The Soul of an Embryonic Stem Cell

When President Obama revoked a ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research he invited some Pro-life bloggers to … Continued

When President Obama revoked a ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research he invited some Pro-life bloggers to claim again that he is a “baby killer.” The controversy is not new. When still a candidate, Obama indicated he would reverse the prohibition that Bush had decreed on government-sponsored research with embryos. (Bush did nothing about privately-funded, for-profit research). This is certainly a moral issue that walks the boundary line that separates Church from State because no one claims the government or private enterprise has a license to kill a living person. But is an embryo a human person? When asked by Pastor Rick Warren about this issue, candidate Obama indicated that decisions about when conception takes place were above his “pay grade.” This is rare humility for any politician.

Catholic theological teaching is unequivocal: the human soul is infused by God at the moment of conception. The biological issue of when exactly conception can be considered to have occurred is less clear. Cardinal Rigali, head of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on such matters has quoted some doctors who make fertilization of the embryo the moment of conception. Those embryos have souls, it would be said. Other doctors, perhaps a majority of fertility experts, state conception takes place only after that fertilized embryo is implanted in the womb and grows as a fetus.

Which medical opinion should the Church follow? Is the person in an embryo or only in a fetus? To avoid this dilemma, the church has long spoken against in vitro fertilization. But recognizing the moral issues of the world, the late Pope John Paul II appointed a Pontifical Commission of doctors to offer informed opinions on the biological issues. After admitting that there were sound arguments for both moments, they recommended that the Church take the “safer” position of a soul to the embryo, rather than the fetus. But “safer,” tutior in Latin, means that the other position is still “safe.”

Critics of the Church’s position often accuse Catholicism of protesting stem cell research out of a malevolent or medieval obsession. However, it would be a fallacy to say that Catholicism is against stem cell research: only the embryonic stem cells present the moral dilemma. Catholics agree that scientific research on stem cells is valuable, but they want to use adult stem cells, not the embryos. The tutior position of the Church says that even if an embryo may not be a human person in a biological sense, it has the potential of becoming so. In Catholic theology, potential human beings share rights with actual human beings. That principle should be upheld by every Catholic, for otherwise the door is opened to the murder of people on life support, the impaired and the like.

However, the abandonment of embryos by couples who have decided not to use these frozen stem cells has created a new situation. If the law makes it impossible for these embryos to be used except by a deceased couple who no longer pay to have them preserved, have they lost the potential to grow into human beings by artificial insemination? If they are otherwise to be destroyed, then does not the good that can be done to heal disease outweigh protecting a non-existent potential? Theologians must advise the bishops that there is a difference between metaphysical potentiality and this specific case. Metaphysical potentiality says: “Any child born in the United States can grow up to be president.” But this generality evaporates in the specific case of a Downs Syndrome child.

These are deep, delicate and daunting issues. They are not resolved by “baby killer” accusations or by cavalier dismissal of Catholic moral concern. While President Obama may not be making decisions in accord with the “safer” instruction about the soul, his policy falls within the parameters set for science by Catholic theology. And maybe it should be that way. I’d hate to see a president invoking theology as a basis for policy: that would turn the democracy into a theocracy. A better political course would be for Catholic America to press for research into the use of non-embryonic stem cells, transforming a divisive issue into one focused on healing the sick.

  • NancyinNC

    This article is very informative and helpful. I was feeling very nervous about President Obama’s decision to allow embryonic stem cell research. My thanks to the Washington Post for including Mr. Stevens-Arroyo’s essay today. It is my first time reading an article by the author. I will have to visit the Catholic America web site.

  • redrockraven

    Having been raised Catholic, I learned a long time ago that there is a lot of unsubstantiated bull preached within the Catholic parishes. However, they are not the only religion that has this problem. The Republican Party likes to label the Democrats as promoting Socialism. Yet they are the Socialist Party when it comes to meddling into the personal and sexual lives of everyone else, whether or not they share the same religious beliefs. It is very encouraging to see the government removing religion from its 8 year stranglehold on scientific health research. Claiming that stem cell research is equivalent to abortion makes as much sense as claiming eating eggs is killing chickens. Maybe there is a pill to cure people from religious hypocrisy.

  • carlvincent

    The article really contributes to the discussion on stem cell research, though I wish it had included some fact based alternatives already available. For example,

  • gillyala

    Do a Google search on miscarriage rates, which report that 20-31% of all pregnancies result in miscarriage.I would think that fact alone makes God the biggest abortionist of all. And, since Catholics and others believe as soon as conception occurs, the “soul” is injected into the blastocyst, where do all these souls go after God has aborted them?

  • gilcolvery

    Oh please…rare humility? Give me a break, his answer that the question was “above his pay grade” was an outright lie. Simple honesty seems to be above his pay grade. Obama is so pro abortion it should send chills down the (developing) spines of every preborn child alive today. Four words: Freedom of Choice Act.

  • Mark_BK

    These are NOT deep, delicate and daunting issues!! That is, of course, unless you subscribe to a set of ideas that are “malevolent or medieval” then I guess they are. Apparently, more of us should do a little more critical thinking and a little less listening to Zeus and his ilk.

  • jeffrisner

    By this logic a sperm cell has half a soul and and an egg has a half. As one who believes that souls are a superstition and myth I don’t want science and medicine stopped by such nonsense. Keep the faith in your churchs and let the rest of us progress the human race. If we had listened to religious experts before we would still be in the Dark Ages, living on a flat earth with the sun orbiting. Thank God we didn’t listen then and we won’t now.

  • jameschirico

    No such thing as embryonic stem cell research. An Embryo by definition is growing in a womb. It is blastomic stem cell research. I find the religious rights view these blastomas are humans with souls quite hypocritical. When they are destroyed due to age, we don’t see them getting baptized, nor even a request to do so. Destroying hundreds of thousands of blatomas, not using them to cure type 1 diabetes to me is far more sinful. You will hear the argument they can be helped from donated organs, but less than 1 in a 100 get help due to scarcity.

  • voice4

    Those who do not support stem cell research, should probably refrain from reaping the benefits from this research when treatment options are available. Can’t wait to see how many pro- life supports will refuse treatment when they themselves are in need. Probably none!

  • carlo4

    Theology has nothing to do with this, neither does the soul. The point is, as a society, what value we attribute to human life. An embryo possesses a complete genetic “personality” and is built to become a human individuals. Eggs and sperm do not. As for all the frozen embryos abandoned in a fridge somewhere, that’s why as a Catholic I think in vitro fertilization is a stupid idea, especially in a world full of babies in need of being adopted into a family.

  • sawrdja

    It would seem to me that, *since these embryos would otherwise be destroyed completely*, that their use to help actual human beings would be a Good Thing. It’s not like people are manufacturing human embryos for stem cell research; they are being created for potential use for in vitro fertilization (whether you agree or not, it is and will continue to happen). I don’t see the point of (literally) throwing them away, when they could be useful to help mankind. I am sure that eventually their use will not be necessary, as new ways of coaxing cells into becoming stem cells are coming to fruition. But for now, I couldn’t agree more with Obama’s decision to allow their use in research to help save countless millions of living, breathing human beings.

  • lissabird

    While some people sit around debating these gray issues regarding souls, real people (with souls!) are dying of diseases which may have already been cured by now, if Mr. Bush had not banned funding for stem cell research.If someone out there really thinks this is a religious matter, they should spend some time examining their faith and try developing some compassion for those of us who are already here and suffering.

  • Didi2

    I am beyond pleased that Obama is restoring federal funding to embryonic stem cell research. The truth is this is not all that different than organ donation – which almost everyone agrees is a good thing. Whether we are talking about embryos or blastomas, it’s still biological material that will be disposed of and wasted. How is donating embryos to research any different from parents donating the organs of a deceased child?

  • mlansdon

    “Even for strong backers of embryonic stem cell research, the decision is no longer as self-evident as it was, because there is markedly diminished need for expanding these cell lines for either patient therapy or basic research. In fact, during the first six weeks of Obama’s term, several events reinforced the notion that embryonic stem cells, once thought to hold the cure for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and diabetes, are obsolete. The most sobering: a report from Israel published in PLoS Medicine in late February that shows embryonic stem cells injected into patients can cause disabling if not deadly tumors.”

  • kwn1

    Everyone replying to this article was an embroyo. Human blastocysts or embroyos will never develop into puppies or daisies. They will, however, develop into infants, toddlers, adolescents and adults. How is it possible to kill/destroy an embroyo without killing/destroying a toddler or adult?

  • topperale

    “I’d hate to see a president invoking theology as a basis for policy: that would turn the democracy into a theocracy.”Isn’t that what we experienced for the past eight years? An administration that made scientific decisions solely on the basis of the religious concerns of its party’s base? Enough is enough. I applaud President Obama’s action to place science back in its rightful place in the decision making process.

  • Chaotician

    Catholic theological teaching is unequivocal: the human soul is infused by God at the moment of conception. ????

  • BubbaRight

    Maybe not on his watch but Obama can’t control the horse once it is out of the barn.

  • wdh001

    The premiss of te debate is the existence of a soul within the person. This existence is a belief and can not be claimed or disclaimed by science. Neither can this existence be derived from strict logical reasoning. The concept of soul is found in ancient mythology just as concepts of gods, devils, hell and virgins in heaven and reincarnation. All these concepts, soul included, will have a limited lifespan.

  • CCNL

    Father Tom Reese said it better so why is WAPO continuing the discussion as per Tony SA who has significantly less education???

  • gladerunner

    kwn1 : “Everyone replying to this article was an embroyo. Human blastocysts or embroyos will never develop into puppies or daisies. They will, however, develop into infants, toddlers, adolescents and adults. How is it possible to kill/destroy an embroyo without killing/destroying a toddler or adult?”Not all human embryos turn into humans. Many, (one study says 31%) are disposed of naturally for various biological reasons. Since the casting away of that many embryos prior to them becoming infants is apparently part of our nature, it is certainly part of god’s design. If all embryos are ‘ensouled’ at conception then for whatever reason, god is recalling 1/3 of those souls before they are even born.

  • kwn1

    Whether or not embryos are naturally destroyed, begs the question of just because we can create them, should we? Re: another comment in this string, much research has shown that adult stem cells are already producing results and that embryonic stem cells, have, to date, produced nothing. I do know that the embryonic stem cell people have well-funded lobbying. So, you see, it’s just Washington, as usual. Science has very little to do with this. Money and influence have a LOT to do with it. Morality and ethics don’t even make the list.

