School stem cell discussion PART II

Some of you offered me some excellent resources to use in my psychology class on stem cell research. Now, my professor answered my questions with a simple statement.

I’d like your take on what she said…

“Science does not address what is moral or immoral. The only goal of science is to better human life. Morality is philosophical, not psychological. I fully support stem cell research. I am not religious and I do not believe embryos are human beings. You say that there is no evidence that stem cell research has provided treatment for diseases due to ethics. I say that there is no evidence that stem cell research has provided treatment for diseases due to an ultra-conservative, right-wing, staunchly religious government which is too narrow-minded to see its value and, as a result, will not fund the research.”

I would politely reply with something such as “I say that there is no evidence that stem cell research has provided treatment for diseases due to an ultra-liberal, left-wing, staunchly anti-religious scientific community who is too narrow-minded to see the value of human life and fail to see where it clearly begins.”


LOL! That’s a good comment! She does not like what I have to say because I am one of the ultra-conservative, right-wing, staunchly religious people she despises!

She cannot penalize me for the comments I make in class, only for little things, like sentence structure. Of the 5 posts I left there so far, she penalized me for 4 of them because my title was a sentence fragment, not a full sentence. We are only given the maximum of 10 points for the discussion. We must post a minimum of 4 times. I have 32 points already, so I am going to get a good grade for this module, even though she may not like me :smiley:

I also fully support stem cell research. But there is a problem here. An article in the Detroit Free Press claimed that there are three myths in the stem cell controversy.

One is that all such work involves only embryonic stem cell research (ESCR). A second is that ESCR is the only stem cell research that can aid the treatment of certain types of diseases, and that opposing this type of research will deny unique benefits to those in need. The third myth is that the Roman Catholic Church opposes all stem cell research.

I am not religious and I do not believe embryos are human beings.

She is obviously not a scientist, and is way behind the times because the debate has moved on from this. It is now conceded that embryos are indeed human beings. *“To determine if a human embryo is a human being, all one has to do is count the number of chromosomes in any cell of that human embryo under a microscope, and observe the functions and activities which are present immediately after fertilisation.” *

The U.S. Congress was told by Harvard University Medical School’s Professor Micheline Matthews-Roth, “It is incorrect to say that the biological data cannot be decisive…. It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception, when the egg and sperm join to form the zygote, and that this developing human always is a member of our species in all stages of its life."

The debate is now whether or not they are human persons.

You say that there is no evidence that stem cell research has provided treatment for diseases due to ethics.

Stem cell research has, on the contrary, already produced many, many cures. Adult stem cell research, that is. Unfortunately, these successes have been largely under-reported by the media who seemingly concentrate their attention on the ‘potential’ cures that may come from embryonic stem cells, sometime in the future.

I will provide a list in the next post.

I say that there is no evidence that stem cell research has provided treatment for diseases due to an ultra-conservative, right-wing, staunchly religious government…

Two quotes from a workshop sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine in Washington DC, Stem Cells and the Future of Regenerative Medicine (22 June 2001):

“There is no evidence of therapeutic benefit from embryonic stem cells.” - Marcus Grompe, MD, PhD, Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics, Oregon Health Sciences University (an expert in cell transplantation to repair damaged livers)

“There is no experience with embryonic stem cells in humans, and very little in mice… all claims of therapeutic benefit from embryonic stem cells are conjectural.” - Bert Vogelstein, Professor of Oncology and Pathology at Johns Hopkins University and Chairman of the Institute of Medicine’s committee studying stem cell research

…which is too narrow-minded to see its value and, as a result, will not fund the research."

Researchers have reported that grant applications have been turned down because they are studying ASCs. In the U.S., the National Institutes of Health have has funded only 30 projects involving stem cells from umbilical cords. In contrast, it has funded 634 projects involving embryonic stem cells.

**Current use of Adult Stem Cells to help human patients: **

· Brain Cancer
· Retinoblastoma
· Ovarian Cancer
· Merkel Cell Cancer
· Testicular Cancer
· Lymphoma
· Acute Lymphobolastic Leukemia
· Acute Myelogenous Leukemia
· Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia
· Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia
· Angioimmunoblastic
. Lymphadenopathy with Dysproteinemia
· Multiple Myeloma
· Myelodysplasia
· Breast Cancer
· Neuroblastoma
· Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
· Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
· Renal Cell Carcinoma
· Various Solid Tumors
· Soft Tissue Sarcoma
· Scleromyxedema
· Multiple Sclerosis
· Crohn’s Disease
· Rheumatoid Arthritis
· Juvenile Arthritis
· Systemic Lupus
· Polychondritis
· Systemic Vasculitis
· Sjogren’s Syndrome
· Behcet’s Disease
· Myasthenia
· Red Cell Aplasia
· Spinal Cord Injury
· Autoimmune Cytopenia
· X-Linked Lymphoproliferative Syndrome
· X-Linked Hyperimmunoglobuline-M Syndrome
· Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Syndrome-X1
· Sickle Cell Anemia
· Sideroblastic Anemia
· Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia
· Aplastic Anemia
· Amegakaryocytic Thrombocytopenia
· Chronic Epstein-Barr Infection
· Fanconi’s Anemia
· Diamond Blackfan Anemia
· Thalassemia
· Stroke
· Osteogenesis Imperfecta
· Sandhoff Disease
· Corneal Regeneration
· Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis
· Primary Amyloidosis
· Limb Gangrene
· Surface Wound Healing
· Heart Damage
. Parkinson’s Disease

