April 13, 2004

Respecting Life

M104 Posse member Kathy claims to be afflicted by "BiPolar Political Affective Disorder." You might be suffering from BiPPAD if...
You volunteer at Birthright International and you're keeping an open mind about stem cell research."

People that share these viewpoints are rare, but they shouldn't be. Both viewpoints show a respect for life. The vast majority of Americans would give some legal protection to the unborn at some point in the pregnancy. For example, most Americans were troubled by the partial-birth abortion procedure.

The key battleground is where society says that human life begins.

Clearly, both the sperm and egg are alive and they have the potential of being part of a new human, but few would offer legal protection to gametes. The crude and hilarious "Every Sperm is Sacred" song is effective satire because almost nobody would adopt that thinking.

Most pro-lifers would say that human life begins at conception. The famous stem cell researcher Dr. Michael West is sympathetic to the pro-life position, but in his book The Immortal Cell he argues for a different starting point for human life. Human life, he says, begins at differentiation.

Before differentiation a fertilized egg might fail to develop (as occurs when the fertilized egg is unsuccessful in attaching to the uterine wall - this happens about half of the time). Or the fertilized egg might become a single human. It could become two humans in the case of identical twins. A fertilized egg might even become part of a human in the rare case of a chimera where two fertilized eggs develop together into a single embryo.

If a fertilized egg has the potential in nature of being no human, part of a human, one human, or two humans, the destiny of a fertilized egg is objectively undetermined much like the undetermined nature of the gametes that formed it.

Once differentiation has occurred the destiny is fixed. The fertilized egg is now one human, two humans, or part of a human. After that point Dr. West argues that the embryo(s) have crossed a medical threshold the beginning of individual human life.

If you accept Dr. West's argument, then you can be a rare thing - a pro-lifer that supports embryonic stem cell research. Why? Because the most valuable stem cells must be harvested before differentiation - before human life begins.

A pro-lifer's respect for human life should not end at birth. Embryonic stem cell research has the potential to alleviate the pain of those suffering from disease. It could even led to treatment for the universal condition of aging. These noble goals demand careful consideration of when human life begins.

Posted by Stephen Gordon at April 13, 2004 12:35 PM | TrackBack

Maybe Kathy could get a job with the Kerry campaign. He fancies himself the holder of "subtle, nuanced" positions on a number of "complex issues." It ought to be worth something to his campaign to have someone explain what these terms actually mean.

Posted by: Phil at April 14, 2004 10:17 AM

I'll put my flip fllops on my feet right now.

Posted by: Kathy at April 14, 2004 11:26 AM

Kathy is nuanced, not schizophrenic.


Posted by: Stephen Gordon at April 14, 2004 12:17 PM
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