  • Crowbar

    For your consideration:

  • cwh2

    Hey, a little tadpole-like sperm swimming towards an egg has already a possibility (admittedly, a really low probability) of turning into an embryo, then into a fetus, then into a toddler . . . So, where to draw the line? Gynecologists and theologians will be fighting over this line forever. Don’t lose sight of the lives of sick people that can be saved by the use of embryonic stem cells!

  • Paganplace

    Frankly, the fact is, the churches have decided it’s OK to spend billions *creating* these clumps of cells, in excess of that’s needed, cause of their value on personally-reproducing, and generationally-attached stigma of not being able to. Setting up things so that people feel so ‘cursed by God’ for miscarriages that they’ll do anything to personally have their own offspring. There was some resistance to in vitro fertilization at first, (remember the Seventies) …but it gave way. As long as you have the money, ‘infertility’ needs treating, regardless of cost or risk.The blastocysts thus produced and which would otherwise get flushed as medical waste or left in freezers unless donated…. Are past the point of being ‘potential human life,’ and by the Church’s own terms are *no less* potential human life if they’re just left to die of freezer burn. What if the non-implanted blastocysts were collected from the menses of women who simply didn’t become pregnant, even if fertilization did occur? This happens as much as half of the time…. Is it ‘murder?’ ‘Tragic death of a soul?’ Do we mourn this? No.This is about control, pure and simple. Or a sense of it. Blastocysts used in medical research that could help people are a small part of the *waste* of the ‘pro life’ preggers-at-all-costs hysteria. If you don’t like it, tell your own people not to do it, *first,* and *succeed,* before we even have to *tell* you how far your rights extend over others’ bodies, thanks very much. Way it looks to me, you tried that, already, and decided to blame *science* for the effects of your own teaching.Even the homophobia says, ‘If you don’t breed, you don’t count, no matter how many orphans there are’ People internalize that. Might question you or disobey you if you ‘lay down the law’ there. So you need the fertility clinics. Kind of late to be talking about ‘human souls being created.’ When, even if a soul’s, or the human experience *did* begin there, it’s *already done.* They’re *already* not gonna live to listen to your book. Maybe you can see we can at least stop some lives from *ending* …after a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering your sensibilities demanded.

  • MikeL4

    It is funny how Stephens-Arroyo will not follow Catholic doctrine when his precious political feelings are at stake.Here is a thought. President Obama IS injection his theology into this scientific debate. He is just saying that his theology is different than mine. His theology says he doesn’t know when life begins, so what the hell, let’s kill it.My theology, and the theology of the Catholic Church says, life begins at conception. It is deserving of protection.To say that President Obama is not injecting theology into this debate is just another Stephens Aroyyo line of hooey. Stephens-Arroyo needs to learn, if he is going to write under the title Catholic America, he needs to support Catholic theology, not the theology of President Obama or the Democrat Party.

  • tz12341

    This article is completely misleading. First, has the author heard of genetics. Each embryo has a unique DNA at the time of conception. It is up to those individuals that wish to use embryo’s as experiment on to prove that their isn’t a soul. If not at conception then when and why? (why – beside it being more convenient)Second this whole safe versus safer methodology is completely made up. One can never act on an uncertain conscience. If you think but aren’t sure that there is someone hiding in a box than that doesn’t mean it is morally permissible to shot wholes in the box.Third, there was no need for this funding. The EXACT same cells can be obtained from skins cells. Moreover, there is no danger to women in obtaining eggs. The truth is Obama and the democrats were hoping that embryonic stem cells could become their own “wedge issue”. That they could highlight how compassionate it is to cure disease in order to peel off “moderate” suburban voters. They also thought they could use embryonic stem cells as a form of social engineering, sending a message to all of those hypocritical pro-lifers that they will use another person as a means to an end too…if only it would cure their diabetes or spinal cord injury. This article is NOT Catholic, which isn’t suprising considering the post published it.

  • khote14

    tz12341, uh, identical twins share the same DNA, the same program. One is less likely to listen to your continuing noise when one of the first assertions you make is entirely false.

  • bevjims1

    tz12341 wrote: “This article is completely misleading. First, has the author heard of genetics. Each embryo has a unique DNA at the time of conception. It is up to those individuals that wish to use embryo’s as experiment on to prove that their isn’t a soul.”A soul is part of a belief. You want scientists to prove something that cannot be proven, and a negative at that? Why is it always the believers that want science to prove negatives when they cannot prove the positive existence of anything associated with their religions? First prove souls exist, then we can talk. The onus is on you to prove the positive, not science to prove the negative.tz12341 wrote: “Second this whole safe versus safer methodology is completely made up. One can never act on an uncertain conscience. If you think but aren’t sure that there is someone hiding in a box than that doesn’t mean it is morally permissible to shot wholes in the box.”Someone in a box can be proven. If you think a soul is there, prove it. If you can’t prove it, then stop saying something is there. I can prove people exist living with horrible diseases this research might provide a treatment or cure for. I mean, are you willing to let another 8 years go by without federally funded research into horrible disease? How christian of you. There is a real human downside to not doing this research which I don’t hear the Catholic church talk about.tz12341 wrote: “Third, there was no need for this funding. The EXACT same cells can be obtained from skins cells.”Wrong. Adult stem cells are not embryonic stem cells. They are most likely useful, but they are not EXACT. Research has brought promising developments with taking adult stem cells and making them able to become any tissue in the body. But, to determine the differences and potentials will require the research you oppose. If they were exact, the adult cells could be derived from the patient and thus avoid tissue rejection, yet scientists still need to do embryonic stem cell research, which should give you a clue that whatever information you received that they are the same is bogus. But I’ve seen religious organizations give out incorrect information before to promote a position, so this is not unexpected nor surprising that it is believed without question by those taught to believe without question.

  • maxmillian1

    Of course the ends justify the means. Just think of all those death row inmates whose useful parts could be harvested, or the jews in death camps who were goingt o die anyway so why shouldn’t they be used as subjects in lethal medical experiments, or those blacks who were going to be hanging in the wsouth anyway so why not use them for syphilis experiments. Might as well start rounding up all those useless old people in homes for experiments too.

  • hyjanks

    Oh, no! Please, please, please don’t reverse our Christin ex-president’s guidelines of stem cell research!

  • lddoyle2002

    I’m sorry, but, I can’t understandy why people who are so upset about frozen embryeoes that are going to be destroyed being used for stem cell research, then why aren’t these same people crusading against the destruction of the frozen embyeoes in the first place?

  • JUSTACOMMENT

    Why not go all the way with the embryos?If an embryo were to be legally considered a child (child = egg + sperm + soul + womb or freezer), a lot of new business and legal activities are going to flourish.Tons of families are ready to claim more child dependent exemptions. Gynecologists will be required to certify that there is an embryo alive in the womb of the mother. A visit to the church is needed to baptize the child. A new specialization for lawyers will be created to deal with embryos rights. Theologists will be hired as expert witnesses in cases dealing with these special children.Airlines will explore whether or not to charge for one additional seat if they discover that a woman is carrying a legal person in their womb. Or pregnant women will claim right to a second or third bag with no charge.If just days after conception a pregnant mother is dying of natural causes, are you morally compelled to call 911 before is too late for the child to survive? If you fail to call, can you be charged with murder and condemned to die in the electric chair? Don´t for a minute talk of abortion, it will be murder deserving death penalty without exception.What if an alien mother visiting the country conceives during her stay? Is the child a legal citizen with all the rights, even if the child born in another country because his/her soul was made in USA?

  • cdierd1944

    The less influence Catholic priests have on national policy the better off we will be as a nation. I for one have a fear that failure to shut down these theological nut cases is leading to the Talibanization of our great country.

  • mwells144

    only the washington post would allow for such a author as this to claim he is catholic and write as he is an authority figure. Mr. Stevens-Arroyo has continued to act as a “cafeteria-catholic” where his opinion he feels is greater than what the church does, and has consistently taught. I have no problem with you giving your opinion Mr. S-A, just do not claim that you are a follower of the church and its beliefs.

  • Farnaz2

    “These are deep, delicate and daunting issues. They are not resolved by “baby killer” accusations or by cavalier dismissal of Catholic moral concern.”I don’t know that there is much “cavalier dismissal.” The issue, which for so long has been so difficult to communicate, is that “Catholic concern” ought not to be legislated in a country that separates church and state. The problem of Church lobbyists, of the pulpit/altar’s use as a propaganda machine violates the provisions for the Church’s nonprofit status. If the Vatican wishes to be a political entity, then it must forgo tax exempt status. End, once again, of the same interminable discussion.On a separate note: I support President Obama’s decision on this matter whole-heartedly. Do I think that there are potential ethical issues? Absolutely. If and when we get past, destructive religious sectarianism, perhaps we can discuss them. Is there irony here, Anthony?

  • usapdx

    IF THERE WAS A FIRE AND YOU COULD ONLY SAVE ONE, A YOUNG CHILD OR A EMBRYONIC STEM CELL, WHICH WHOULD YOU SAVE? THE USA HAS A GOVERMENT OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE. IF YOU WANT YOUR TOTAL FREEDOM OF SPEECH, DO NOT FILE TAX EXAMPT FOR YOU ARE IN VIOLATION OF I.R.S. TAX EXAMPT RULES.

  • JesusIsComingStupid

    I`m cryin with JESUS over them little inoscent human embreo babies! I can hear them sqeal wile they are stabbed to make dogfood. I herd that some of them are used in soylent green!I just wanna PUKE!!!

  • coloradodog

    Catholics like their fellow evangelical and Mormon neochristians seem to value unborn life far more than born life as they have no problem with capital punishment and pre-emptive war. What happens to the lives of the raped 9 year old Brazilian girl and her twin babies (if they all survived the births) is of no apparent concern of the Archbishop who excommunicated her mother and the doctor who performed the abortions. Notice he said nothing about her Catholic step-father rapist. If all life is sacred, picking and choosing which life to protect by the politically religious smacks of more cherry-picking hypocrisy. It’s a better thing, actually, that pedophile priest prefer young boys to molest than impregnating young girls and then protecting their spawn by invoking “God’s commandments” in their very selective and convenient manner.

