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

By Brent Waters; Ronald Cole-Turner | Go to book overview

ONE
Religion Meets Research

RONALD COLE-TURNER

Is it ever right to use the human embryo as a tool of research or therapy? Few questions have divided us so deeply. On one side are the many Christians who look at the embryo and see a member of the human family, a neighbor, a being that is human and worthy of the same protection as any of us, all the more so because it is tiny and vulnerable. On the other side of the debate are the many Christians and most Jews who see the human embryo not as another human person but as a cell with the extraordinary potential to divide and develop into a person, and therefore of less value in its present state than, say, a baby.

This impasse over the embryo affects scientific research and the future of medicine, determining how and where research is done, who approves it, who might benefit, and what the long-term implications might be. The impasse is mediated through the political arena, and in the United States, at least, political leaders are unable to agree on policy. But beneath the science and the politics, the impasse is religious, grounded in two competing views of the dignity of the embryo.

When they have no need for clarity, religious traditions have a high degree of tolerance for differences of opinion and for ambiguity of viewpoint among their followers. But when it becomes necessary to clear things up, as it is now regarding the embryo, ambiguity is flushed out of its shadows into the full light of cross-examination, clarity is demanded, and tolerance suffers. We see this happening today in regard to how religious people and institutions

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