Stemcells and Soldiers

I acknowledge the moral question and debate about when life begins. For those that truly believe that a distinct human life begins at conception, or before, I can understand their argument that this life should be protected. Personally, I don't view a human embryo the same as a crying baby. This doesn't necessarily mean I am pro-abortion. I think that the issue is complicated. It's a debate I don't often like to have, because so many people have emotional feelings about the issue that the arguments soon become irrational.

This being said, I am confused about the argument that the federal government should not be spending tax dollars on stem-cell research where the destruction of an embryo would be required. In a nutshell, which is a dangerous way to phrase such matters, the argument is that we should not take one life to save another. When I heard this on a news program tonight, the irony suddenly struck me. Aren't our tax dollars, much more of them, being spent on a war that necessitates casualties in the name of saving others? If it is immoral to destroy an embryo in an effort to save more advanced human life, why is it not immoral to destroy a soldier's life, or an innocent bystander's life, in the name of ideals such as freedom and justice.

Look, I am not saying that all war is always morally wrong. However, I find it ironic that the current administration is willing to sacrifice over 1000 American lives for freedom, but is unwilling to sacrifice a frozen embryo for a chance to cure hideous disease. Now, I know that President Bush walks a thin line on this issue. He has given federal funding to existing lines of stem cells, or something to that effect. But, to use the argument that we must not destroy life to save life when the life being destroyed is a frozen embryo (keeping a life frozen would seem to be quite immoral also), smacks of bitter irony when juxtaposed next to gratitude for those that give their life for their country. We can use that cold term of collateral damage to describe the thousands of innocent lives lost in war, but a frozen embryo is a precious form of life?

Then again, politics is rife with such contradictions.


Sean said…
you're right, of course: an embryo is not the same as a crying baby.

however, the main concern is ontology: is an embryo human life or not? the pro life people want to protect that. i happen to agree.

ethically i think one of the major fears is the slippery slope: our society already wrestles with fetal life. pro life people want to hold the line here. in fact, they want to take back some territory they view as lost.

also ethically, the argument is: how can you choose one human life over another? you shouldn't if you don't have to. sometimes choices must be made (eg, medical risk to mother), but these are to be avoided when possible.

i've often seen the argument that conservatives care more about embryos than soldiers, Iraqis, or poor Americans. i'm somewhat persuaded by this rhetoric, but i'm sure they wouldn't view it as fair and i would want to hear their response. part of it in this case would be: what about the millions of Iraqis who were living in tyranny?

i think part of the conservative world view is that, since people are often bad (maybe including original sin), strong defense and fighting are necessary. one liberal worldview is that people are basically good, so hopefully we won't have to fight. (these ideas have been simplified in the extreme by me here.)

i heard the other day that the best source of stem cells has proved to be something else (i forget what). also, embryonic stem cells can be harvested from placentae, which seems like the best solution to me.

i don't find the tensions achieving irony. conservatives wouldn't want the embryo harvested and frozen in the first place. i would say a frozen embryo is precious form of human life.

i'm not making my case very well or forcefully here. i actually feel a little stronger about it than i am communicating. so file the whole post under: for what it's worth (and please excuse the length).
Eric said…

Thanks for commenting. I appreciate your thoughts and viewpoint. Personally, I had not heard this ethical argument before, i.e. that conservatives value embryos more than soldiers. It's a difficult question for me. I like to think that I value life, and I am adamantly opposed to the death penalty and non-defensive war (unjust war). Yet, I have trouble giving the same value to embryos. It scares me a little that I may be wrong on this issue, and that fear is often pounced upon by an attacking conservative. Maybe I am trying to see the problem with logic, when I need to look at it from more of a faith perspective. It's hard to explain. I guess it is always dangerous territory when people discuss what is and is not life, and what life should be valued. Yikes!

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