I just wanted to thank you for your response. I do appreciate your insight and it is nice to hear these things from a stranger. Anyway, I just wanted to say that…Thank you.
Now to turn to a completely different topic. I was wondering what your take is on the recent debates over federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The only reason I bring this up to you is because of the ethical/moral implications. There are plenty of people out there who do not support it because they have a belief (often for religious reasons) that life is ‘sacred’ and begins at conception and that this cluster of cells actually does have soul. Personally I have my doubts about the existence of a human soul but it’s still a murky issue for me. Because as much as some of these politicians aggravate me…especially Sam Brownback with his grandstanding, obnoxious, condescending presentations…there seems to be a rational point in there. If you destroy that cluster of cells (the blastyst) you do destroy a potential human life. Of course if you don’t further this research you only delay the development of new cures for certain diseases or injuries. This has a potential direct impact on the quality of life of those people who are currently living with diseases or handicaps.
To me it looks like the crux of both arguments hang on the word ‘potential.’ The potential for new human life vs. the potential for cures/treatments of life threatening problems. I just wondered what your thoughts were being an atheist who encourages people to lead ethical/moral lives.
Whew — heavy stuff! Not that I mind
Okay, so avoiding the topic of whether there should be federal funding for any science at all (which is too far outside the scope of this site to get into), here’s my take.
- The concept of soul is, obviously, unimportant to me. However, I think that humans have certain rights regardless of whether or not they have a soul.
- I think that any statement about when human life begins is going to be, to some extent, arbitrary and purely philosophical. For this reason, I have no problem with saying that life begins at conception, even if it’s just for the sake of argument.
- I don’t have a problem in general with using human tissue for experimentation, particularly when the experiments could lead to significant benefits for humanity.
- If I understand it correctly, the law under discussion involves using for experimentation embryos that are slated for disposal.
- If I had a one-month-old baby and it died, I would feel that donating my baby’s organs for transplant or donating some of my baby’s cells for significant, respectful experimentation might bring some good out of a great tragedy.
- Therefore, I think that it may actually be better to use tissues from these proto-babies for research than to just dispose of them as bio-waste.
I too am annoyed by some politicians who use the “life is sacred” argument in this particular discussion. If these people honestly consider the embryos to be fully human, then why aren’t they pressing for funerals or decent burials for them? Why aren’t they trying to at least have them cremated and returned to their parents in a little vase? I know I’m sounding sarcastic here, but I think this is a very important point.
As for Sam Brownback in particular, I do find his arguments annoying but at least he is pretty consistent in his beliefs. He is against embryonic stem cell research, but he’s also against abortion, and he has two adopted children (I’m a great believer in encouraging anti-abortion advocates to adopt children and therefore possibly make abortion less necessary.) I’d never vote for the guy, but at least on this subject he’s not the worst of the bunch. What Brownback needs to do is realize that his opinions on these subjects are based on religion and therefore have no place being put into law.
While we’re on the subject, I’m generally against full-body human cloning and elective genetic engineering. I don’t have any problem with cloning individual human organs for use as transplants or with eliminating disease genetically. And I’m against the recent anti-fetal farming bill, because it bans something that, to my knowledge, nobody is even proposing doing and it colors the debate on stem-cell research.
So that’s where I stand. Thanks for asking!