'Stem Cells, Embryos, and Casualties of War' Redux

By Bonchek, Lawrence I. | Free Inquiry, February-March 2004 | Go to article overview

'Stem Cells, Embryos, and Casualties of War' Redux


Bonchek, Lawrence I., Free Inquiry


One effect of President Bush's stubborn opposition to stem-cell research in the United States was predictable: England, China, Singapore, and other countries are rapidly becoming stem-cell research centers and are aggressively courting prominent scientists. (1) But now the Bush administration is no longer content to impose its Luddite positions on America; it has attempted to push through a resolution at the United Nations for a treaty banning both reproductive and therapeutic cloning worldwide. (2) (Reproductive cloning is done to create a human being; "therapeutic" cloning intentionally creates new cells specifically for medical research.) U.S. Deputy Ambassador James Cunningham said the administration "has never been prepared to accept" a partial ban on reproductive cloning alone.

All this moral preaching is based on the conviction that human life begins at conception and that both cloned and excess frozen "pre-embryos" from fertility clinics are humans that should not be used for life-saving research, even if they'll be discarded anyway. But as I pointed out previously in FREE INQUIRY, (3) a president cannot take the position that a human life must never be sacrificed. As commanders-in-chief, presidents often must put soldiers in harm's way with the certainty that many will be killed, so Bush's sudden inflexibility about stem-cell research is ridiculously inconsistent. Military conflicts are not the only wars. The perpetual global war between humanity and disease has produced more casualties than all of history's shooting wars, and a ban on stem-cell research is dangerous to our health. In my original article, I offered the hypothetical argument that even if we accept--just for the sake of discussion--that already doomed "pre-embryos" are humans, they should be considered casualties in the global war against disease.

But the argument about casualties of war is no longer hypothetical. Since 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, the president has shown that, when his peculiar morality justifies it, he is quite willing to countenance outright bloodshed, even when it means the loss of hundreds of young American soldiers with dependents, of UN humanitarian workers, of innocent civilians from many nations including Iraq, and of others uncounted and unknown. The absurd irrationality and ignorant hypocrisy of Bush's position on stem-cell research now lies exposed, but the situation in Iraq so overshadows the news that no one else has called attention to it.

And the absurdity has been magnified since my original article by subsequent revelations. …

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