  • coloradodog

    JesusIsComingStupid wrote:And what about the SLAUGHTER OF INNOCENTS evry time a hethen masterbates?Good point – unless the literalistic Pope Benedict is a total hypocrite, he needs to excommunicate all who have masturbated. (Of course, the financial implications of such an honest and Godly decision take precedence).

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    What is the basis for Catholic arguments on these matters? There is none. ZERO.It is all made up, and invented. If a person has not been raised up in Catholic dogma and teachings, it is all incomprehensible.On these matters, the Catholic Church is in denial and in a made-up dream world.It is obvious and just plain common sense that a fertilized egg in a lab dish is not the same as a fully formed human being.That is innately and intuitively obvious. I think it is just easier to shed a tear of empathy for such blobs of protoplasm than to engage in a real world or fully formed and suffereing people.I think the whole Catholic operation that seeks to mislead people and obsruct the progress of mankind on many fronts is a tragedy.

  • schaeffz

    Get REAL everyone!!!! I’d like to see those $$$ spent on anti-stem-cell and anti-abortion go to feed already-born but starving babies all around the world. Save the souls that are already out of the womb first! Once all people who have survived birth are happy and healthy, then deal with those in the womb. Every time the Pope shows up in his pope-mobile and pope-jet wearing expensive satin and lace and gold, saying Mass in a cathedral stuffed with assets simply on display, I cringe. Same goes for Protestant preachers in crystal cathedrals and mega-church multi-media auditoriums, wearing silk suits and $200 haircuts, all asking for your $$$ to support their “ministries”. All while millions across the Earth starve to death. How petty can we get discussing embryonic stem cell research compared to the suffering of real, live, breathing, hurting people at this very moment????

  • bevjims1

    lddoyle2002 wrote: “I’m sorry, but, I can’t understand why people who are so upset about frozen embryeoes that are going to be destroyed being used for stem cell research, then why aren’t these same people crusading against the destruction of the frozen embyeoes in the first place?”Because they don’t understand what an embryo is, what a fetus is, when conception happens, what the implications of calling a blastocyte a human with rights are, etc. They just indoctrinate themselves once a week at church and then regurgitate the same words without a clue as to what they mean or their implications. And so tossing frozen embryos is ignored while Plan B, which doesn’t allow fertilization to take place and cannot cause an abortion, is called an abortion pill. These people need to educate themselves. There are libraries full of books that explan the whole process, from ovulation to fertilization to implantation to fetal development. If these people spent half the time they spend in church in a library, or even on the internet, reading about the facts, they would not be making many of the silly claims we read on this board, such as “An embryo possesses a complete genetic ‘personality’ “or “It is up to those individuals that wish to use embryo’s as experiment on to prove that their isn’t a soul.”No wonder Americans are a laughing stock.

  • bevjims1

    carlo4 wrote: “Theology has nothing to do with this, neither does the soul. The point is, as a society, what value we attribute to human life. An embryo possesses a complete genetic “personality” and is built to become a human individuals. Eggs and sperm do not.”Then what to do about women who miscarry? Should miscarriages be treated as the death of a child? Should law enforcement be brought in every time a woman miscarries? Should doctors who treat a woman after a miscarriage call the cops to investigate? Have you thought about the consequences of calling a 24 cell blastocyte a human?carlo4 wrote: “As for all the frozen embryos abandoned in a fridge somewhere, that’s why as a Catholic I think in vitro fertilization is a stupid idea, especially in a world full of babies in need of being adopted into a family.”As a father of an IVF child I talk offense to that. Maybe YOU should stop having sex to have children and adopt children instead, then not have sex again until all the orphans in the world have been adopted. Or do you think only those who are able to procreate “naturally” should have their own children?And just what is the Catholic church doing about all those frozen embryos going into the trash? What are they doing for woman considering abortion? What are they doing for men on death row? Their talk about a “culture of life” is mostly words, with little action (excepts threats of hell and excommunication). And actions speak much louder than words. Its obvious to me the Catholic church cares little about the “culture of life”, now or in the past.

  • arosscpa

    USAPDXLIF YOU WANT YOUR TOTAL FREEDOM OF SPEECH, DO NOT FILE TAX EXAMPT FOR YOU ARE IN VIOLATION OF I.R.S. TAX EXAMPT RULES.Not true. 501(c)(3) nonprofits, overwhelmingly religious organizations, are not permitted to endorse candidates for office. The same nonprofits are permitted to spend a minority of their funds for advocacy on public issues, with a safe harbor of 30% of total expense over a five year period.

  • arosscpa

    MLansdon:further i think obama lifts the ban solely because george bush had banned that research .It would be better if your were right, but I fear you are not. Obama has worked out his own ethic where if we start with birth control and abortion being acceptable, then we can also endorse FOCA, and sponsor as an Illinois state legislator a law permitting death through neglect for babies born alive during an abortion. Obama is the ultimate example of the slippery slope argument.Not that anyone cares about the precision of this argument, but the Church’s objection to using embryonic stem cells follows the moral law that one does not create another or even a potential other solely to benefit someone else. A recent example of why this moral law is needed would be Nazism. This is different that the Church’s prohibition on abortion, although springing from the same moral font.

  • rpvt

    So if it is the potential to become a human that determines if something is protected, does that mean that if science eventually finds a way to clone a human from an arbitrary human cell, the catholic church will make it a sin to spit?

  • bevjims1

    Arosscpa wrote: “Not that anyone cares about the precision of this argument, but the Church’s objection to using embryonic stem cells follows the moral law that one does not create another or even a potential other solely to benefit someone else. A recent example of why this moral law is needed would be Nazism. This is different that the Church’s prohibition on abortion, although springing from the same moral font.”But Nazism did not create life solely to benefit someone else. They ended life to benefit someone else. The argument can be made that it is the Catholic church itself, which encourages large families, that insists on producing human life solely for its own benefit by producing more Catholics.

  • marcedward1

    silly argument from the anti-science folks. We all know that you all don’t really see an embryo as the same as a fully formed BORN human being. Easy to prove too!

  • Carstonio

    I’m a non-Catholic who has not taken a position on stem-cell research, except a desire to see the political question resolved scientifically instead of theologically. Stevens-Arroyo is right that theology should not be a basis for policy. If American Catholics follow his suggestion and press for research into the use of non-embryonic stem cells, they should do so using secular nonsectarian arguments.

  • Mortal

    Mr. Stevens-Arroyo claims “Catholic theological teaching is unequivocal: the human soul is infused by God at the moment of conception.” But this was not always the case. In the 14th century, Dante wrote in the Divine Comedy (Purgatorio, Canto XXV, lines 70-75), in a passage taken straight from the greatest of all Catholic theologians, St. Thomas Aquinas, that the human soul is not created by God until AFTER the fetus is completely developed – many months after “conception”.Also, the idea that the soul is present at the instant of conception is absurd. Take the example of identical twins. They begin their development after conception as a single embryo, which only later divides into two distinct fetuses. So exactly when was the second soul created? Were there two souls in a single embryo until separation? Or did the original soul split into two along with the physical cells? Or did a second soul “pop” into existence at separation – in other words, long after conception. Until questions like these (and many, many others) are answered, I find it impossible to believe that a human embryo has a soul and is in any way a “human being” until later in development.By the way, I am a Catholic.

  • bevjims1

    marcedward1 wrote: “silly argument from the anti-science folks. We all know that you all don’t really see an embryo as the same as a fully formed BORN human being. Easy to prove too!Be aware they have a counter argument. It goes like this: Instead of the frozen embryos you have 3 teachers. If the 30 kids are saved but the teachers perish, well, the firemen saved the children first but it does not reduce the teachers to being non-human. This argument sounds like a good one until you change the senario further. A fire in a clinic with 30,000 embryos only. No adults or children. Does the fire chief risk the lives of his men and order them to go into the inferno and rescue the tank of 30,000 frozen embryos? No. Would the fire chief risk the lives of his men to rescue a single adult or child? Yes.Most people understand the difference between possible life (eggs and sperm), potential life (embryos) and human life. Many people can understand anti-abortion arguments of late stage terminations even if they don’t agree on the legal aspects. But calling a 3-day embryo a human equal to a child or adult just makes so little sense it fails every legal and moral test but passes every test of being a fundamentalist position allowing the invasion of people’s lives and privacy. Add to that the hypocrisy of ignoring the trashing of frozen embryos and it all comes down to the same mentality as the Taliban. Absolutism and my-way-or-the-highway-to-hell.When I hear about the church’s “culture of life” I wonder where are the Catholic priests protesting at state executions? Where are the “snowflake respositories” where people can have their embryos sent to be kept frozen, on the church’s dime, until “adopted” by couples who are infertile? The cost is miniscule to maintain embryos yet the church doesn’t even try. But the church does support many orphanages, the repositories of those who have been born, at a much higher cost per child than the cost per frozen embryo. So it seems the church does not follow its own doctrine in this matter.

  • Skowronek

    The soul of an embryo vs. the soul and life of a child. Did anyone else find this disturbing? (snippet follows):’A senior Vatican cleric has defended the excommunication of the mother and doctors of a nine-year-old girl who had an abortion in Brazil after allegedly being raped by her stepfather.Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Catholic Church’s Congregation for Bishops, told the daily La Stampa on Saturday that the twins the girl had been carrying had a right to live.”It is a sad case but the real problem is that the twins conceived were two innocent persons, who had the right to live and could not be eliminated,” he said.Re, who also heads the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, added: “Life must always be protected, the attack on the Brazilian church is unjustified.”The row was triggered by the termination on Wednesday of twin foetuses carried by a nine-year-old allegedly raped by her stepfather in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco.The regional archbishop, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, pronounced excommunication for the mother for authorising the operation and doctors who carried it out for fear that the slim girl would not survive carrying the foetuses to term. He also said the accused stepfather would not be expelled from the church. Although the man allegedly committed “a heinous crime … the abortion – the elimination of an innocent life – was more serious”.Battista Re agreed, saying: “Excommunication for those who carried out the abortion is just” as a pregnancy termination always meant ending an innocent life.The case has sparked fierce debate in Brazil, where abortion is illegal except in cases of rape or if the woman’s health is in danger.On Friday, President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva hit out at Sobrinho’s decision, saying: “As a Christian and a Catholic, I deeply regret that a bishop of the Catholic Church has such a conservative attitude.”The doctors did what had to be done: save the life of a girl of nine years old,” he said, adding that “in this case, the medical profession was more right than the church”. ‘

  • Skowronek

    I see I overlooked ColoradoDog’s posting where the child from Brazil was the topic. Sorry CD.

