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March 10, 2009

Stem-Cell Reversal VIPs


Conservatives aren't happy about President Obama's reversal on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown writes.

And Dan Gilgoff reports on the faith-based VIPs at President Obama's stem-cell research signing yesterday.

- Maureen Shea, Episcopal Church USA, Director of Government Relations
- James Winkler, United Methodist Church, Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society
- Rabbi Steve Gutow, Jewish Council for Public Affairs
- Rev. Welton Gaddy, Interfaith Alliance
- Nancy Ratzan, National Council of Jewish Women
- Nathan Diament, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations
- Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism

The Associated Press' Eric Gorski breaks down some of the religious debates surrounding the issue. And Chris Good writes that Rick Warren won't be making a statement on Obama's decision, but last time I checked, Warren doesn't really make many public statements.

In an analysis piece for The New York Times Nicholas Wade writes that while President Obama's reversal of the stem-cell policy will make accounting easier for researchers, research on embryonic stem cells, "though still important, has been somewhat eclipsed by new advances."

[T]he president's support of embryonic stem cell research comes at a time when many advances have been made with other sorts of stem cells. The Japanese biologist Shinya Yamanaka found in 2007 that adult cells could be reprogrammed to an embryonic state with surprising ease. This technology "may eventually eclipse the embryonic stem cell lines for therapeutic as well as diagnostics applications," Dr. Kriegstein said. For researchers, reprogramming an adult cell can be much more convenient, and there have never been any restrictions on working with adult stem cells.

He writes that politicians have often created the hype that embryonic stem cell research would lead to quick cures.

Scientists have not publicly objected to such high-flown hopes, which have helped fuel new sources of grant money like the $3 billion initiative in California for stem cell research.

In private, however, many researchers have projected much more modest goals for embryonic stem cells.

And in case you're looking for more casual reading, Christianity Today has a special section on embryonic stem-cell research.


As if CT has ever had any credibility on scientific/ethical issues. Regardless of what CT says that it's doing, my observation is that CT is mostly about theologically legitimizing "conservative" political hegemony.

For instance, in "The Biotech Temptation," CT wrote: "But for a moment, imagine the morally tone-deaf researcher about to dismember a living human embryo."...morally "tone deaf" to whom? Not to mention that, with 150 or so cells, of only two types, embryos, living or otherwise, don't have members to dismember. CT was just stooping to sensational language in it's own morally tone deaf way.

At 44-48 days post-ovulation: The critical period of arm development ends, and the arms are at their proper location, roughly proportional to the embryo. However, the hand plates are not finished, but develop further in the next two days. The wrist is clearly visible and the hands already have ridges or notches indicating the future separation of the fingers and the thumbs.

I believe arms are considered limbs/members.

Gov. Huckabee on his Fox News Show on Sat and Sun nites showed a picture of a 5 mo. frozen embryo that was implantd in a mother and the little girl is now 5 years old. Who can possibly say that embryos are not real life?

Stem cell research is okay, so long as the cells come from other than embryos, and that is certainly possible. Why must embryos be used?

It is sad to me to hear such anger from some of the pro-stem embryonic cell advocates.(Those of us on the other side need to be very careful of this as well.)We as followers of Jesus are called to turn the other cheek when insulted. Even when doing this we can with truth and love speak to and with those we disagree with.
I for one am very thankful there is a thoughtful, intelligent source for theologically sound, morally focused perspectives that are not based on hyperbole. It is clear in Jesus teachings that we are called to care for the least of these.
I do understand those who are desperately waiting for a possible cure for spinal cord injuries, and other painful, debilitating illnesses. I would just ask that a careful,non-hyped appraisal of the real scientific and moral issues surrounding embryonic stem-cell research be done. I greatly appreciate that CT is such a source.
One of Jesus greatest teachings was "there is no greater love than this, that one lay their life down for a friend. Voluntarily laying one's own life down to save another is of the highest calling, but taking life involuntarily anywhere from the embryonic stage to the elderly at the end of life is though sometimes well-meaning, always morally wrong. The greater good for our culture can never be accomplished by destroying innocent life.

Thanks for the embryology lesson but it really doesn't change the basic objection. And this whole process opens the door for a very slippery slope with regard to cloning and other procedures.

Why is it important how old the embryo is?

Is it because, at some point, someone feels that the embryo turns into a human life... but before that, it isn't? How is this decided? What criteria are used?