Friday, January 12, 2007

Stem Cells and Critical Thinking

One of the mantras on the left is that they apply critical thinking to their positions while the right is absolutist. I was listening to some of the yammering on left about Bush's decision not to spend federal dollars for research on human embryos is based on antiquated absolutists positions.

The absolutist position is that we should not do experiments that destroy human life.

Bush's position is that we should not ban stem cell research. However, we should draw a line on doing experiments on human embryos. Rather than passing a law to prevent experimentation on embryos. He wants to limit funding to programs that do experimentation on human embryos. I think this is a good and effective way of forcing groups engaged in stem cell research to guage the moral dimension of their research.

The accusation is that the fuzzy line drawn around the human embryo is an absolutist position.

It seems to me that the position that embryos are not a form of human life (making them fair game for experimentation) is more of an absolutist position than the traditional view that starts with the observation that embryos develop into people, then, through a process of critical thinking arrives at the conclusion that we cannot tell for certain that the embryo is not a human.

A person with even a casual familiarity with genetics should know that an embryo contains the complete, unique DNA (both cellular and mitochondrial) to make up a human being. Anyone familiar with the reproductive system would know that if an embryo gets implanted in the uterline lining, that it will develop into a person (without intervention). The fact that we have something on the petri dish with the complete genetic make up of a human and that would develop into a human gives rise to speculation that an embryo is an undeveloped human life form.

When applying a process of critical doubt to my actions, I would not be willing to produce the hundreds of thousands of embryo clones needed for experimentation. As a moral animal, I would want to find other ways to answer my questions about the development of life.

As for the debate surrounding stem cell research, this is one of the ugliest debates of the modern era. In typical fashion, progressives have intentionally been muddling terms, and pulling every underhanded trick of rhetoric to sensationalize the debate. For example, they project the absolutism of their views that embryos are not a form of human life onto their opponents who are, for the large part, driven by critically doubt. There is also a constant muddling of terms in the debate. Progressives will use a quote from a conservative about embryotic stem research and apply it to adult stem cell research to make the conservative sound unreasonable.

There is also, of course, the problems of definitions with embryotic stem research. The term stem cell can apply both to the embryo (the zygote is the ultimate stem cell) and to a number of cells which get produced in the early moments of life.

We are seeing the birth of a global industry. This industry will either be producing hundreds of millions of embryos for research and medical products, or it will be one with a strong moral code which tries to regulate and reduce the production of embryos for research.

The overall social debate that we have at the beginning of this research will determine the direction that the industry takes. What I find disgusting in this debate is that people who employ critical thinking and reject the absolutist secular position that an embryo is not human life get shouted down and ridiculed by the powerful, authoritarian science community.

Modern western science has been plagued with a series of missteps because we, as a society, failed to question progressive scientists. Nuclear energy was once the cause celebre of the progressive community. We threw up a large number of firts generation plants that were both unsafe and had no plans for disposing of waste. The dam industry was once the same thing. Dam construction was another cause celebre of the progessive scientific community and dams where thrown on every mountain river and stream with little thought of the consequences.

If we are to be a rational scientific society, we have to be able to discuss the ethical ramifications of our actions. Right now, it appears that Bush Administration is doing a better job of engaging in real debate than the progressives who have launched a massive disinformation campaigned set to ridicule their opponents.

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