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Embryonic Stem Cell Research

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Embryonic Stem Cell Research:

Where Science and Religion Collide

Embryonic stem cell research has been a serious debate since 1998 when the first stem cells were isolated at the University of Wisconsin. Since that time there has been huge progress with stem cell research, and with continued research and experimentation, there will be even greater potential for future applications of stem cells. Scientists have unraveled some mysteries of the human body, and these studies have led to a more comprehensive understanding of how the human body develops. Through these understanding, scientists will be better able to apply the information gleaned from stem cell research to create potential cures, and give hope to anyone ravaged by a disease or injury that currently has no cure. A religious controversial debate rages on the ethical use of embryos (potential human lives) for stem cell research.

In support of stem cell research, President Barack Obama, when he was a Democratic senator from Illinois, cosponsored a stem cell bill. In chapter two of the book, Stem Cell Research, written by Jennifer Skancke, is Obama's Statement of Support for Stem Cell Research. In that statement Obama advocated that "This bill embodies the innovative thinking that we as a society demand and medical advancement requires. By expanding scientific access to embryonic stem cells which would be otherwise discarded, this bill will help our nation's scientists and researchers develop treatments and cures to help people who suffer from illness and injuries for which there are currently none" (Skancke, 58). Since becoming the 44th President, Obama has reinstated federal funding to advance stem cell research.

The main debate surrounding stem cell research is the ethics of using stem cells obtained from human embryos for the purpose of researching possible ways to cure debilitating diseases. Ted Peters, who wrote a piece called The Stem Cell Controversy, felt he could offer his own "informed ethical assessment" (Peters, 290), based on his appointment to the Ethics Advisory Board of the Geron Corporation. The Geron Corporation funded the breakthrough isolation of stem cells in 1998. Peters stated "Teaching the body to heal itself, stem cell therapies, if predictions are accurate, may ease the suffering of millions afflicted with such debilitating diseases as Parkinson's, heart and liver failure, juvenile diabetes, Alzheimer's and cancer" (Peters, 291). Current stem cell research is being conducted on embryos slated for disposal at some of the 400 storage facilities located in just the United States alone. Most of these writers agree that as long as the stem cells were going to be disposed of, they might as well be used for something with potential greatness.

Some of the most controversial aspects surround a statement posed by Roger Willer in Moral Failure in the Stem Cell Controversy, "The science, the scripture, the faith tradition, and our language simply prevent an absolute answer about when 'life begins'" (Willer, 295). At what point does it become more beneficial to continue trying to create a cure for a disease over saving a potential human life. From a religious viewpoint, Pope John Paul II and the Catholic Church disagreed with scientists views on human embryos and deemed that life begins at the moment of conception "Pope John Paul II stated that support of embryonic stem cell research evidences a trajectory of moral corruption, a coarsening of consciousness that finds its birth in the assault on innocent human life in the womb and its maturity in acquiescence before such evils as "infanticide" and euthanasia" (Peters, 290). In contrast, scientific research shows that "...the genes contributed by father and mother do not draw up even a complete "blueprint" for what will become the human being" (Willer, 294). All of the religious viewpoints have been in existence long before there was a notion of stem cell research. With the change in the way embryos are conceived; standard conception between a man and a woman or now in a clinical setting i.e. laboratory, it is inconceivable how certain religions have chosen to disregard, or at least not to incorporate these facts into their decision making process. Both Ted Peters and Roger Willer have published their writings about the stem cell controversy in dialog: A Journal of Theology, and both authors extol that as long as embryos are not genetically engineered for the specific process of stem cell research, then using embryos slated for disposal is a viable option "If



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