  • lufrank1

    Having spent 30 years in research on mechanisms of gametogenesis and fertilization in a variety of animals, including primates:Conclusion – the concern and opposition to stem cell research has no scientific basis, and is, in a word . . . . . IGNORANCE!

  • usapdx

    TO FILE TAX EXAMPT WHEN THE TAX EXAMPT SPEAKS OUT ON A POLITAL ISSUE OR POLITAL PERSON WITHOUT THE OPPSITION PRESENT FOR A INSTAND RESPOND IS IN VIOLATION OF I.R.S. TAX EXAMPT RULES. IF IN DOUBT, CALL THE I.R.S..

  • Carstonio

    “I find it impossible to believe that a human embryo has a soul and is in any way a ‘human being’ until later in development.”I would go further and argue that the sectarian concept of ensoulment has no place in a discussion about the government’s role in the stem-cell issue. The concept might have a place in a more general discussion, as long as the sectarian nature of the concept is made clear. The definition of a soul doesn’t allow for evidence proving or disproving its existence, which makes the ensoulment concept questionable when discussing the scientific aspects of the issue. More importantly, ensoulment is irrelevant to the moral questions. One can support stem-cell research while believing in a soul, and one can oppose the research while not believing in a soul.

  • norriehoyt

    Once again the Church discusses how many angels can stand on the head of a pin.

  • rwi1

    Should the Catholic “corporation” endure long enough into the future that life saving therapies derived from stem cell research will have become available, I can’t see any pope refusing to prolong his life by rejecting their use on his own corpus. Recall the several popes in office during various European plagues who kept bonfires burning within the vatican to ward off the pestilences and who refused to allow audiences with subordinates or heads of state for fear of their possible contagion. As with most mortals, popes want to be with their beloved yahweh, but just not today. And, if the ticket to an extension on Earthly life has been granted through the very means that they deplore, they will not reject it!

  • FH123

    “Conclusion – the concern and opposition to stem cell research has no scientific basis, and is, in a word . . . . . IGNORANCE!”There are a couple of problems with this statement: First, the opposition to govt. funding (i.e. people who oppose it watch as their money is used to fund it) of this research, is based on a moral code, and is not in any way related to the science. Secondly, you imply with this statement that any concern based on morality is superfluous and not worth discussing because the ultimate authority in your mind seems to be “science”. This would leave us with the impression that science should be the ultimate arbiter of what is and is not moral in your mind…a curious proposition since science can’t answer even the most childish of questions with regard to the more important issues relating to human existence; why are we here? how did it all begin? what is the point of living?In the end, as science continues to advance toward new technologies and discoveries, discussions of morality should be vigorous and ongoing for all our sakes.

  • Mortal

    To Carstonio:Since this is an “On Faith” discussion, this forum is precisely where issues and concept such as the soul and ensoulment should take place.To Norriehoyt:If you feel that discussing theological concepts and faith issues is “angels dancing on the head of a pin”, then why are you even on this website? This is an ON FAITH forum, so such things will be discussed.

  • rwi1

    The “Dark Ages” were essentially the product of the fear of knowledge and rational thought on the part of the Medieval catholic churches whose power rested on the manipulation of fear and terror. It is tragically ironic that the suffocating clouds of this clerical malignancy essentially erased what should have been centuries of human intellectual and scientific progress. Otherwise we might by now have developed cures for all the major afflictions plaguing all of us animals, including that most dangerous and pernicious one — religion itself!

  • lufrank1

    “This would leave us with the impression that science should be the ultimate arbiter of what is and is not moral in your mind…a curious proposition since science can’t answer even the most childish of questions with regard to the more important issues relating to human existence; why are we here? how did it all begin? what is the point of living?”

  • Carstonio

    “science can’t answer even the most childish of questions with regard to the more important issues relating to human existence; why are we here? how did it all begin? what is the point of living?”The second question is indeed a scientific concern.The first question is an invalid concept because it makes the baseless assumption that there is a “why” or that there has to be one. It falsely treats “why” as distinct from “how.”The third question is easy – the point of living is whatever the individual chooses. Asserting the existence of a universal inherent point for living is an assertion about the physical universe, since such a point would have to have existence outside the human mind.The problem with those questions is that their wording doesn’t recognize a distinction between science and philosophy. Science is not set up to answer questions about how individuals should create meaning for their lives, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is asking science questions about meaning and then criticizing science for not having answers. Particularly when the questions presume that meaning has existence outside the human mind like a physical object or phenomenon.

  • Carstonio

    “Since this is an ‘On Faith’ discussion, this forum is precisely where issues and concept such as the soul and ensoulment should take place.”My point was specifically directed at discussions about government policy. I’m saying that such policy shouldn’t be based on sectarian beliefs.

  • Mortal

    to Carstonio:I abjectly apologize. I re-read your posting, and now see that I completely missed your point. It turns out (if I now understand you correctly) that I tend to agree with you. When matters of faith and theology are just that, they have no business being brought into issues of law and public policy, unless they are clearly labeled as such. It is when these principles are part of societal norms (e.g., “Thou shalt not steal”) that they come into play – and even then, it is best to stay within the public square, rather than insisting on “revealed truth”. I personally may rest on the Sabbath, but I have no wish to see such a practice enshrined in law.

  • Carstonio

    No problem, Mortal, and thanks for the clarification.

  • FH123

    Carstonio Wrote:”The first question is an invalid concept because it makes the baseless assumption that there is a “why” or that there has to be one. It falsely treats “why” as distinct from “how.”The question points to the inability of science to offer even an opinion on the subject. “why are we here?” The ability to ask that simple question, and to ponder its implications clearly separates us from the other animals on this planet. It is the basis of our moral code and surely should be paramount as we discuss the direction our civilization should take in the future.”The third question is easy – the point of living is whatever the individual chooses. Asserting the existence of a universal inherent point for living is an assertion about the physical universe, since such a point would have to have existence outside the human mind”Along with this worldview must come the assumptions that there can be no absolute right or wrong, life has no real meaning, and trusting our perceptions about the world and universe is foolish. While this may in fact be the truth, morality based on this worldview would be hopelessly relativist. Not only that, but labeling any moral position “ignorant” based on this view can’t be justified logically.”The problem with those questions is that their wording doesn’t recognize a distinction between science and philosophy. Science is not set up to answer questions about how individuals should create meaning for their lives, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is asking science questions about meaning and then criticizing science for not having answers. Particularly when the questions presume that meaning has existence outside the human mind like a physical object or phenomenon.”I was merely stating that moral questions are outside the realm of science. You seem to suggest that morality has no place in any discussion where science is involved, an opinion that would have disastrous consequences for mankind IMO…that science is not set up to answer questions about how individuals should create meaning for their lives was the point of my comment.

  • Carstonio

    “The ability to ask that simple question, and to ponder its implications clearly separates us from the other animals on this planet.”That is an important ability, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that other advanced species such as dolphins may have that ability.”It is the basis of our moral code”I counter that the basis is how humans treat one another. “Why are we here” is largely irrelevant to that question.”Along with this worldview must come the assumptions that there can be no absolute right or wrong”The lack of absolutes is not necessarily a problem. Human life has no absolutes except for its finiteness.”life has no real meaning”What do you mean by “real meaning”? People can still create meanings for their lives. I would never tell someone that any meaning he creates isn’t real.”trusting our perceptions about the world and universe is foolish.”How did you arrive at that assumption? What do perceptions have to do with the question of created meaning versus inherent meaning?”While this may in fact be the truth, morality based on this worldview would be hopelessly relativist.””Relativism” is a meaningless concept. It’s a straw man that makes the absolutist assumption that any non-absolute moral system translates to people doing whatever pleases them with no regard for others. Morality is a matter of principles and not of absolutes, again because human life has almost no absolutes. People can agree on moral principles while disagreeing on how to apply them, and there will always be some people who will act with disregard for others, and both of those are part of human life.”You seem to suggest that morality has no place in any discussion where science is involved”Not quite. I’m saying that moral questions cannot be decided empirically. Morality has a place in the discussion, as long as we remember that those are conclusions that we bring to science, as opposed to being part of science itself.

  • bevjims1

    FH123 wrote: “I was merely stating that moral questions are outside the realm of science. You seem to suggest that morality has no place in any discussion where science is involved, an opinion that would have disastrous consequences for mankind IMO…that science is not set up to answer questions about how individuals should create meaning for their lives was the point of my comment.”Well, lets be careful. This discussion is about Catholic morals as dictated by Rome. We are not talking about the morals of the Golden Rule for example. There is a lot of debate on stem cell research but without the scientific knowledge of what it is the debate can go way off track. You only need to read how some are talking about the morals in reference to fertilization and development to understand they know little of the science but a lot about the morals of it. In other words, arguing morals on topics that are not understood is not only a waste of time, it is dangerous. God only knows what treatments we might have today had Bush not stopped federal funding of ES research while not making it illegal to toss an embryo into the trash. I still cannot understand the morality behind that logic.I still haven’t heard anyone answer the poster about when the soul(s) enter twins since at conception they are not yet split, not for many days. I doubt anyone even in Rome knows. But for many who argue from a religious point of view, it doesn’t matter. They are followers, not thinking for themselves and not allowed to think. Science can bring to the attention of these people the reality of the issue and allow them to use their minds to make moral decisions based on facts, not edicts from Rome which are not argued in public debate with facts at hand but behind closed doors where facts are a secondary consideration.

  • Carstonio

    “Science can bring to the attention of these people the reality of the issue and allow them to use their minds to make moral decisions based on facts”That’s my position as well. My lack of knowledge about the science of the issue is why I’m currently agnostic on the morality of the issue.

  • arosscpa

    Carstonio:”because human life has almost no absolutes.”Now is that always true, or only in certain situations? More importantly, do you know where I can get that on a tee shirt?

