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

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

SIX
Principles and Politics: Beyond the
Impasse over the Embryo

RONALD COLE-TURNER

As one who believes that embryo research should be permitted but carefully regulated and limited, reflecting on this debate brings me to two observations. First, it does not appear at all likely that Christians, at least, will ever agree on a theological and moral assessment of the human embryo or even that a strong majority position will emerge. On the contrary, our divisions in this matter are so deep that it is hard to imagine our finding a consensus view about what the human embryo is and what we owe it.

Of course, there will be shifts in opinion in the general public and surely among Christians as well. At the moment, it may be that opinion is turning against the moral acceptability of embryo research. The National Bioethics Council has proposed a four-year moratorium on this research, in part to allow time for the arguments to be made and tested in the public arena. It is even possible that, in a few years, opinions will shift so decidedly as to provide a wide enough basis for a ban on embryo research in the United States, one that is both permanent and generally supported, for instance by legislators of both parties.

But even so, there will be a significant minority in dissent, not just among the researchers who want to do the work, but also among patients who think they are being denied treatments. And if in fact the tide of opinion is now in favor of stopping embryo research, those who favor this side should not congratulate themselves too soon. They should expect that the outcome of the public controversy might have more to do in the end with public relations than with principled argument, more in fact with our personal health

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