Stem Cell Research
The issue of federal funding for embryos stem cell research is one of the most contentious and painful topics in the area of public health, because the arguments for an against are so wildly divergent in terms of logical soundness and moral legitimacy. On the one hand are proponents of federal funding, who argue that stem cell research should be funded and encouraged because it has the potential to treat or cure many of the most debilitating and heartbreaking diseases facing humanity, and that funding such research does not present any unmanageable moral problems because the embryos themselves have no consciousness and cannot experience any pain or suffering (Robertson 192). In contrast, opponents to federal funding for embryonic stem cell research must rely on arguments rooted in an arbitrary, religious morality that ends up being absurd and inhumane. When comparing the arguments for and against the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, it becomes clear that this funding is not merely important, but actually a moral imperative, and that opposition to such research cannot be justified except by an appeal to an imaginary religious authority.
To begin, it is necessary to define embryonic stem cell research, just so there is no confusion as to how embryos are actually used in this research. Specifically, embryonic stem cells research depends on cultivating stem cells from recently fertilized embryos, which requires destroying that embryo in the process (Robertson 192). One must point out that the embryos used in this way are very early in the process of development, and in fact the emergence of stem cells in an embryo represent "the first differentiation after fertilization of cells of the embryo proper," meaning that these embryos are not even at the point where they would have implanted if they were fertilized in a human body; in fact, the embryos used for stem cell research are always grown in-vitro, meaning that they are never in a human body to begin with (Robertson 192). So, while embryonic stem cell research depends on "destroying embryos," these embryos are so underdeveloped that they bear little resemblance, in either appearance or moral weight, to an actual human, and most reasonable people would not see a meaningful connection between the rights afforded conscious human beings and collection of cells that make up an embryo.
Unfortunately, opponents of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research are not reasonable, as evidenced by the fact that their opposition is primarily based in religion (which is by definition unreasonable, as it rejects logic and reason in favor of "faith," meaning simple assertion without evidence). To say that opponents to the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research are motivated primarily by religion is not a kind of straw man, because they have no problem making their religious motivations clear. The biggest opposition to the funding of stem cell research at the level of the federal government began with the Reagan administration and continued on through both Bush administrations, and in each case opposition was rooted in the belief that human embryos are morally equivalent to actual humans, a belief that stems directly from conservative Christian ideology (Smith 623; Robertson 192; "Civil Law" 626-627). In addition to presidential opposition, in 1994 the Republican-controlled Congress passed the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which banned federal funding for any research that involved the destruction of human embryos ("Civil Law" 626-627). To get an idea of how extreme this opposition is, one may consider George W. Bush's press secretary's response when asked about the president's opposition to funding embryonic stem cell research: "the simple answer is he thinks murder is wrong" (Kollman 150).
In all of the instances cited above, opposition to the destruction of embryos was based on the assumption that this destruction represents the moral equivalent of murder, because in the eyes of Reagan, Bush I and II, and their Congressional allies, the potential for a group of cells to eventually grow into a human given the right conditions means that that group of cells warrants the same rights and protections as an actual human (Kollman 150). As the reader likely realizes, this is the same justification given for opposition to abortion, and in both cases one can trace this ideology to multiple passages in the Bible referring to God's knowledge of the individual prior to their birth, such as Psalms 139, Jeremiah 1, and Job 31. That this position is arbitrary and absurd is practically self-evident, and not merely because it is based on the collected writings of Iron age shepherds, slavers, and farmers.
Instead, opposition to the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research is arbitrary, absurd, and even more than that, cruel and inhumane because it values the potential life of a collection of cells over the actual life of human beings who might benefit from stem cell research. The arbitrary nature of this opposition becomes evident when one attempts to apply it evenly, because those opponents arguing for the sanctity of human life in the form of embryos hold no such concern for the individual sperms that die in the millions any time a male ejaculates, or the multiple eggs that die during menstruation over the course of a woman's life. The idea that every sperm is sacred is self-evidently absurd, but there is no meaningful difference between a sperm and an embryo except that the embryo is slightly further along in the process of development.
Even beyond this absurdity, however, is the inhumane cruelty inherent in opposition to the federal funding of stem cell research. Not only is opposition rooted in an illogical and demonstrably false religious ideology, but this ideology allows opponents of embryonic stem cell research to justify further suffering of living humans in the name of protecting potential life. Stem cell research has the potential to transform the world of medicine and wellness by providing treatments and possibly even cures for diseases like Alzheimer's, dementia, and even cancer (Ghavamzadeh 79). However, even in the face of this opportunity to reduce suffering and death for vast swaths of the population, opponents of federal funding for stem cell research cling to a selfish, deluded ideology that values the imaginary lives of embryos over the very real lives of people everywhere.
Once on realizes the absurd, arbitrary, and inhumane nature of opposition to the federal funding of stem cell research, it soon becomes clear that not only is this funding important, it is also a moral imperative for anyone who thinks that the reduction of human suffering is a good thing. The federal funding of stem cell research would accelerate efforts to find solutions for many of the most deadly and emotionally catastrophic diseases facing humanity, and it would further allow treatments to be tailored to the individual, since stem cells are able to grow into any of the different kinds of cells found in the human body. Once one does away with the fallacious religious opposition to embryonic stem cell research, there is simply no moral or ethical reason to oppose it, because embryonic stem cell research has the potential to reduce suffering and death in an immediate way.
Furthermore, even if one does not care about reducing suffering or death, there is a simple economic justification for the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, because many of the diseases stem cells could be used to combat, such as Alzheimer's and dementia, disproportionately affect older individuals. As individuals live longer and the United States see the gradually aging and retirement of the Baby Boomer generation, dealing with diseases associated with old age will only become a larger and larger drain on society and its finances. Thus, there are even selfish reasons for supporting the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, because this investment would pay off by…