum and a skin cell is only a skin cell.

    And an embryo is only an embryo. But some human cells–like a sperm and ovum, or an embryo–can under appropriate conditions give rise to what we call a “person”–a human being with brain, nerves, personality.

    My rationale is this; a sperm cell cannot make an ovum and vice versa, a skin cell cannot produce a sperm, but an “adult embryo” can make a sperm, an ovum, and a skin cell.

    But sperm and egg together can make all of those things. You can’t wriggle out of the dilemma by insisting, “but they are multiple cells,” because after the first few divisions an embryo is also multiple cells, no one of which can make a person. If you can consider the multiple cells of them embryo collectively, why can’t I consider the sperm and egg together?

    And by the way, all of the DNA information necessary to make a complete animal is present in a skin cell, and skin cells of animals have been manipulated to produce complete animals. Of course, this does not happen without human intervention, just as the cells used for IVF will never, without human intervention, develop into a person. Why is it less of a tragedy of the sperm and egg die just before fusion than if they dye just after? What, specifically, is present in the embryo a moment after the sperm and egg fuse that was not there a moment before?

    Now we have virgin birth stem cells.

    This is one of many ideas that may ultimately turn out to be useful therapeutically. But as I pointed out before, all stem cells are not the same. And further experimentation, both with embryonic stem cells and other kinds, is going to be necessary to understand their capabilities and limitations. I don’t doubt that someday the need for embryonic tissue will be obviated, but further work with embryonic cells will be necessary to reach that point. Meanwhile, people are suffering from painful, debilitating and fatal diseases, and the objections of people with such irrational notions of what it means to be “human” are standing in the way of developing effective treatments.

  45. #45 Cheechat
    July 28, 2006

    Historically, humans have greedily embraced new technology without taking the time to consider what damage might be done. Now we have an overheating earth, we’re on the verge of sending our excess and unnecessary pollution into space, e. coli 0157 bacteria are attacking our children because we can’t safely produce food for an overpopulated planet, and now you want us all to live longer?

    What is your true objective? To rid the world of all diseases? Will you stop then? Or will you then begin probing mitochondria to seek immortality? I humbly submit that perhaps there is a reason for disease, sir.

    If you don’t doubt that “someday the need for embryonic tissue will be obviated” then, please, why can’t we wait? People have been suffering from fatal diseases since it all began. What’s five years? If I develop a fatal disease, I would still prefer that mankind waits before making a potentially horrible mistake. Please don’t tell me that it’s easy for me to say that if I don’t actually have a fatal disease. I am as excited about living as I am about dying.

    I said that an adult embryo can make a sperm, an ovum, and a skin cell and you said that a sperm and egg together can make all those things. What is your point? We’re agreeing on that one. I’m not trying to “wriggle” out of anything. Besides, I don’t wriggle, I wiggle.

    I am compelled to point out that, using a version of your words, people who are incapable of defending themselves are tortured, frozen and then silently murdered and the objections of people with irrational notions of what it means to be “human” are permitting it, taking a stand by not standing up for the unborn.

    Your heartlessness astounds me.

  46. #46 bob koepp
    July 28, 2006

    Cheechat -
    I’m willing to exempt you from supporting ESCR, but your heartfelt astonishment isn’t much of an argument for why the rest of us shouldn’t puruse this research vigorously. We don’t know a whole lot about the processes of development, and I don’t know how we’re going learn without doing research on ESCs. Maybe, after we’ve learned how ESCs do their thing, we’ll be able to accomplish something similar without using them as research material. But just because you can live contentedly in a state of ignorance about development is no reason the rest of should.

  47. #47 Cheechat
    July 28, 2006

    Point taken. Thank you.

  48. #48 Unsympathetic reader
    July 28, 2006

    Cheechat: “Historically, humans have greedily embraced new technology without taking the time to consider what damage might be done.

    I recall a conference in Asilomar not too long ago where participants pondered the potential hazards of recombinant DNA technology and even imposed a moratorium on research. I believe there are many bioethicists, researchers, philosophers, religious thinkers and informed lay people who are already deeply involved in untangling the issues surrounding stem cell research. What they will never be capable of resolving are the inherently religious and emotional issues regarding the status of embryos. May as well drop that particular line of inquiry…

  49. #49 trrll
    July 29, 2006

    What is your true objective?

    To alleviate human suffering.

    I humbly submit that perhaps there is a reason for disease, sir.

    The existence of disease is virtually inevitable, given the nature of evolution–it is just one more form of predation. One good thing about knowledge of evolution is it has helped to free us from the pernicious notion that what is natural is necessarily good or desirable.

    If you don’t doubt that “someday the need for embryonic tissue will be obviated” then, please, why can’t we wait? People have been suffering from fatal diseases since it all began.

