Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Embryonic Stem Cells

Few issues over the last few years have made me as upset as the religious right's incessant noisemaking campaign over embryonic stem cell research. Leaving aside a discussion of all of the suffering religion has caused in its attempts to stamp out abortion to another post, the various faith-based objections to stem cell research are even less convincing.

As to the political side of things, all of us are forced to live in a pluralistic secular society, which requires that certain moral judgments held by an overwhelming majority of the citizenry, such as with respect to murder and rape, are made into law. Unfortunately, this state of events all-too-often results in a variety of idiotic, antiquated moral judgments being made into repressive discriminatory laws (see, e.g. slavery, segregation and sodomy laws). There is, unfortunately, no way to avoid such mistakes in a system where power-hungry politicians are shielded from acting contrary to the Constitution by a majority vote of the unthinking masses. As Winston Churchill once said, "No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

This failure of democracy, however, cannot be an excuse for the religiously inclined to constantly try to dominate our national dialogue with demands that their moral judgments du jour be enacted into law.

If my neighbor and a growing minority of people in my community believe that the most pressing threat to their children's religious purity is the presence of atheists teaching in elementary school, it is absolutely inappropriate for any sane person to give an attempt to pass a law in this regard anything more than a quiet laugh.

In the same vein, if a stout minority of zealots in our country decide that, based on their particular dogmatic religious ideology, the harvesting of cells from a fertilized embryo scheduled for routine destruction in order to do research into some of our most debilitating diseases is tantamount to murder, their attempt to ensconce their view into law should be equally laughworthy.

Our current Incompetent-in-Chief has set back the science of stem cell research and our growing preeminence in the world in the field of bioscience with his pathetic sop to the wide-eyed Christianists in our country who demanded that their particular view of stem cell research should be shoved down the throats of every other American who believes differently.

As to the moral side of things, it is hard to quantify the sum total of the suffering caused by religion's dogmatic intransigence on this issue. Here, I am including definite, indisputable instances of suffering rather than the suffering factor that certain zealots would ascribe to the killing of an embryo, which is only ultimately determinable if you give credence to their particular religious ideology. Once, and if, the future benefits of embryonic stem cell research are realized, this sum of suffering can be quantified by determining how much more quickly such benefits could have been realized by eliminating religious opposition; factored into the number of people suffering with or falling prey to the following example ailments during such time:
  • Paralysis
  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Organ Failure
  • Heart Disease
  • Stroke
  • Brain Injury

// Stem Cell Research: Religious Groups Weigh In
// Wikipedia: Stem Cell Controversy

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