Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Dissent: The Case Against Faith

It is, of course, taboo to criticize a person's religious beliefs. The problem, however, is that much of what people believe in the name of religion is intrinsically divisive, unreasonable and incompatible with genuine morality.

A case in point: embryonic-stem-cell research is one of the most promising developments in the last century of medicine. It could offer therapeutic breakthroughs for every human ailment (for the simple reason that stem cells can become any tissue in the human body), including diabetes, Parkinson's disease, severe burns, etc. In July, President George W. Bush used his first veto to deny federal funding to this research. He did this on the basis of his religious faith.



Anonymous said...

Adult stem cells are perfect for research and use. Why kill a person just to test?

Anonymous said...

What is the definition of genuine morality?

Anonymous said...

Adult stem cells are not a substitute for embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells have the ability to become any other kind of cell; adult stem cells do not. If you want to study how the entire body develops and differentiates into different kinds of tissue, you need to study embryonic stem cells; there is no substitute.

Stem cells offer at least four avenues for new medical therapies:

(1) They could be used to grow tissue for transplant. This is very attractive since there aren't enough organ donors to meet current needs.

(2) Stem cells could be used for much more effective drug testing. Drugs can be tested on tissues grown from human stem cells rather than tested through animal trials (where results can be misleading) or through human trials (which are expensive and time consuming).

(3) Stem cells could be used to study diseases as the develop much more quickly and certainly much more repeatably than by observing the disease develop in a person.

(4) Stem cells could be used to tailor therapies to individuals.

You can make a moral argument that sacrificing an embryo for research is wrong (I won't make such an argument), but you can't make a scientific argument. For me, there's no question that embryonic stem cell research is moral. Sacrificing clusters of cells without a developed nervous system that are going to be disposed of anyway to enable research with the strong potential for saving thousands or millions of lives is a no brainer.