  • csintala79

    I am wondering what is sacrosanct about sexual reproduction, i.e., why is it more moral than cloning? After all, amoebas reproduce asexually, i.e., in essence, a process similar to cloning in that life develops from only one individual. Given the variety of reproduction schema found in nature, e.g., several species of fish and reptiles reproduce sexually and asexually by parthenogenesis (unfertilized eggs develop into new individuals—sounds like natural cloning). Given the Catholic Church’s vestigial Pauline aversion to sexuality, i.e., sex is only moral for purposes of procreation; you would think they would jump for joy over the possibility of reproduction without sex. What a dilemma for the Church, being put into a position of defending what is viewed as a nasty, albeit necessary, act. As time passes moral issues related to advances in technology will become more imponderable, especially if we only rely on the guidance of holy men and philosophers from the Middle Ages and before; it will take convoluted reasoning to use the Bible as an authority to pass moral judgment on these future developments. We are quickly approaching a seminal moments such as those portrayed in “2001: A Space Odyssey” when a break is made with all that preceded it. Cloning is just a conscious participation by a species in its evolution; after all, isn’t humans’ ability to investigate and invent part of the evolutionary process, just as the species’ attempt to determine the purpose of life? Since both sexual and asexual reproduction exists, it must be that cloning isn’t intrinsically immoral; what is immoral is that it is being developed consciously instead of being the product of a genetic accident (I guess the religious would object that genetic mutations are produced by the “finger” of God, but that brings up the sticky question of why He created Down’s Syndrome). Cloned beings will very likely view us and our ancestors as the products of a very messy, arbitrary and inefficient process. Aldous Huxley in his “Brave New World” was very prescient, although he was off by a few hundred years as his novel is set in the 25th Century; however, he went beyond mere cloning to envision womb-less gestation in containers. Ironically, in Huxley’s new world, sex hasn’t been eliminated; however, instead of its purpose being reproduction, it is recreation. Is this wrong, or is it just what is? Several times the religious managed to have “Brave New World” banned, but why? Huxley was a prophet, not an agent, of change. After all, God made the crocodile and the serpent. Hang on tight for the ride.

  • arosscpa

    Carstonio:Seriously, I watched an interview with Richard Dawkins where he asserted that evolution explained life in in its entirety, meaning man had no free will,and thus morality was illusory. When pressed, he said he was 99.9% sure of this. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t hedge their bets, because in the end we are all existentialists at the most fundamental level of our awareness. Perhaps my coreligionists and I are just a bit more honest about it.This has policy implications: if we make decisions about how we live with each other, but cannot bring our common existential doubt to the discussion, then our policies will not represent our true, common humanity.

  • arosscpa

    csintala79:Until you can accurately state Catholic moral teaching on human sexuality (and trust me, you not even close) perhaps you not pontificate as it makes a more vigorous display of your ignorance than you might care to show in a first introduction.

  • jprfrog

    I really wish somebody could at least outline the reasoning by which the Catholic Church has concluded that humanity begins with conception. All I ever hear (from fundamentalist Protestants too) is the dogmatic assertion that it does. And I tend to be suspicious of dogmatic assertions —there is something coercive about them. Is there a Scriptural basis for this, if so where is it? (Not that that would be a clincher for me, just that I’d like to understand the ground on which the pronouncement stands.) I can’t recall anything said by Jesus that remotely refers to it (nor BTW homosexuality), and the only OT passage that I know of would seem to refute the position (I refer to Exodus 21:22, the famous “eye for an eye” passage…but starting at the beginning of the verse and applying simple logic — something that Aquinas was rather good at — you get the implication that a fetus is NOT a person.)I’m, for once not being snarky or sarcastic. I’d really like to know. Yet the notion of “proving” anything about the soul, what that might be, or even if there is such a thing, is both pathetic and hilarious at the same time.

  • AgentG

    There is a distinction between ensoulment and life that is often ignored.All cells are alive. We kill cells by our actions every day. In fact, we must kill cells to survive, in the process of nourishment and digestion. Even our reproductive cells are alive.However, the existence of a soul and the moment of ensoulment are truly fascinating issues. The existence of a spirit, consciousness, life energy, or a soul by any other name is something that we should strive to measure and understand. Religious viewpoints are not necessarily constructive in this endeavor, but I am proposing a scientific exploration of sentient life.My gut feeling is that we would discover that the spirit is a common, unifying energy source (i.e., particle, wave, force, quanta, etc.), which all living beings share on a subconscious level. Perhaps there are other dimensions of consciousness that bind us all together. This is likely what humans have always referred to as God. As such, individual religions, with the great exception of Buddhism, to my knowledge, are standing in the way of this realization with their dogmatic doctrines.As for the ensoulement issue, it appears likely that a zygote is not ensouled, while a newborn is. That means we already know that something happens in between. However, to usurp the role of the parents, particularly the female, and consider only the cells of the offspring, is a false morality. Embryos and fetuses are not humans. We should try to avoid abortions, but be supportive of those must make this decision.Further, it is hypocritical to promote some aspects of science, while asserting some arbitrary moral value on other aspects. Our science has sacrificed many animals and humans to obtain the knowledge we have. We need to live with the benefits and try to be respectful of the risks. Even human cloning could be a reproductive solution, if done respectfully, and without suffering. If we minimize suffering, then we will be richly rewarded.

  • arosscpa

    jprfrog:Let me give it a try.Remember that the first “theology” for Jews and Christians is narrative, the OT and NT respectively. In both we find key figures being designated and commissioned in utero. OT examples would include Issac, Samuel, Solomon. Isiah and Jeremiah. In the NT John the Baptist and Jesus. The Catholic Church has read Mary back into this tradition through the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (not to make things more confusing.)In the Psalms, books of Wisdom, and the prophecies of Isiah and Jeremiah, the writers reflected on these narrative traditions, and found that all lives have a purpose in the divine plan and are missioned from conception. Thus you have lines like “you who knew me in my mother’s womb before I saw the dawn,” and “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.”This narrative tradition culminates when Mary greets Elizabeth while they were both pregnant. John recognizes his Lord present in Mary’s womb, and “leaps for joy in his mother’s womb.”I also think abortion is specifically prohibited in the OT Leviticsl law, but I don’t know know the cite nor those for additional Talmudic legislation. The legislation is first codified for Christians in the Didache around 125 AD as it relates to abortion.What many miss is that abortion for Catholics and most Eastern Orthodox is a serious sin, but is also a crime of the highest magnitude, one that automatically cuts one off from the community if done with free will and knowledge of the evil it is. A current discussion among US Catholic bishops and theologians is whether Daschel, Biden, Kennedy, Pelosoi and other have incurred the penalty given their long-standing support for abortion. Gov. Sebelius has voluntarily accepted this discipline from her bishop.I think the ensoulment doctrine has gotten too much play in this discussion. Ensoulment is a Platonic explanation of how the form of the intellect is united to the material body. Augustine borrows it from Plato through the Neoplatonists in constructing a Christian explanation of God’s role in working with a couple that brings forth new life. Aquinas tried to combine ensoulment with Aristotle’s biology. While their views are still studied, they are not critical to the Church’s doctrinal development.In summary, God as the author of creation and life deigns to participate in procreative activity of the human couple who join together to renew the human family. The new human life is created solely for itself, and enabled by its Maker to pursue his/her own ends. This imposes real limits on how the state, the parents, science or anyone can use that unique life for the benefit of anyone else.

  • bevjims1

    FH123 wrote: “Discussing moral implications is never a waste of time…nor is it be dangerous.”Pease read what AgentG wrote below. I think it makes my point.FH123 wrote: “That discoveries are slowed to give us time to work through the morality of a situation as-well-as the science, is nearly always better than the alternative…chemical weapons, nuclear weapons, global warming to name a few examples.”Look, I’m not arguing that we should not discuss moral issues. I’m saying they should not be discussed in a scientific vacuum. If you don’t know what the steps are in fertilization and development, then how can you moralize about when life begins? Or do we simply leave it up to an edict from the church and then try to validate it after the fact with no scientific grounding? That is what I’m seeing.FH123 wrote: “If you truly understand the science of this research, then you also know that the answer to that question [possible ES cures since 2001] is none. You also know that the research has continued unabated throughout the Bush administration.”Unabated? Do you realize how much research the federal government funds? Any idea? And as for possible cures, well, we will never know. Eight years is a long time. Its not long enough for most treatments, but they are now eight years behind. Research was effectively stopped on human ES research in the US.FH123 wrote: “The sad thing is that you don’t know that Bush actually was the first president to authorize any funding for stem cell research…drinking the kool-aid eh? That you even broached the subject says more about your politics than it does about your opinions on the morality of the subject.”Well, considering human stem cells were not even isolated until November 1998 I’m not surprised. Who else could have authorized the funding? The requests for funding increased until Bush had to make a choice, so he listened to his religious constituents and gave them what they wanted not based on any science, which we know the Bush administration ignores, but based on religious belief. So yes, he was the first to fund very limited stem cell research because before he was elected it was virtually non-existent. But the research funded by the feds has provided little due to its limitations. The next time you see someone with Parkinsons or ALtzheimers, explain to them it was moral to delay research into treatments for their diseases. I’m sure they’ll bless you for it.

  • Chops2

    Even if these cells are souls, it is interesting to me that many, particularly on the right, have few issues sacrificing men and women to die in war to help and assist people in times if crisis but are unwilling to sacrifice cells for what could be of enourmous benefit to those that live with intolerable diseases. Sacrifice for human suffering in war: ok, sacrifice for for human suffering for diseases etc: well, thats just baby killing. The mathematics of souls in this debate is frankly ridiculous.

  • OuPhrontis

    As a person with an incurable form of cancer that has plagued me for the past 11 years I have a very personal stake in this controversy. One of the pathways to a cure for Myeloma is through gene therapy and stem cell research is crucial in this. In 1999 I underwent a peripheral stem cell transplant, which saved my life. I have it on good authority (the cancer researcher who oversaw my transplant) that embryonic stem cell research was and is all-important for millions of people, like myself, in keeping us alive well past our expiration date of decades past before this life saving research was accomplished and transplants offered. I have to ask these religionists, who, if, decades ago, their goals of stopping stem cell research had been achieved, would it be better for my four children (two of which are 12 years old) and society in general, if their father had been dead these past ten years? Because that’s part of the alternate universe these so-called moralists are advocating; the unnecessary deaths of millions of Leukemia and Myeloma patients. I am sorry to have inconvenienced so many embryos but as a society our better nature has prevailed and I’m still here to love my children and they me. To my dying day I will advocate for all people that face catastrophic illness; that they be given a better, longer life and work against the forces of inhumanity that absurdly imbue embryos with a right to life but, effectively, deny these same rights to living, breathing men, women and children. How dare they!