    And do you find that fact to be of great consolation while watching the suffering of your mother, father, child, or spouse? I don’t.

    I said that an adult embryo can make a sperm, an ovum, and a skin cell and you said that a sperm and egg together can make all those things. What is your point?

    That rationally, if you believe that the ability of an embryo to make a human body entitles it to protection, then you must extend the same protection to sperm and ovum. Every time sperm and ovum are denied the opportunity to come together, human life is lost. And conversely, there is no rational basis for extending any greater protection to an embryo–especially an embryo created by IVF, from human cells that never had any prospect of creating a human being–than you are willing to extend to sperm and ovum.

    I am compelled to point out that, using a version of your words, people who are incapable of defending themselves are tortured, frozen and then silently murdered and the objections of people with irrational notions of what it means to be “human” are permitting it, taking a stand by not standing up for the unborn.

    I’m not sure what “people” you are talking about, but it cannot be early embryos. To be tortured implies the ability to feel pain and suffer, which requires nerves and a brain. An early embryo can no more be tortured than a sperm cell or an ovum being denied the opportunity to join and create a child. On the other hand, the people who stand to benefit from stem cell research most assuredly have the ability to suffer.

  50. #50 Cheechat
    July 29, 2006

    Once you’ve cured Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and eliminated paralyzation, what then will you focus on? All the rest of the diseases and ailments, of course. Then what? Isn’t death also a form of predation?

    Will the United States be the site of the first Immortals?

    Where will you put everyone? How will you feed them? Will you wait until after you’ve achieved immortality to think about the consequences?

  51. #51 Cheechat
    July 29, 2006

    A slippery slope indeed… Regarding predation, is removing a predator from the food chain a true solution?

    And now, through further reading, I have learned that ESCR will not actually help anyone because in order to help an ailing person you need cells with their particular DNA. Now ESCR evolves into cloning.

    Do you need a new liver? First we clone you, then we take a few of your embryonic stem cells, grow a new liver for you and then pop it into you. Feeling much better are you? Good! What’s that? What happened to your clone? That ball of cells that hadn’t reached its full potential? Oh, we killed it. Don’t let it bother your conscience – we believe it’s ethical to destroy a human embryo. Since it hadn’t developed a brain yet, it didn’t feel anything, therefore it was okay to kill it.

    A lovely day here in South Dakota. Clear blue skies, golden sunshine, cicadas chirping lazily in the trees…

  52. #52 trrll
    July 29, 2006

    Where will you put everyone? How will you feed them? Will you wait until after you’ve achieved immortality to think about the consequences?

    When you, or your spouse or child has an infection, and the doctor offers you an antibiotic, do you say, “No, I don’t want to treat that infection, because someday medical progress may lead to immortality, and what will we do with all of the people?” We are a long way from immortality. There is no realistic expectation that stem cell technology will eliminate aging and death or extend life to the point of having a major impact on population. Rather, the goal is to relieve unnecessary suffering from painful and debilitating disease.

    Regarding predation, is removing a predator from the food chain a true solution?

    Depends upon the structure of the population and the food chain and the nature of the problem that you are trying to solve. In humans, the availability of medical treatment tends to increase longevity. On the other hand, people are less inclined to have large numbers of children when more of them are likely to survive. In practice, it is those areas of the world where mortality from disease is greatest that are exhibiting the greatest population growth. And since we have birth control options, we are not solely dependent upon disease to regulate our population–not to mention that allowing people to suffer and die of disease when it is within your power to help them is ethically only a small step away from murder.

    and now, through further reading, I have learned that ESCR will not actually help anyone because in order to help an ailing person you need cells with their particular DNA.

    Not necessarily. For quite a few of the potential applications, this would probably not be necessary, although it would certainly be a valuable thing to be able to do.

    Feeling much better are you? Good! What’s that? What happened to your clone? That ball of cells that hadn’t reached its full potential? Oh, we killed it. Don’t let it bother your conscience

    Why should it bother my conscience? They would be my cells, with my DNA, no different from any other cells in my body. There are plenty of medical treatments in which cells are removed from the body, allowed to proliferate, and then returned to the body. Any cell in my body, except for germ cells, has the potential to grow into my twin, given appropriate conditions, but that doesn’t mean that I have to suffer a crisis of conscience if I have a mole removed. I would certainly object if somebody wanted to grow my cells into an actual twin, with the capacity to feel pain and a brain capable of desiring continued life, but that is not what anybody is contemplating.

  53. #53 Cheechat
    July 29, 2006

    It doesn’t matter how long we are away from immortality – it is that you are relentlessly marching towards it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a thousand years from now or tomorrow. It doesn’t matter if it’s a trillion cells or four, trrll. What do you really want? Is it perhaps that you are you afraid to die?

