General Consensus

May 23rd, 2005

In the world of the stem cell, the only consensus that may ever be reached is that its discovery opened a great big can of worms. On the christian right, we have George Bush our president threatening to veto any bill giving more federal funding to stem cell research. In the research sector we have South Koreans making amazing advances in the development of stem cell technologies. Will ever the twain they meet? Here’s a brief overview.

In this area, as in evolution, the scientific sector is butting heads with religion. There will be no consensus because science thinks it is its right, destiny even, to move ever forward in search of answers, while religion thinks that it already has the ultimate truth on its side. There will likely never be any agreement, unless we, humankind, experience some revelatory paradigm shift that allows us to truly communicate without predjudice. Fat chance of that happening anytime soon.

I’m not a proponent of reproductive cloning. I might have been if I had more hope for humanity, but our inability to see past small things like skin color would definitely mark us for failure were we to actually try making cloned humans. Cloned people would be seen as different even though in reality they would be just like anybody. Additionally, while therapeutic cloning has the promise of helping many, reproductive cloning would likely remain in the hands of those with money, turning it into a class war as well as a “race” war. I can only imagine the hate that would be turned toward any living clone.

I’m glad to be living in California where a multi-billion dollar referendum was passed to fund stem cell research. The researchers who come here aren’t going to be killing babies or trying to make them in their labs for that matter. They work with cells. That’s all. Just cells. The people of California appear to get that better than most other places, and they understand the benefits of this research.

The advances that the Koreans have made so recently are testament to the promises that stem cells hold for therapeutic applications. The idea that stem cells could be harvested from a person to treat an illness with no fear of immune reprisal is still in the future. However, we will be there soon. It’s up to our government to decide whether they want to keep up with the future or be left in the past. Will fear hold the most influential government on the planet hostage on this issue?

So, while we may scientifically be on to something wonderful, which could save lives and reduce suffering around the world. People who fear misuse of life and misuse of technology will meanwhile hold us back. The sixty lines approved by the federal government for research are useless in application. They are tainted with genes and proteins from other animals that our bodies recognize as foreign and set out to destroy. The sixty lines won’t last forever. No cell line does. When they are gone, what reasearch will the government fund? And, by that time will it really matter?

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