Stem Cells & Blastocysts

An issue that I thought was settled in my mind, yet is continuously unsettled and resettled.

Andrew Sullivan has done the most to make me doubt my position (of support for loosening restrictions). Yesterday:

We’re all humans; whatever we believe about our origins or destiny, we can all agree that each of us deserves to be treated as ends in ourselves, not material for others’ benefit. If we cede that principle, then we will slide (and have already slid) toward hideous forms of eugenics. Now I know many people disagree. But the pragmatic arguments they deploy – these embryos will be destroyed or kept in limbo anyway, they’re teensy-weensy – don’t circumvent the deeper moral issue. The only logical justification is an entirely utilitarian one, in which the use of “lesser” humans for the benefit of more developed ones is justified.

Today, Andrew linked to a very convincing argument for loosening restrictions from Slate’s Fray:

First, ‘conception’, ‘life’ and ‘living distinct beings’ are not the same thing as ‘fertilization’, no matter how much it serves one’s purposes to make it so. Fertilization and the creation of blastocysts is an unremarkable event that takes place daily. If that embryo doesn’t implant, there is no conception, no life, no pregnancy. Every day millions of women have ’embryos’ floating around in their uteri, flush them during menses and nobody bats an eye. These embryos that have not implanted and sunk a vein and begun the process of advancement are not, even by the most conservative of standards, life.

(Part of which, incidentally, serves as a rebuttal to a chiding email Andrew received about Plan B.)

Meanwhile at the Huffington Post, Eugene Volokh furthers the cause of intellectual honesty, discussing the way the stem cell issue is sometimes argued.

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