God and the Embryo: Religious Voices on Stem Cells and Cloning

God and the Embryo: Religious Voices on Stem Cells and Cloning

God and the Embryo: Religious Voices on Stem Cells and Cloning

God and the Embryo: Religious Voices on Stem Cells and Cloning


Discussions and debates over the medical use of stem cells and cloning have always had a religious component. But there are many different religious voices. This anthology on how religious perspectives can inform the difficult issues of stem cell research and human cloning is essential to the discussion. Contributors reflect the spectrum of Christian responses, from liberal Protestant to evangelical to Roman Catholic. The noted moral philosopher, Laurie Zoloth, offers a Jewish approach to cloning, and Sondra Wheeler contributes her perspective on both Jewish and Christian understandings of embryonic stem cell research.

In addition to the discussions found here, God and the Embryo includes a series of official statements on stem cell research and cloning from religious bodies, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church in America, the United Methodist Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and the Rabbinical Council of America. "Human Cloning and Human Dignity: An Ethical Inquiry," from the statement of the President's Council on Bioethics, concludes the book.

The debates and the discussions will continue, but for anyone interested in the nuances of religious perspectives that make their important contributions to these ethically challenging and important dialectics, God and the Embryo is an invaluable resource.



The creation of the first human embryos by cloning was announced late in 2001 by a group of researchers working for a private corporation, Advanced Cell Technologies (ACT), of Worcester, Massachusetts. The work was done in order to determine whether it is possible to create cloned embryos from which to harvest embryonic stem cells. Advocates of this goal, sometimes called “therapeutic cloning,” believe it holds the key to successful treatment for a wide range of diseases, from Parkinson's disease to diabetes, that currently claim the lives of as many as 3,000 Americans every day.

What was disturbing to many about this research is that ACT set out on this pathway on its own, accountable only to itself and its investors. Human cloning, including therapeutic human cloning that produces no baby, is controversial, to put it mildly. Nearly everyone on both sides of the controversy acknowledges that human cloning is a milestone of sorts in human history. That a private corporation would cross the threshold into the age of cloning, as if it were nothing but a corporate strategy or a mere line in its R&D budget, is troubling.

To be fair, however, we must recognize that ACT broke no laws, nor did the company fail in any duty to obtain permission for its work. In fact, on scientific grounds alone, the researchers' publication was premature but perhaps commendable because it provided some public account of their work.

Furthermore, the legal and moral context in which ACT does its work is hardly the company's fault. The responsibility in fact lies with our political . . .

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