I had an interesting conversation with a co-worker last night on embryonic stem cell research. First, the disclaimers: She is pro-life and very religious, but is not one to push her views on others. We had a very good conversation/debate on this issue and she kind of opened my eyes into the way some on the right view this issue. It didn’t change my mind much, but I could see her point of view. Below I relay my view of this conversation.
She looks at the entire issue as wrong because of the way these embryos are created in the first place: fertility treatments. Because she feels that fertility treatments are science’s way of “playing God” then everything stemming from that is against God and His will. I can respect that belief. However, I still differ with her for this reason: Fertility treatments are considered legal. Whether or not you believe they are moral is indifferent to the issue of this research. Or at least it should be.
I tried to point out to her that if everything happens for a reason and is God’s will, then we shouldn’t have medical research at all, because any problem we have we have for a reason. Say your child gets hit by a car and is severely injured. Should we deny medical doctors the opportunity to try and fix the broken bones and patch the torn tissues because to do so would be to go against God’s will? Now I realize that I’m simplifying the argument a bit, but to me, allowing organ donation could also be considered against God’s will as well since whatever ailment the person needing the organ is God’s will. I also understand that God’s will is not so much for harm to be done to us, but He is omniscient and knows everything that has/is/will happen(ing). If we can end at least a little of the suffering that people go through, I think that is a goal we should reach for. The quandary with embryonic stem cell research, as my co-worker feels, is not that it is considered illegal, but rather that federal funding (as in public monies) will be used to advance this research.
Taking the religious and moral beliefs out of the argument for a second, since the original fertility treatment created these unused embryos (against God’s will), and since they will be destroyed (allowed to die, if you will), doesn’t it make sense to utilize what we can from them to advance medical science to perhaps come up with cures to certain debilitating diseases or injuries? Her point of view looks at it from the stance that since the fertility treatments are immoral/against God, anything beneficial coming from it is also against God’s will. She doesn’t like the idea that public funds (i.e. her taxes) would be used to fund such research. I argued that I don’t like MY taxes being used to fund an illegal war or provide more missiles and bombs that will be used to kill innocent civilians. The government being what it is, will make laws and decisions that piss somebody off no matter what they do. It is our job as the represented to make it known to our elected representatives that we object to this or that piece of legislation. Now, if a legislator’s constituents, against your beliefs, feel that said piece of legislation would make a good law, and assuming it has enough votes in Congress to pass, it becomes law whether a few people object or not.
So basically the issue of should we or shouldn’t we expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research boils down to one simple question: Is it considered legal? Abortion, the death penalty, stem cell research and the like are all contentious issues because they reside in the realm of moral and religious beliefs. Because of this, there will probably never be a full consensus on these issues. But since we are a nation of laws, outside of religion, those same moral and religious beliefs should not be major factors in coming to decisions on these issue. That’s not to say those beliefs can’t influence a decision on them, just that they should not be weighted too heavily. The logic my co-worker uses is reasonable from a religious standpoint, but it also would negate several important breakthroughs throughout the years because they were not God’s will. Medical breakthroughs such as the ability to fairly routinely replace damaged vital organs with donated organs, certain vaccines to cure viruses that used to be deadly to the populace, and certain surgeries to correct deformities should be deemed illegal based on this same logic as it changes the way God created us and prevents certain things from happening in our lives that may or may not, depending on your convictions, give the glory to God.
Regardless of my religious beliefs, I still feel that if embryos are going to routinely destroyed once fertility treatment has been successful, we should expand funding to use those soon-to-be-destroyed embryos for good with certain limitations of course.