  • arosscpa

    OuPhrontis I acknowledge that your illness colors your thinking on the issue, but also consider that I am in a similar situation along with others I know. How is it just that when we have made the decision that we will not avail ourselves of treatments based on ESCs, but we are compelled to pay for the research with our tax dollars.Your illness seems to have taught you that an absence of suffering, pain, and loss is the only true goal in life. If this is true, I am afraid your cancer has taught you very much.

  • FH123

    BEVJIMS1 WROTE:Your arguments are uniformed, you clearly do not understand the science or the politics in play here. To cover the poor arguments that you put forth you cloud the issue with statements like these…sad. And I find your “whatever it takes” mantra with regard to science, frankly, scary. Go rent some episodes of the Outer Limits, and get some perspective. Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.I don’t agree with the catholic church on this issue, but I respect their right to have a moral concern.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Arosscpa You have a brain; use it. You have a heart; open it. You have empathy for unfeeling, unknowing, unsuffering blobs of protoplasm; do you have any for fully formed human beings? You don’t seem to.You have dedicated mental conformity to Catholic moral teaching, based on what? caprice, and nothing more. You can memorize and quote back all the Catholic legalsims that can fit into your mind, but that does not take away your ignorance in everyday things, and in common sense. You apparently have little or none.Your comments on taxes is childish. People who do not have children still pay taxes to the schools. People who do not support the Iraqi War still pay taxes to support it. You don’t get a choice in these things. My feeling about you is that you probably do not really understand what stem cells are, nor what embryonic stem cell research is, nor what kinds of medical applicaitons might be derived from such research. I thank God for Obama, for a President, at last, with some sense.

  • Nosmanic

    “Critics of the Church’s position often accuse Catholicism of protesting stem cell research out of a malevolent or medieval obsession.” I disagree with the church’s position because it doesn’t make sense for a couple who is tring to have a baby but the egg that has become one with the sperm but doesn’t implant and dies. Then the woman is a murder. Or did God kill her baby?

  • Carstonio

    Arosscpa,From my reading of Dawkins, he’s never claimed that morality is illusory. He asserts an evolutionary basis for the human moral sense, which is not nearly the same claim.Would you explain what you mean by “we are all existentialists at the most fundamental level of our awareness”? How are you using the term existentialism? I make it a point never to be absolutely certain about anything except what I’m perceiving at any given moment. Not to “hedge my bets” but to acknowledge that there are limits to my knowledge. I see that as simple intellectual honesty.”if we make decisions about how we live with each other, but cannot bring our common existential doubt to the discussion, then our policies will not represent our true, common humanity.”Would you explain? In terms of living with each other, it really doesn’t matter where we came from. For argument’s sake, if we discovered that we were planted here by an advanced alien race, I can’t imagine you or anyone else suddenly deciding to use other people for selfish purposes because of that. How we treat each other is important in and of itself – that doesn’t and shouldn’t have to depend on any metaphysical concepts to have importance.

  • bevjims1

    FH123 wrote: “Your arguments are uniformed, you clearly do not understand the science or the politics in play here. To cover the poor arguments that you put forth you cloud the issue with statements like these…sad. And I find your “whatever it takes” mantra with regard to science, frankly, scary. Go rent some episodes of the Outer Limits, and get some perspective. Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.”Equating EScell research with the outer limits (one of my favorite shows) is, well, way out there. Stem cell research has and will lead to many discoveries and treatments. They will take time and money. Bush robbed many researchers of both, who, since they do research for a living, turned their attention to other research or continued investigating stem cells in animals or the few deteriorating human cell lines. But the research was slowed to a crawl in the US. Imagine a president telling us we had to stop federally funding the use of white mice in cancer research. Imagine the outcry. And yet scientists can foresee much greater treatments from the potential of stem cells than continuing cancer research. It has that much potential. But its been delayed thanks to Bush and those who believe souls are being taken. Many people find it terrible that Scientologists would rather a member of their church die than get a blood transfusion. I don’t see much difference here when those who claim blastocytes are humans condemn others who are not members of their religion to live with their disease instead of allowing the federal government to fund research into the promising field of ES cells beyond the limits Bush imposed.FH123 wrote: “I don’t agree with the catholic church on this issue, but I respect their right to have a moral concern.”They may think their concern is moral but they cannot explain their interpretation of when a soul infuses in the fertilized egg. They cannot explain how one embryo becomes two or three when a it splits into identical copies making twins or triplets. And they cannot explain what happens to those 1/3 of embryos that never make it to implantation or miscarry soon after implantation. Is 1/3 of heaven filled with souls of embryos? These are nice things to debate and think about, but real lives are at stake, and if they did not matter Jesus would not have been so concerned for the welfare of people as he showed through example. I agree the church can take a moral position just as the Scientilogists can take a position about transfusing blood. Just keep those moral positions within the church and its members and don’t bring them into law where they are imposed on the rest of is and medical breakthroughs delayed.

  • arosscpa

    Carstonio See Stein’s interview with Dawkins in the documentary “Expelled”. Dawkins lays out neatly that radical evolutionary theory means men and women are solely biologically determined; if we are determined, he says and I think one has to agree, that free will cannot exist; if no free will, one cannot talk of rationally determined morality.When you trace the chain forward as Dawkins does, I think you must grant his conclusions. The weak part of the argument is when you trace it backwards, the whole house of cards collapses. Many humans operate out of a morality that causes them to act in the interests of others, and against self-interests. This seems to require a free will to make decisions not necessarily in one’s own interest. While some have posited an altruism gene or altruism neurology, I am not sure one can buy that. The consciousness, or the personality, or the soul, or whatever we label it, seems to be more than a sum of neuro-chemical transmissions in the brain. In that regard, I find CG Jung’s work on Self,m with the conscious and the unconscious mind, helpful, because he scrupulously avoids religion and faith in his writing.What I mean by radical or fundamental existentialism is the common human condition that at the end of the day we all share a common uncertainty about life’s most fundamental questions. The more a religious person denies this, the more I suspect the solidness of his interior beliefs. The more an atheist tells me that he is almost, positively certain, the more I suspect that he and the aforesaid theist are wandering in the same dark cave.This becomes relevant to public policy discussions in pluralistic democracies because we have to find what our common ground is. Some do-gooders have suggested that all traditions need to be reduced to the same “you’re ok-I’m ok” nonspecific dogma. I am suggesting that the real common space for that discussion must first be grounded in the most fundamental, shared reality: our existential doubt.

  • solsticebelle

    I have a question for people who are against stem cell research.If you or a loved one had a terminal condition that could be cured with treatments developed through stem cell research, would you take the treatment or advise your loved one to? I dare you to answer. None of you ever has. Hypocritical cowards.

  • artistkvip1

    one possible truth might be that president bush and the religeous right preferred to kill adults and he did kill countless people by his actions and inactions..these human beings who were fully formed and living and walking on the earth were killed in war and by denying them proper heathcare… i’m not sure jesus would be pleased with them and thier big empty buildings with all the homeless peopkle in the world. its bad enough when you hlp people who don’t need help but to dny people a chance at life would seem evil… or misguided at best.. i think we have much more to fear from the frankenstein food where they put animal genes into plants thereby opening the door to new pandemics though adaptation of plant disiese into animals which humans are a memeber of .

  • realitycheck1

    The author states, misleadingly, that “Catholic theological teaching is unequivocal: the human soul is infused by God at the moment of conception.” Not so. That view is of quit recent origin, and is in contradiction to the position of the Church from its beginnings to roughly 1500, as seen in the teachings of virtually all Catholic theologians from Augustine to Aquinas, to innumerable Church and papal decretals and rulings, and to a solemn, supposedly infallible declaration of the Council of Vienne (1311). The author says that “The biological issue of when exactly conception can be considered to have occurred is less clear.” It was clear enough to virtually ALL Catholic writers, thinkers, and clerics (including popes) for over 1500 years, who all accepted the Aristotelian view of the “progressive animation” of the fetus, and more specifically the view that the distinctively human “rational” soul (with it distinctively human capacities for reason and judgement) did not infuse the fetus until well AFTER conception, after the fetus had passed through its initial stages during which it first was infused with its “vegitative” and later “vivified” or “animative” souls. This was the view that Aquinas (d. 1277) , particularly, elaborated in his witings, and was affirmed in the supposedly infallible declaration of the council of Vienne in 1311. In modern biological terms, the infusion of the rational soul might be identified with the development of the neural tube, or parhaps the onset of health brain-wave activity–after the first trimester.Aristotle’s biology (unlike his physics) has stood the test of time pretty well, and served well the “traditional” Catholic doctrine on abortion–which viewed abortion as a sin agains marriage (whose purpose was procreation), not as the murder of a human being (and indeed treated early-term abortion more leniently). The Church began changing its mind, and eventuallly came to its present-day peculiar views that life begins at conception, that embryos are human beings with rights, and so forth, not because of any insights from modern biology, and certainly not any newly-discovered teaching of Jesus or the bible, but because of arcane theological problems in trying to reconcile its newly-invented doctrine (c. 1200) of the supposed Immaculate Conception of Mary (not Jesus–that did have a biblical basis) and its earlier extra-biblical doctrine of Original Sin (invented by Augustine, c. 500)–both of which doctrines have become effectively obsolete, hardly mentioned in present-day catechisms. What remains is the residue, the junk science about life beginning at conception.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    There are the embryonic stem cells; someone has got in their head what they are and what they do; and that we might learn how they work and use the “power” that is in them. Now that these ideas have come into people’s heads, there is nothing that can make these ideas ever go away.In the past, the Catholic Church has sought to identify and then get rid of unwanted ideas. But, I do not think it is going to work now, with embryonic stem cell research, any better than it is working for the “intrinsically disordered” slander against gay people, anymore than it has ever worked for anything at anytime in the past.

  • ATrueChristian

    Solsticebelle, you say:” I have a question for people who are against stem cell research.If you or a loved one had a terminal condition that could be cured with treatments developed through stem cell research, would you take the treatment or advise your loved one to? I dare you to answer. None of you ever has. Hypocritical cowards.”My uncle did not have a terminal condition that could possibly be cured via SC (E or A, does not matter in this case). My uncle died from a condition that is readily treatable through a “routine” transplant procedure. He refused being placed on a transplant list due to his age (70+), as he told me, and others, he wanted those with more life to go to get the chance to live as long as he had. He was firmly against ESC research, but, ironically, not against transplants, as I said, he was against getting a transplant himself because he wanted a younger person to have a chance at a better life. He was a Catholic and lived his faith to the end. The world needs more “cowards” like him.

