There is an old saying that the best definition of a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged.
Our general predisposition to believe in the basic goodness of human nature takes a fatal hit when we have an up close and personal encounter with violent crime.
But if you want to have a similarly effective reality check without a trip to the ER, simply stop and consider the depth of depravity demonstrated by the reign of the Nazis in World War II.
No where did the horrors of Hitler’s regime demonstrate the full depth of its darkness than in the career of a man who came to be known as “The Angel of Death”, Dr. Joseph Megele.
“Mengele occupied his time with other numerous acts of the most base cruelty, including the vivisection of infants; the castration of boys and men without the use of an anesthetic; and the administering of high-voltage electric shocks to women inmates under the auspices of testing their endurance. On one occasion Mengele even sterilized a group of Polish nuns with an X-ray machine, leaving the women horribly burned.”
Mengele’s experiments also included attempts to change eye color by injecting chemicals into children’s eyes, various amputations of limbs and other brutal surgeries. Rena Gelissen‘s account of her time in Auschwitz details certain experiments performed on female prisoners around October 1943. Mengele would experiment on the chosen girls, performing sterilization and shock treatments. Most of the victims died, either due to the experiments or later infections. Once Mengele’s assistant rounded up 14 pairs of Roma twins during the night. Mengele placed them on his polished marble dissection table and put them to sleep. He then injected chloroform into their hearts, killing them instantly. Mengele then began dissecting and meticulously noting each and every piece of the twins’ bodies.
What allowed a man like Mengele to perform such hideous acts?
He was convinced that these concentration camp inmates weren’t fully human.
Or even human at all.
Once we can point to a particular class of people and redefine them as un-human or sub human, then denying them basic human rights, even the right to live becomes possible.
We saw it in slavery.
Or the treatment of Native Americans.
We saw it in Hitler’s Germany.
But are we also on the edge of seeing it now?
US President Barack Obama has lifted restrictions on federal funding for research on new stem cell lines.
Mr Obama signed an executive order in a major reversal of US policy, pledging to “vigorously support” new research.
Ex-President George W Bush blocked the use of any government money to fund research on human embryonic stem cell lines created after 9 August 2001.
Scientists say the research will lead to medical breakthroughs, but many religious groups are opposed to it.
Announcing the new policy, Mr Obama said he was authorising a change “so many scientists and researchers and doctors and innovators, patients and loved ones have hoped for and fought for these past eight years”.
Opinion polls suggest most Americans support stem cell research, reports the BBC’s Richard Lister, in Washington, but the National Right to Life Committee described the move as a “slippery slope”. It has also been condemned by the Vatican.
As you might expect, the Vatican pulled no punches on this decision.
Said the Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia, Cardinal Justin Rigali: “This action is morally wrong because it encourages the destruction of innocent human life, treating vulnerable human beings as mere products to be harvested.”
Consistent majorities have favored the expansion of Embryonic Stem Cell Research.
Heart rending appeals by celebrities ranging from Christopher Reeve, Michael J. Fox and Nancy Reagan have registered with the consciences of many.
If experimenting with embryos will allow scientists to cure paralysis, Parkinson’s Disease or Alzheimer’s, what’s the problem?
Here is the problem.
Every human being alive today began their journey through life as an embryo.
In fact, the only difference between you, me and an embryo is time and nurture.
But embryos don’t look like us.
And since we don’t call them “little humans in development” it is easy to see them as mere tissue blobs.
Or at least, sub human.
But what if we were to do the same with people at another stage of their development?
Suppose we discovered that there was a tremendous potential to find cures by harvesting a vital organ found in two year olds.
In fact, rather than call them people, let’s label them “Two-y-os”.
Would you feel comfortable making the argument that we should harvest these organs and provide cures for fully human adults –
Since the human mind isn’t developed enough to retain lasting memories at that point, these “Two-y-os” aren’t fully human?
Or that “Two-y-os” don’t really feel pain like five year olds?
Or that “Two-y-os” aren’t able to survive independently if left alone?
Very Mengele-esque, isn’t it?
And yet the only difference between an embryo and a “Two-y-o” is the passage of time.
Even Barack Obama recognized the moral difficulty inherent in this issue.
“In recent years, when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values,” Mr Obama said. “As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly.”
What would it take to approach this issue with “humanity and conscience”?
How about focusing on obtaining stem cells without killing a human being in the process?
Consider the potential of harvesting stem cells from adults.
Adult stem cells provide only one of several ethical alternatives to ESCR.7 They can be harvested from the individual who needs therapy without worry of cell rejection.
A recent article in Nature8 indicates it may be possible to reprogram an adult cell to become more like an ESC. Currently this technology depends on the use of an ESC to reprogram the adult cell, but it is hoped that this requirement can be overcome.
Another popular alternative is to use umbilical cord blood. Since umbilical cord blood is rich in stem cells, it is collected shortly after birth. These blood cells have been used to successfully treat many diseases in adults and children.9 Several companies store such blood for a fee.10 The stem cells can then be used if needed later in life by that individual or possibly by their family.
Stem cells found in baby teeth11 are capable of becoming several different types of cells, including neural cells. Such cells are extracted from the pulp of a tooth that a child has lost as a result of the transition to permanent teeth. Dr. Songtao Shi, discoverer of these cells, says this about their future, “We can ask parents to put [baby] teeth that comes out in milk, put it in the refrigerator and give a call the next day, and we can get stem cells out. You can freeze them in nitrogen and save them for years and years.”12 These cells hold great promise for use in future therapies.
There are few more accurate barometers of the moral condition of a society than how it treats its most defenseless and voiceless members.
Choices were made in Germany.
And consequences are still being felt today.
We are facing a choice in our culture.
And that choice may have more far reaching consequences than curing our bodies.
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:36)
Filed under: Uncategorized |