Sunday, November 25, 2007

If Embryonic Stem Cell Research is SO Great...

Why doesn't George Soros use one of his several billions to fund it. This is the question that I asked to a liberal family friend at Thanksgiving dinner. The question came up after they mischaracterized George Bush's position on stem cell research. They claimed that George Bush is against stem cell research.

First, Bush's position, along with his supporters on this issue, must be clarified. Bush isn't against stem cell research and in fact he isn't against any form of stem cell research at all, even the controversial embryonic stem cell research. Bush isn't even against government funding for all embryonic stem cell research. He is for funding on embryonic stem cells that have already been discarded. What he is against is the government funding of embryonic stem cell research in which embryos are created for the sole purpose of being destroyed for research. He doesn't believe that tax payer funds should be used for research in which human life is destroyed.

A new scientific discovery has put the issue of embryonic stem cell research back in the forefront. I want to give a hat tip to my Redstate colleague tomlinsondouthat for finally putting this sophisticated science into layman's terms. Think of the different forms of stem cell research as disks. Adult stem cells are blank disks however they can only be used for one purpose like: DVD's, CD's, games, etc. This is called multipotent. Embryonic stem cells are blank disks that can serve any function. This is called pluripotent. Obviously it goes without saying that there is potential in embryonic stem cell research not held in traditional stem cell research. Now, scientists have discovered a technique in which they can essentially take adult stem cells and remove all of their data and turn them into something close to any embryonic stem cell.

The science is interesting and fascinating but let's face it most of us are too stupid to understand. The morality, on the other hand, is something all of us need to think about. Proponents of federal funding for stem cell research believe that any procedure with potential must be explored because science must be given a chance to flourish fully. While this is true, there must also be some line that we cannot cross even if there is scientific potential. For instance, human cloning has plenty of scientific potential and even this scientific layman wouldn't be surprised if it lead to many discoveries that saved lives. That doesn't mean that we as a society should support its research, and it certainly doesn't mean that the federal government should use tax payer funds to fund it. Heinrich Himmler's experiments also probably had great scientific potential. Of course, no one believes those should be done let alone funded by the federal government.
There will be many proponents of embryonic stem cell research that will say my comparisons are ridiculous and unfair. Are they though? After all, proponents of embryonic stem cell research believe we should create human life for the sole purpose of destroying it. Given that context is it really not a good comparison? What is more obscene than the destruction of human life? THAT IS THE ROOT OF EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH.
The proponents of embryonic stem cell research don't consider an embryo a human life because it doesn't perform all the functions of traditional humans. This is of course the most obscene position. They are the ones that favor destroying the life before it lives the way they consider living and then say it isn't really a life. These are the important questions that proponents of embryonic stem cell research refuse to answer or write off.
In fact, it was Bush's insistence on moral and ethical scientific research that fostered the environment for the innovations recently discovered in stem cell research. While his opponents condemned him for standing in the way of scientific breakthroughs, he provided funding to the National Institute of Health so that scientists could develop methods of research on stem cells that didn't face the moral dilemmas of embryonic stem cell research.
It is exactly the sort of society that Hitler favored that says morals and ethics be damned in favor of scientific research. While those, like my family friend, condescend to those like me who have the nerve to ask such ethical questions, I ask my original question? If embryonic stem cell research is so great then why can't scientists get George Soros to provide funding.
I recently read the book, Freedomnomics, and it left me with no doubt. The free market is the ultimate equalizer. If embryonic stem cell research is really that great and all moral questions are trivial then researchers should have no trouble going into the private marketplace for funding. There are more than enough philanthropists looking to park their money in worthy causes. If the proponents of embryonic stem cell research are really right, they don't need the federal government to give them a hand out for funding research. That isn't what they want though. They want us all to ignore the important ethical questions raised by embryonic stem cell research, and still use government, or tax payer funds, to fund it. This despite the fact that many tax payers are against this sort of research.
The proponents of stem cell research on the one hand claim that ALL ethical questions are trivial and then want to force tax payers to fund the research despite their own ethical questions. If all ethical questions are irrelevant, and embryonic stem cell research is all that, then the private marketplace really is the best place for embryonic stem cell research.
The fact that proponents are so forceful in supporting government hand outs tells me that maybe their position really isn't all that.


Tom Douthat said...

Hi, Mike. A great, forcefully-argued post. I look forward to exploring the rest of your blog.

Thanks for the shout-out, and for getting the whole thread started over at Redstate. I think it's been a productive discussion over there.

Janet Crutcher said...

It is true that some, including Bush, view human embryos as morally equivalent to born human persons although the natural loss of an embryo in normal human reproduction is not recognized as a death that requires a funeral, and the disposal of human embryos after completion of infertility treatments is not treated as murder by the legal system.
Bush finds it immoral to use embryos that are going to be discarded, due to legalization of abortion in the United States, for research, and that is a shame. He, however, finds it perfectly moral to send already born men and women to fight wars half way around the world, most of which well never come back alive, or with their extremities intact. Those very same man and women could use the advances that stem cell research could offer them. Why are our military in Iraq again? I forget!
Bush doesn't believe that tax payer funds should be used for research in which human life is destroyed, yet he is using tax payer funds to send already born men and women on ,basically, suicide missions in Iraq in which human life is going to be destroyed. What is up with that?? The man needs serious psychological help immediately.
Thank God we only have 11 months and 22 days left to go as of today.
Janet Crutcher

mike volpe said...

Only someone way left would try and inject Iraq into a debate on Embryonic stem cell research.

Bill O'Reilly is fond of saying don't excuse bad behavior by pointing to other bad behavior. Whatever your position on Iraq is, it has no relevance into the debate on embryonic stem cell research. This sort of trojan horse arguement is weak and done by people that usually have no grasp of the issue at hand.