Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Summarized: Ethical Issues of Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Amy Wellborn over at Open Book summarizes the issues as presented in America by Fr. John Kavanaugh S.J. of St. Louis University. Please have a read. Since embryonic stem cell harvesting destroys the human embryo, it all boils down to the question of when human life begins. My own take on this is based on a simple formula: 23 + 23 = 46. What on earth does that mean? It's based on the number of chromosomes found in the gametes (sperm or egg) and their relationship with the number of chromosomes in the human DNA. The gametes each have 23 chromosomes, which is odd because, if I'm not mistaken, other cells in our body have 46 chromosomes. What's just as amazing is that we're all products of gametes whose chromosomes simply add up to 46. Since the very first product of conception is an organism with 46 chromosomes, we know it's human. But we also know that this is not just a bunch of cells belonging to the mother. Why? Because this organism, the blastocyst, has DNA that is distinct from the mother's DNA. If it isn't the mother's tissue, then what is it? The simple answer is that this is a distinct organism. And with 46 chromosomes, it can only be a human being. Arguing that this is not a human being is a stretch since a blastocyst needs only time and nourishment to become a fetus,and all a fetus needs to grow into a newborn baby is likewise time and nourishment. This is also exactly what we all needed to grow from infant to toddler to adolescent, etc. Nothing separates our being now from our being at conception. The proof is very simple: as I understand it, my DNA now is as it was at conception. Growth as a phenomenon exists in a continuum and has nothing to do with the nature of the growing entity. I am a human being now and I have been from the very beginning. What separates me from my origins at conception is simply growth -- which began at conception and will continue until my demise.