Michael Kinsley has an excellent column up at Slate about the inconsistency of the anti stem-cell crowd:
Against this, you have the fact that embryonic stem cells are extracted from human embryos, killing them in the process. If you believe that embryos a few days after conception have the same human rights as you or me, killing innocent embryos is obviously intolerable. But do opponents of stem-cell research really believe that? Stem cells test that belief, and sharpen the basic right-to-life question, in a way abortion never has.
In short, if embryos are human beings with full human rights, fertility clinics are death camps–with a side order of cold-blooded eugenics. No one who truly believes in the humanity of embryos could possibly think otherwise.
And, by the way, when it comes to respecting the human dignity of microscopic embryos, nature–or God–is as cavalier as the most godless fertility clinic. The casual creation and destruction of embryos in normal human reproduction is one reason some people, like me, find it hard to make the necessary leap of faith to believe that an embryo and, say, Nelson Mandela, are equal in the eyes of God.
Exactly right. No one really believes that an embryo a few days old is the moral equivalent of a human being. That’s strictly a bit of self-righteous demagoguery that appeals to the least thoughtful members of American society.
Kinsley also brings up evolution in an interesting way:
I cannot share–or even fathom–their conviction that a microscopic dot–as oblivious as a rock, more primitive than a worm–has the same human rights as anyone reading this article. I don’t have their problem with the question of when human life begins. (When did “human” life begin during evolution? Obviously, there is no magic point. But that doesn’t prevent us from claiming humanity for ourselves and denying it to the embryolike entities we evolved from.)
Interesting point. Your average pro-lifer rejects evolution, of course. But even the ones who accept it might point out that a fertilized egg inevitably becomes a human being in the normal course of events, whereas the evolution of humans was not inevitable from the origin of life. This is not morally significant, however. That a fertlized egg inevitably becomes a human being (barring some sort of miscarriage) does not imply that it already is a human being. The seed is not the plant.
For me stem cell research, even more so than abortion, is one of those issues with only one reasonable side. Not only is there no moral argument against such research, the moral issues run entirely the other way. Forbidding research with the potential to help thousands of people currently suffering from debilitating diseases on the grounds that a two-week old embryo is the moral equivalent of a human being is monstrous. As with so many other issues, it’s the ones who scream the loudest about morality and righeteousness who hold an indefensible position.