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Jack Sisson's Life Ethics Blog

We must find new ways through many ethical issues, especially regarding bioethics, medical ethics, and criminal justice. Jack Sisson's 'Life Ethics' blog focuses on numerous areas of concern, including the philosophical and ethical dilemmas surrounding stem-cell research, abortion, medical research, and health care.

From The New York Times
Published: February 10, 2008
Thirty-five years after Roe v. Wade, the Photo credit: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Imagespro-life movement faces a new challenge: biotechnology. The first human biotech issue, embryonic stem-cell research, looks like an easy call. Stem cells could save millions of lives. And the entity we currently sacrifice to get them — a sacrifice that may soon be unnecessary — is a tiny, undeveloped ball of cells. The question, like the embryo, seems a no-brainer.

For pro-lifers, that’s precisely the problem. Biotechnology is arguably more insidious than abortion. Abortions take place one at a time and generally as a response to an accident, lapse or nasty surprise. Their gruesomeness actually limits their prevalence by arousing revulsion and political opposition. Conventional stem-cell harvesting is quieter but bolder. It’s deliberate and industrial, not accidental and personal. In combination with cloning, it entails the mass production, exploitation and destruction of human embryos. Yet its victims don’t look human. You can’t protest outside a fertility clinic waving a picture of a blastocyst. You have to explain what it is and why people should care about it.

This is the task Robert George and Christopher Tollefsen undertake in “Embryo.” To reach a secular and skeptical public, they avoid religion and stake their case on science. George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton and a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics, and Tollefsen, a philosopher at the University of South Carolina, locate humanity not in a soul but in a biological program. “To be a complete human organism,” they write, “an entity must possess a developmental program (including both its DNA and epigenetic factors) oriented toward developing a brain and central nervous system.” The program begins at conception; therefore, so does personhood.

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There is no time an embryo is ever "an indistinguishable mass of cells." It is a complete organism identifiable by its unique DNA from the moment of conception to the moment of death, just like you and I. If you want to discuss when we think human life has value that is great. It is a discussion worth having. But there certainly is no doubt when a new human life begins.
Rebecca, thanks for your comment. While I admire your certainty, I respectfully disagree with it. There are doubts about when human life begins, and some very intriguing questions about it, too. Suggest you read our latest post on Saletan's review of this book. The authors, Robert George and Christopher Tollefsen, responded to this review in National Review Online, and now Saletan responds to them. It's a very interesting discussion.

Again, thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment.
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