Friday, June 8, 2007

The Stem Cell Debate

The stem cell debate has always struck me as slightly off-base because the two sides seem to be arguing separate problems. The opponents of it have been saying that it is morally wrong, while supporters argue two distinct issues, a) that the government shouldn't legislate morality issues that like, and b) even if the government did legislate morality, this should still be legal because it probably would save more lives at no real human cost.

Probably because it is simpler, the opponents to stem cell research actually have some credibility, although let's remember that these embryos for the stem cells were generally taken from failed fertility trials, which weren't going to lead to a pregnancy. The supporters of it, on the other hand, haven't been able to get their case straight. From my perspective, they really should give up trying to argue that the government can't legislate morality because they pretty much do; a lot of the laws in this country have been based on our moral code (what is equality if not a moral value?). The point they should be making is that stem cells could potentially lead to new discoveries which could help current people, and wouldn't stop anybody from having kids if they wanted them.

These are the issues I was thinking about when I saw the bill to allow stem cell research passed in congress, but which would soon be vetoed by the White House. Then, later today I saw this article from the NYT Science section pop up on my Google reader explaining this sweet new technique where you can essentially replicate all the effects you want from a stem cell in skin cells. The process has only been shown in rats, but then again stem cells themselves were still rather experimental. Pretty cool stuff, and it certainly could be the quickest end to this debate that I, at least, can imagine.