  • solsticebelle

    ATRUECHRISTIAN – that did not answer my question. At all. So I’m still waiting for an answer to the question I actually posed.

  • Carstonio

    “Maybe it would help if you consider just how much of the mind is prewired and out of your control.”To expand on Bevjims1′s point, it’s a mistake to assume that the alternative to absolute free will is absolute determinism, as if there was nothing in between. That reflects my earlier point about the fallacy of viewing human life in terms of absolutes. What we know so far of the brain suggests that some of our behavior is a matter of prewiring and some is a matter of free will, although that’s not conclusive proof. The issue here is that one doesn’t or shouldn’t negate the other.

  • dgblues

    “First, the opposition to govt. funding (i.e. people who oppose it watch as their money is used to fund it) of this research, is based on a moral code, and is not in any way related to the science.”Well, I’m opposed to government funding of faith based initiatives. I’m opposed to funding weapons for Israel to slaughter women and children in Palestine. I’m opposed to funding Star Wars, the F22, and outmoded weapons systems designed to fight the Cold War. I’m opposed to funding corporations by giving them tax breaks to ship jobs overseas. I’m opposed to funding ADM, Cargill, and Monsanto with farm subsidies. I’m opposed to funding the illegal and immoral occupation in Iraq, responsible for upwards of 100,000 deaths. I’m opposed to funding to have my phone tapped, my emails monitored, and my postal mail opened. I’m opposed to funding the bailout of banks too big to fail while their officers take lavish vacations on our dime. The list goes on and on…Welcome to America. Elections matter. You lost. With good reason. This medieval anti-intellectual ideology is inexorably tied to a failed lassiez-faire economic Darwinism, a survival of the uber-wealthy while everyone else can eat cake. It is for all these reasons that this broken superstition-driven politic will be out of power for the rest of our natural lives.Perhaps there is a God.

  • bevjims1

    atruechristian wrote: “He [uncle] was firmly against ESC research, but, ironically, not against transplants, as I said, he was against getting a transplant himself because he wanted a younger person to have a chance at a better life.”But what if ES research had lead to the possibility of actually regenerating the organ he needed? Medicine was held back for millenia due to the feeling that disecting the human body dessicrated the body. Once we got over that and began using bodies to study anatomy and surgical techniques, many lives that could not have been saved before could be saved. His lack of selfishness is admirable but that does not make him right on wishing to hold back research, research that might have helped him and thousands of other souls.

  • exile_from_virginia

    Solsticebelle,Your question is a little vague, but I will answer it with clarification.”If you or a loved one had a terminal condition that could be cured with treatments developed through stem cell research, would you take the treatment or advise your loved one to?”If you mean adult stem cells, yes.If you mean embryonic stem cells, no. I have even committed this to paper, in case anyone I found myself in a situation where I could not answer and had to rely on someone to give their best judgment of what my desire would have been.I hope that answers your question.

  • exile_from_virginia

    Solsticebelle,Your question is a little vague, but I will answer it with clarification.”If you or a loved one had a terminal condition that could be cured with treatments developed through stem cell research, would you take the treatment or advise your loved one to?”If you mean adult stem cells, yes.If you mean embryonic stem cells, no. I have even committed this to paper, in case anyone I found myself in a situation where I could not answer and had to rely on someone to give their best judgment of what my desire would have been.I hope that answers your question.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Exile from VirginiaFuture medical treatments derived from the study of embryonic stems cells are not likely to involve actual embryonic stem cells. That you would think this, and then seek to steel yourself against the use of any such cells in any future treatment shows just how confused people are on this subject.

  • Carstonio

    Some of the arguments here against ESC appear to be arguments against IVF and other fertility treatments, or could at least be used against those treatments. I know that Catholicism condemns IVF. For the ESC opponents posting in this thread, what are your own stances on IVF?”I have even committed this to paper, in case anyone I found myself in a situation where I could not answer and had to rely on someone to give their best judgment of what my desire would have been.”Would that be an acceptable way of settling the issue? Use living wills where people spell out whether they want ESC-derived treatments used on them?

  • aurorasmith2001

    AROSSCPA,Altruism is in fact selfish. Mother Teresa felt “compelled by Christ” to work with the poor. By doing so she was assuaging the guilt and “dis-ease” that would have been caused by her not doing so. Agapeistic (selfless) love is based on the same reward trigger, i.e. “it is better to give than receive.” If that’s what juices your jets, you’ll do that, and look like a pillar of society, with the ego being stroked to boot.

  • Carstonio

    “Every entity operates in it’s own perceived best self interest, always.”That would rule out self-sacrifice to save others, such as Michael Monsoor or Arland Williams. I suspect that we sometimes don’t consciously realize how altruism benefits us individually. that sense may have evolved to aid the survival of the “tribe.”

  • StephenBWise

    One reason the United States is disintegrating is because many Catholic Americans have failed to understand and live up to the treasure they have been given. As a result, many have failed to be salt and light for American society.

  • bevjims1

    Carstonio wrote: “”Every entity operates in it’s own perceived best self interest, always.” That would rule out self-sacrifice to save others, such as Michael Monsoor or Arland Williams. I suspect that we sometimes don’t consciously realize how altruism benefits us individually. that sense may have evolved to aid the survival of the “tribe.”My dog stands up to defend us against anyone who comes to the house , including people 6 times his weight. I have read of dogs injuring themselves, even dying, to protect a family member. We all have read these stories. We see animals exhibiting altruism in the wild. Biologists have determined that it is instinctive to help the “tribe” survive. And you can ask any human why they risked their life to save another and they’ll tell you they “had to”, that they didn’t even think about it, they just acted. Pre-wired altruism in humans and animals can be seen in many places. Why altruism is held up as some proof that there is a God or some difference between humans and animals I don’t know. As for the less dramatic examples of altruism, such as charity, aurorasmith2001 below explains it better than I can.

  • persiflage

    Either humans have free will or they don’t. If they do, then humans should be making decisions that alleviate human pain and suffering. This is the compassionate and ethical thing to do – and because we have the potential to do it. If anything trumps religious authority, this does. Metaphysical potentiality can be anything you want it to be – as in the case of ensouled embryos, when said ensoulment might occur, and so forth. On the other hand, a soul should be able to find another embryo if the first choice doesn’t work out – more metaphysics we might ask? In the mean time, embryonic stem cells may ultimately provide the solution to much human suffering and life long disability. Here we have what appears to be real e.g. human pain and suffering, contrasted with the pure metaphysics of Vatican policy as regards stem cell research (and the related issue of abortions).In the end, I anticipate that modern-day common sense will prevail. Humans will opt for the potential alleviation of pain and suffering over medieval metaphysics. Universal agreement will surely take much longer to achieve!

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Whether we have free-will or not is irrelevant to the discussion. There is, in fact, alot to suggest that we do not have free will, that is, that we do not control much of our environment, including the the thoughts that we we think and the doubts which sculpt our beliefs. There is much to suggest that we experience belief, more than choosing it. This is all the more reason why forced Catholic belief is futile, and that the only people whose belief can be forced are people who do not much care, for anyone who cares will resist the enforcement of belief.But, all beside the point of the argument. The very term, “ensoulment” is absurd. What sane person would even dream up such a fantastically weird concept? Someone who sits down with God over tea, for a chat, perhaps. But no one with serious ideas, worth considering.Worries about the moment of “ensoulment” are pointless when it comes to a discussion of embryonic stem cell research. I think it be impossible to entertain such notion in any serious discussion of the topic.

  • gladerunner

    I am admittedly not an expert on ensoulment. Please bear with me.

  • FH123

    BEVJIMS1 Wrote:”Just keep those moral positions within the church and its members and don’t bring them into law where they are imposed on the rest of is and medical breakthroughs delayed.”So now citizens of the U.S. can only voice an opinion on where their money goes if they agree with “your” perspective??? I mean do these people not pay taxes, vote…laws are passed based on the will of the people in a democracy last time I checked. Certainly not because BEVJIMS1 believes that ESC research is the answer to all medical knowledge ever hoped for in the known universe. You do understand that induced pluripotent stem cells are the future…right. All the plasticity with none of the nasty side effects and all that??? Honestly from your posts I get the picture of someone who would be truly disappointed if ESC research became moot, mostly because you enjoy the opportunity to label those religious freaks with the anti-science label.

  • bevjims1

    FH123 wrote: “So now citizens of the U.S. can only voice an opinion on where their money goes if they agree with “your” perspective???”Of course not, but when religious edicts determine our laws because people blindly listen to the edict and then go to the voting booth, we have a problem as the Bush administration eloquently demonstrated. And I have a right to be upset when people fail to think or question when edicts are given and then act on them to impose laws on all of society.FH123 wrote: “You do understand that induced pluripotent stem cells are the future…right. All the plasticity with none of the nasty side effects and all that??? Honestly from your posts I get the picture of someone who would be truly disappointed if ESC research became moot, mostly because you enjoy the opportunity to label those religious freaks with the anti-science label.”iPS cells are the expected future, yes. But we need to study ES cells to understand how to manipulate both ES and iPS cells. Its basic research. Research into learning HOW to use these cells and manipulate them, not to necessarily use them directly. But by blocking their use the research is blocked and the learning is blocked. And all because of a religious edict thought up by people who cannot explain the reasoning behind the edict. And the religious voters who hear the edict and act on it without question at the voting booth or by writing their congressmen ARE religious freaks with an anti-science bent. I respect those who have studied the issue and have a moral issue they can express, though I will still debate them. But its the other 99% I have a real problem with.

  • FH123

    Carstonio Wrote: I don’t see a valid moral argument against ESC research using embryos that are headed for the trash heap if you have no problem with IVF. The only reasoned moral argument must involve opposition to both IMO. A choice between the trash can or the chance at a medical breakthrough seems like a no-brainer to most people I would guess.I believe the wild-card in this discussion, and where I would start to feel uncomfortable, honestly, with regards to ESC research would be if we started specifically creating embryos for experimentation. In this view, I would bet I’m very much in the mainstream of public opinion. BEVJIMS1 Wrote:”And I have a right to be upset when people fail to think or question when edicts are given and then act on them to impose laws on all of society.”You have a right to be upset, not to give edicts yourself.I have to say I am impressed by your composure…I have tried to push your buttons a few times on this blog and you have responded with great restraint. Well done!!!

  • Carstonio

    FH123, has that wild card been seriously considered by researchers, or do ESC opponents simply fear the possibility of that happening?