  1. What is an embryo? It is not part of the mother since it has different DNA. That DNA is only found in humans. All humans are embryos at the beginning of their development. That is science, not religion.

  2. The ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research was signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1996. Last I checked, Clinton is not typically considered a right-wing, staunchly religious zealot.

  3. There is not a ban on ESC research, only on stem cell lines not in existence as of the date President Bush froze the federal funding. Your teacher seems to be totally unaware that ESC research is being conducted in the rest of the world and is being funded by governmental monies. In the US, there is plenty of state funding available.

  4. Science does not have a goal of making human life better. The goal of science is to explain the workings of nature.

  5. Her statement “Morality is philosophical, not psychological.” would lead me to ask if she opposes harvesting organs from healthy humans without their consent in order to “better human life”.



As Tim mentioned, the goal of science is to understand nature. “To better human life” is a value which people may expect of science or of entertainment or of agriculture etc. The value is not bad, but it is extrinsic to science. But I wouldn’t make a big deal of this… she seems to have some strong emotions about the topic you’re discussing, there is no sense in aggravating her.

Morality is philosophical, not psychological.

True, but all human endeavors include morality. She wouldn’t say that any psychology research, no matter how cruelly it treats its subjects, is permitted would she?

I am not religious and I do not believe embryos are human beings.

I think she is really saying that embryos are not persons. Surely they are human… what other species would they be? Again, it probably is not worth aggravating her by nitpicking. But Tim’s point that, by DNA, the embryo is a separate entity from its mother is a good one. I almost used the word “person” instead of "entity, and perhaps you should. But the issue of when personhood begins is wrapped up in religion, and possibly philosophy. I don’t know of an argument which she will find convincing.

I say that there is no evidence that stem cell research has provided treatment for diseases due to an ultra-conservative, right-wing, staunchly religious government which is too narrow-minded to see its value and, as a result, will not fund the research."

Wow. If those are truly her words, then she has got some very strong emotions driving her thoughts. Personally, I would tread lightly here. But then I like to keep arguments friendly.

The research, whether it shows a use for embryonic stem cells or not, is really not the issue. The issue is the morality of destroying embryos for medical use. And you probably can’t convince her that embryos shouldn’t be destroyed for therapeutic reasons because this is grounded in the personhood (or non-personhood) of the embryo.

I think I would argue that focusing on embryonic stem cells ignores the potential of umbilical cord stem cells. Its estimated that 12,000 lives per year could be saved from leukemia, lymphoma and other disorders of the blood and immune system if it such stem cells were more widely available.,0,4332437.story?coll=bal-health-headlines

And the potential of such cells are only beginning to be understood. We would do better to research the therapeutic potential of these cells, which everyone agrees is morally acceptable.

The purpose of science is “to better human life”? That is a moral statement.

“I do not believe an embryo is a human being.” Unless you failed biology, that is a religious/philosophical statement since scientifically, there is no debate on this subject.

I would just point out that your professor, too, is arguing from an ethical, religious, philosophical standpoint rather than a scientific one.

I did point out all the things that were mentioned in this thread and posted the links to the sites that were provided to me from this forum.

My professor does not differentiate between adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells. Another student posted information from Pres. Bush’s speech from 2001 about this topic. From there I was discussing how ASC were used successfully in treating diseases (and I posted the link that listed all of them). It seems that the other student, who shares my view, and I ruffled the professor’s feathers.

I told her that she expects us to be open minded in this class, but she should do the same because it is wrong to impose her view as being right and those of us who disagree, as being wrong.

This is proving to be quite interesting indeed :slight_smile:

You are right!

When I said to her that her statement about us religious folk believing that all ova are the beginning of life is wrong, that we believe life begins at conception, in other words FERTILIZED ova are the beginning of life, this is what she said to me: There are no errors in my spelling, punctuation, grammar, or sentence structure. You can obtain extra points by finding my writing errors. I choose what I want to say. You can critique how it is written. By the way, I am not religious.

So I responded to her that I thought it would be proper to present the opposing opinion in the proper context. I also said that I gathered she was not religious, that she is at best agnostic, most probably atheistic. I said that was fine with me, I still respect her as a person even though I do not agree with her.