    “…it is those areas of the world where mortality from disease is greatest that are exhibiting the greatest population growth.” Gosh, trrll, listen to yourself. Do you have any time to actually live your life what with looking up all this needless brainfodder? I can’t express how reassuring it is knowing that people like you are looking out for all of us suffering from ignorance. Not.

    Who are those strange people that actually inject the poison into the veins of the condemned? I couldn’t do it, and the warden probably couldn’t either. Who are they? They are people that are capable of doing it. Throughout time they have lived just outside the light of the campfire, always ready to do that which most of us are uncomfortable doing. Why are some capable and others not? And who is really willing to be the warden? You?

    Save your “alleviate human suffering” speech for those that will pad your bank account, trrll. You frighten me. I will never condone the destruction of human embryos. Forgive me my compassion. Why must there always be destruction? There must be another way. It sure is cold in here.

  54. #54 trrll
    July 29, 2006

    It doesn’t matter how long we are away from immortality – it is that you are relentlessly marching towards it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a thousand years from now or tomorrow. It doesn’t matter if it’s a trillion cells or four, trrll. What do you really want? Is it perhaps that you are you afraid to die?

    Even if we were to cure all disease, we would still die from accidents and violence. Immortality is not going to happen. As I’ve said before, my concern is more with suffering than life. Indeed, it seems to me that it is those who want to preserve even the life of an early embryo, with no nerves or brain, who are evincing an exaggerated fear of death.

    Do you have any time to actually live your life what with looking up all this needless brainfodder?

    What you call “needless brainfodder” is what I think of as basic knowledge that I would expect any educated person to be familiar with. Ignorance can lead to all sorts of foolish notions–such as the idea that improved medical care is a major contributing factor to overpopulation.

    Save your “alleviate human suffering” speech for those that will pad your bank account, trrll.

    So do you really find the idea that some people have a genuine humanitarian concern for alleviating human suffering so threatening that you need to convince yourself that their true motive must be financial? For the record, I do not personally carry out stem cell research or profit from it financially in any way–the only way in which I stand to benefit is by living in a world in which there is improved medical care for the people who most desperately need it.

    You frighten me. I will never condone the destruction of human embryos. Forgive me my compassion.

    It is a bizarre and heartless notion of “compassion” that sneers at the dreadful suffering of people who have nerves to feel pain and brains to feel fear and sorrow, and values them less that a senseless ball of human cells that at best only has potential to become a person–a potential that it shares with any pair of sperm and egg.

  55. #55 Stephen Wells
    August 19, 2006

    Since about 70% of naturally fertilised zygotes fail to implant, and thus never grow to term, we have to conclude that the universe (or whatever entity is responsible for the universe, for the theists) is happy to condone the destruction of embryos, even if Cheechat isn’t; I would have to advise Cheechat not to attempt reproductive activity, since the destruction of embryos is an almost inevitable part of that process, and we can’t condone that, can we?

    Have a look at http://www.thepaincomics.com/ weekly archive, March 30 2005: The Conservative Christian’s Guide to Compassion. Yes to the unborn, the brain-dead and bunnies; not to the born, the mentally retarded, and foreigners. I quote from author’s commentary:
    “None of us can quite reconcile the creepy dissonance between conservatives’ deep concern for fetuses and the comatose and their apparent indifference to the poor, or civilian casualties in Iraq. Well, actually, I’m affecting naiivete for rhetorical purposes here; I think I understand the disconnect very well. Embryos and the brain-dead are abstract and blank, passive objects on which to project their vague sentimental notions of innocence and lavish their tacky, simple-minded, misplaced love, sort of like pets (hence the bunnies).”

  56. #56 Cheechat
    September 2, 2006

    The Pain comics are terrific. He has a new fan, thank you.

    ‘Creepy dissonance’ is a perfect way to describe how odd it is to me that certain persons wish to alleviate human suffering and at the same time destroy human life.

    If it is so that almost 70% of fertilized zygotes fail to implant it doesn’t mean that we can conclude that humans may destroy human embryos. Nature may, but we should not. This is simply my belief. I do not wish my tax dollars to be spent on stem cell research.

    For the record. 1. I am an atheist. I am no more important than an ant or a leaf. 2. I am against the unnecessary Iraq war because of all the unnecessary casualties, civilian and military. 3. I believed from the start that Terri Schiavo should have been removed from the feeding tube and I was dismayed that our resident serial killer, George Bush, got involved. 4. I am against the death penalty. 5. I am against abortion.

    I have two beautiful children. My youngest spent two nights in a hospital on IV as the result of acute rotavirus gastroenteritis. I am very thankful for the advances in medicine. However, if you are saying that cures for certain diseases can only come about through the destruction of human embryos, I want no part of it.