  • Paganplace

    I’m sure this must make sense to you, somewhere, Professor, especially considering said beloved daughter was the product of two other queers trying to go through the motions. To save themselves. From you. *then* you get a burr up about ‘two mommies.’ *then* you get a burr up about the products of a circumstance *you* created. Seriously. Padre. You gotta be F’n kidding me.

  • CCNL

    Father Tom Reese said it better so why is WAPO continuing the discussion as per Tony SA who has significantly less education???

  • volkmare

    Jesus said something to the effect of: Would not a single cell embryo be “the least of God’s children”? He may not have been refering to this issue, but are you willing to take that chance?I’m not.Find a different way to research medecine.Mark

  • Jodi Westrick

    this is a test

  • ivri5768

    Father Tom Reese said it better so why is WAPO continuing the discussion as per Tony SA who has significantly less education??? “Father Tom Reese”? Whose your Daddy, CCNL? Surely not Fr. Tom, a Roman. Last I heard he had nothing to do with the Church of Clancy, Nussbaum, and Luigi, the Holy Embryonic and StemCellic Church.Watch who you call Daddy.

  • ivri5768

    Father Tom Reese said it better so why is WAPO continuing the discussion as per Tony SA who has significantly less education??? “Father Tom Reese”? Whose your Daddy, CCNL? Surely not Fr. Tom, a Roman. Last I heard he had nothing to do with the Church of Clancy, Nussbaum, and Luigi, the Holy Embryonic and StemCellic Church.Watch who you call Daddy.

  • ivri5768

    Father Tom Reese said it better so why is WAPO continuing the discussion as per Tony SA who has significantly less education??? “Father” Tom Reese”? Who’s your Daddy, CCNL? Surely, not old Tom; he’s a Roman, and you represent the Church of Clancy, Nussbaum, and Luigi, the Holy Embryonic and StemCellic Church.Getting a bit confused, are we? Better check with the three wise men after whom your Temple is named.

  • ivri5768

    CCNL:Hope I haven’t added to your paternal confusion with the multiple postings. Something’s amiss with the blog. However, it occurred to me that you should go directly to Archbishop Luigi of the Lasagna. His Pastemence can help you if anyone can.In the Name of the Lasagna, the Meatballs, and the Holy Ravioli.

  • mmm1110

    I am a former Catholic and now and agnostic. I don’t care what the Catholic Church or any religious organization has to say about Obama’s decision. I think Obama made the right choice. Stem cell research holds promise in treating and curing diseases? Why shouldn’t they be used to help people? The embryos are just going to be discarded, or to be blunt, thrown out, which is a waste. What soul does an embryo have? What soul does a human have? Where is the soul located? Medical science has not identified any soul in the human body? No religion should be involved in trying to form medical policy. Those who are against stem cells from embryos being used for medical treatment are free not to have such treatment. Religious people have no right interferring with the rights of others to seek medical advances. People of faith have no right to force their views on everyone else. The religious are free to do what they want, and they must understand that other people have the same right.

  • paulc2

    MMM111: Your comment that no religion should be involved in forming medical policy denies the fact that there are moral and ethical implications in many medical procedures to which the church has the responsibility to weigh in. You may not see this, but lets just take it a step further. What if sacrificing someone with Alzehiemers could provide needed organs for someone younger and otherwise in good health. Would that be okay? After all, you probably see the person with Alzehiemers as being a burden on society and someone, maybe even you, could benefit from their liver or heart..Well, that embryo is also human, with a soul and the potential to be everything that a human can attain to. Who should play God and determine that that potential is less important than what could be learned with its stem cells? That’s the issue..

  • Carstonio

    PaulC2, The issue is not necessarily religion but sectarianism. The soul concept is a sectarian one and shouldn’t be a factor in setting government policy, which should be nonsectarian. Government should have no position on whether a soul exists. Any argument for government opposing embryonic stem-cell research should be framed in nonsectarian terms. Dragging in the sectarian soul concept essentially shuts out believers in other religions from the debate, falsely implying that one has to believe in a soul to oppose the research.

  • jyhume

    PAULC2 wrote:What? No, living cells have not yet been built from scratch in the lab. But I wouldn’t bet against it happening relatively soon. The first manufactured cells will likely be some sort of bacterium. Are you suggesting that bacteria need souls before they can live? Does the Church have a position on the moment of bacterial ensoulment during binary fission?If bacteria have souls, how should we feel about Lysol…Or perhaps bacterial cells are just little biological machines that don’t require souls. But if these cells function perfectly well without souls, there is no reason to think that eukaryotic cells can’t do the same. So why, again, must we invent imaginary souls to make our systems run? Just because you (or anyone) don’t know how something works, that doesn’t make it unknowable.

  • ivri5768

    JYHUME:”Does the Church have a position on the moment of bacterial ensoulment during binary fission?”A question for the ages, elegantly and eloquently phrased. Sir, may I offer my congratulations on a post so memorable that I shall do the unprecedented, viz, paste it to Word, ‘lest memory declines in old age.May I add that I have always been a great admirer of your Scottish ancester, David?With deepest appreciation,

  • Maryann261

    I applaud Obama’s move to try to take science back from the religious right. Science and religion must be separated. Religion holds no promise of progress. It is completely regressive and one of the greatest shackles on the human mind. As for those dicussing whether an embryo has a soul, no one can prove it. It is not the government’s place to get involved in whether anyone, let alone an embryo, has a soul. Nobody can prove that a human being has a soul. It is only a matter of belief and nothing more. Beliefs based on religion cannot determine the course of scientific advancement. Religion should stay out of public life. It has no place in it.

  • Paganplace

    “As for those dicussing whether an embryo has a soul, no one can prove it. It is not the government’s place to get involved in whether anyone, let alone an embryo, has a soul. Nobody can prove that a human being has a soul. It is only a matter of belief and nothing more. Beliefs based on religion cannot determine the course of scientific advancement.”Well, frankly, in my beliefs, *everything* has spirit. A soul, if you will. The question is *not* if a clump of undifferentiated cells is ensouled, not for government or any pretense of science or religious authority. Discarding the notion that ‘soul’ depends on being ‘created’ one time, after which one time it will be judged, and if not judgeable, remains in some un-fun limbo, one might see that it’s not the relevant question. A clump of undifferentiated cells has had no more human experience than a sweet pea. Souls don’t sit on every conception, most especially not ones performed with a teeny pipette, waiting in a freezer for their ‘one chance at eternal life.’ The idea doesn’t *make sense,* even by Christian standards, unless they want to accept that half of all conceptions don’t implant naturally, and God must have decided that these ‘human souls’ were ‘chaff’ or whatever.There are ethical concerns, with where this stuff might go, and certainly I question the ethics of spending billions every year for fertility treatments in order to breed personally, even as millions of children go unwanted, and churches are even occupied making sure they continue to feel unwanted if the alternative is someone queer taking care of them…Politically, I think it’s cause breeders are told they’re better than everyone else *because* they are breeders, and will pay or do anything to avoid falling into the category of ‘non-breeders,’ then turn around and claim to be ‘moral’ if only private profit-based companies can work with new stem cell lines, but if it’s done in universities or the CDC, it’s ‘murder of an eternal soul with only one chance.’ Seriously, that’s a real chain of thin reasoning. Largely based on prejudices about what human life, even living human experience is *worth.**Religion* wants to reduce it to a sex act that can be controlled, (or so they think) and whatever else can be attached to these things. I actually really know how much infertility hurts. How much *worse* it’s made to hurt by certain teachings. I also know how much it hurts when you’re one of the non-breeding people the churches *hate* so much. Maybe it’s easier to get in a twist about undifferentiated cells, when you’re scorning so much of humanity for being ‘sinners.’ But it’s neither faith *nor* science.

  • Paganplace

    I mean, you know, if you want to keep telling scientists and governments what God wants today, and all.

  • Carstonio

    “How anyone as sophisticated as Obama can believe this within living memory of Mengele and Tuskegee and the fake (and coercive) South Korean stem cell research is hard to fathom.”Krauthammer is gravely mistaken to blame those atrocities on science itself. That’s almost as bad as Ben Stein blaming science for the Holocaust. He seems to be playing in the old Dr. Frankenstein myth of scientists seeing themselves as above mere mortals. Scientific knowledge is neutral on moral questions, and that’s normal. The knowledge can be used to help or harm, and the credit or blame for those falls not on science but on the people using the knowledge.

  • Carstonio

    “Gotta ask who profits by the drawing up of sides.”How do you see it as creating sides? Certainly demagogues profit by demonizing groups. But the basis for targeting scientists seems to be the simple exploitation of anti-intellectualism in American culture.

  • Carstonio

    “Gotta ask who profits by the drawing up of sides.”How do you see it as creating sides? Certainly demagogues profit by demonizing groups. But the basis for targeting scientists seems to be the simple exploitation of anti-intellectualism in American culture.

  • catholic-citizen

    You must be kidding me. Now the liberal pseudo-Catholics are going to split hairs about when conception occurs? Let’s keep this quick and to the point – the most conservative approach is the safest in these matters. For the sake of the unborn child – not to mention your soul – let’s simply assume that conception begins with fertilization. To do otherwise would be to risking the termination of an innocent life. One last quick note – chicken eggs are not humans, Redrockraven. Tossing out suspect analogies is intellectually suspect. Tossing out nonsense analogies confirms the suspicions. Guess what club you are in?

  • jromaniello

    Honestly, do those lawmakers in Georgia have any clue how ludicrous this whole thing sounds?! Adopting a ball of cells? Their holy crusade has reached a new level of insanity! First off, there are too many born children in this world needing homes to worry about adoption for balls of cells… cells with no assigned function, nonetheless. Furthermore, what makes these cells so sacred? We do experiments on mice, rats, dogs, even apes–who undoubtedly are intelligent beings with complex cultures– yet, there is all his controversy over these clumps of cells. I find this hypocritical. If those cells’ lives are sacred, shouldn’t ALL life be sacred? As for the comment on here about them being brought back after being frozen. They cited that as a result, they were not alive. On the contrary. They are very much alive– water bears can survive being frozen and have even survived the vacuum of space. But are living creatures. Many unicellular organisms can be brought back from a frozen state. Heck! Even scorpions have been known to survive being frozen…They are very much alive, but they are clusters of cells. They are not babies, and if other unicellular life is not conscious, I doubt those cell balls are too.