The View From 1776

Stem Cell Controversy

There is more involved than intelligence vs. ignorance.

Intelligent and decent people can disagree about the advisability, as well as the prospects for success, of stem-cell research.  Instead we witness, not rational discussion, but scathing attacks on the intelligence and moral character of people who oppose the potential for playing God with human life.

Even if the Federal government were to open the spending spigot for unrestricted stem-cell research, it is highly unlikely that anyone now suffering ills would benefit in his lifetime.  However promising stem-cell research may appear to be, its hoped-for benefits are mostly decades away, if ever.  Yet proponents characterize opponents as people who ignorantly condemn today’s sick to suffering and untimely death. 

Proponents ignore the issue of destroying other people’s lives (yes, embryos, however small and however young, are living human beings) and look at the distant end of a rainbow, where they are confident a large pot of gold is to be found.

Paul Greenberg, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, has framed the issue in one of the most effective presentations I’ve read.  His opinion article A Modest Proposal, echoes the 1729 satirical piece of the same title by Jonathan Swift, who suggested acidly that the famine problem in Ireland might be cured easily by having the Irish eat their own children.  Not only would this provide them needed nourishment and benefit Irish society as a whole, but the smaller population would reduce future needs for food.

Mr. Greenberg writes:

“Did you see Arlen Specter’s justification for subsidizing stem cell research on human embryos?

“The senator from Pennsylvania noted that “there are some 400,000 of these frozen embryos, which were created for in-vitro fertilization, which are going to be thrown away . . . .” So why not put them to good use?

“For some reason - can’t imagine why - listening to the senator brought back the reasoning that German doctors once used to justify their experiments on concentration camp inmates. They were going to die anyway; why just throw them away?

“.... The trick is not to think of the subjects of these experiments as human, but as Jews, Slavs, Gypsies . . . the eugenically undesirable. And remember that they were doomed anyway, and you can see the (brutal) logic of it.

That’s the trick in this case, too: Think of these embryos as something other than human, not as microcosms somehow programmed to turn into fully developed human beings with all of a human being’s capacity for good - and evil.

“Think of them as microscopic dots, as pre-human, or under-human, literally untermenschen, and anything we do with them is ethically permissible. Even commendable. Focus instead on the future patients to be helped, the suffering alleviated, the scientific breakthroughs that await, the progress (and maybe profits) to be made.

“Call the subjects of these experiments blastocysts, surplus embryos, pre-embryos, whatever, but don’t let on that they’re what all humans are at that stage of our development.

“The secret of promoting scientific research on human embryos is not to call them human embryos.”

Willingness to think of humans in the abstract and as masses and classes, rather than as individual persons created in the image of God, is one of the basic characteristics of liberal-socialism in the United States and of socialism in all of its varieties elsewhere.  Liberals preen themselves as champions of the “little guy,” but can’t look individual “little guys” in the face and do what is right for them on a one-to-one, individual basis.  Liberals convert individuals into Social Security numbers and deal with them clinically and abstractly as statistical classes.

Thomas Huxley, Darwin’s great champion in the 1860s, declared that Darwinian evolution had “proved” that there is no God, no Divine order to the world, no sin, no right or wrong, just the struggle for survival.  Having accepted that as scientific truth, today’s intellectuals of the liberal variety have no qualms about using other humans as stem-cell sources for the unproved possibility that health benefits may accrue therefrom.

We saw the same callous attitude by liberals in the 1930s when confronted with the brutalities and mass murders of Lenin and Stalin.  After all, they said, one has to break a few eggs to make an omelette.  What are a few million lives when measured against the prospect of socialism’s perfecting human nature and human society?

What are a few million human lives against the possibility that some hot-shot researcher may win a Nobel Prize for medical research?

Visit MoveOff Network Members