Thursday, June 7, 2007

Stem Cells

Today the House overwhelmingly passed a sure-to-be-vetoed bill for federal funding of stem cells, ironically on the same day newspapers reported skin cells may now be able to serve the same function of embryonic stem cells. Even though everyone is extremely excited about this -- even saying it could "sidestep the ethical debates," I think this just goes to show that opponents of stem cell research because it could kill little babies are just wrong.

This science shows that skin can be manipulated to do the same thing an embryo does. Just like we learned in biology, every cell contains our entire genetic makeup. The objection is that embryonic cells have the potential to create new life based on the genetic makeup of one person. I'm certain that science will begin to show all cells have the capability to create new life (anyone seen Gattaca?) and then what is and is not life becomes very blurry. I would actually argue that this weakens opposition against stem cell research because it opens the door to all kinds of renditions of human life from other cells.

Initially, people objected to organ transplants for much of the same fear about the person's soul, as I read in Mary Roach's Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (a book I would highly recommend). Constantly worrying about this never seems very productive to me. As someone who has seen family members suffer and die due to diseases that could have been cured through both organ transplants and possibly stem cells, I'm more open to the possibilities that science holds, as other liberals are.

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