She has not responded to that post yet, I really don’t think she will.:slight_smile:

Brilliant post! Kellyb32, I would use this response word for word (with permission, of course;) )!

So what does the prof think that human embryos are if not human beings?
Are they not distinct individuals of the human species?
Are they distinct genetically from the mother and father?
Does she think that human beings have no beginning?
Do human beings just spring full blown into existence at adolescence, or pehaps at age 21?

Can someone now offer me a good analogy to explain the government restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, without being religious sounding of course. She doesn’t like us to sound religious :wink:

I keep thinking of a parent and child and enforcing rules for the good of the child, but there has to be a better analogy than that.

I have a thought for an analogy, but it might be too controversial & antagonistic. I think the analogy works, though, but you’ll have to decide if it’s too controversial. It’s the only idea I can think of right now, though, probably because it’s stuck in my head. I’m sure posters will think of a better one…

You could possibly compare embryonic stem cell research to war. Currently embryonic stem cell research is legal, it is not banned. It is being performed throughout the US, it just does not have unlimited federal funding. (If I understand it correctly, the government only provides funding for the stem cell lines that were already in existence).

We could imagine that ESCR is like war. Say we reach a climate where the Congress or a President no longer wants to fund war, but they decide it is unethical to not support & protect the soldiers that are currently fighting wars for us. They could determine that they will fully fund the 2 wars we are currently involved in, but refuse to fund any additional war. They wouldn’t necessarily ban any future war, just refuse to fund it.

You might not want to use it, but I think it does provide an analogy for the limitations on funding of ESCR. I give you a lot of credit for taking what must be an unpopular stance in the college setting. I don’t think you’ll change your professor’s mind, but I"ll bet you’re making her think. If you remain professional & compassionate, as I’m sure you are, I think you’ll change the views of some of your classmates.

I hope someone thinks of a less controversial analagy… Actually, this would probably open yourself up to comments like ‘if you’re opposed to ESCR you should be opposed to war’ & that ‘pro-lifers want to save American embryos, but don’t care about Iraqi children’. Of course, our soldiers often risk their lives to prevent civilians being injured, but you might not want to open yourself up to all that. I’ll leave the post just as an idea for you that might lead to better ideas.

Also, your professor keeps implying that only right wing Christians are opposed to ESCR. Plenty of atheists & people of other faiths like Buddhism are also opposed to it on ethical grounds. An embryo is human (it certainly has never been or will never be another species than human), & an embryo is alive. A doctor can tell if a 3 day old embryo is a girl or boy, which they frequently do for gender selection. Just because a lot of people think we can destroy live human boys & girls for our own benefit does not mean that it’s true. (Sorry so long, ESCR really gets me going…)

I don’t know where you got list of illnesses curable through stem cell research from, so I can’t judge its reliability, but the question that has arisen in my mind is what if cures for such illnesses are possible through stem cells provided by fetuses aborted in order to provide them? This made me think of the fundamental issue involved. Is it all-right for example to murder an innocent person if it would save the lives of a great number of people? I think of this instance with great repugnance. This is only natural, since most people would dislike the idea of murdering someone innocent for the advantage of other people, when it comes down to it. Nor for such a reason do I feel that using stem cells from aborted fetuses is a justified form of medical research. Of course if someone approves of abortion they would have no such objection. But of course most people here will be well aware of the visceral dislike of Catholicism for abortion. (I have heard though that using adult stem cells has greater promise, and I am not against stem-cell research in every case.)

I’d tell the professor that you won’t discuss this issue again until she can become mature enough to stop resorting to name calling.

Hi all. I just want to let you know what another student, the one who holds the same views as us staunchly religious folk, said to the professor today…I am curious to see what the professor will respond with when she posts again this weekend. This is what the other student said:

Professor Scaletta, with all due respect, I think the extremely left-wing, unreligious, pro-death approach has not only killed many, but hurt the ethics and morality of this entire country. I will debate politics all day if that is your desire…although this is a PSYCHOLOGY class is it not? I could’ve sworn I agreed to pay for a class that would help me understand human behaviors, not a leftist Professors opinions.

The only thing that the Professor posted this evening was on the banner, she said to have a good weekend.


We may have to wait until monday to see if our teacher is going to drop the conversation or respond.

I listed about 5 questions the other night that I wanted her to respond to, she gave me a simple little explaination which is in the first post I made in this thread. She obviously did not answer my questions with her explaination.

We have a quiz on tuesday. I wonder if she is going to make it really tough. We’ll see how she “retaliates” for lack of a better word.

A couple of people on this thread have mentioned the common philosophical distinction between “person” and “human.” Most of the time, left-leaning secularists make that distinction to argue that “persons” have rights to life that mere “humans” do not, and so even if zygotes are “humans” they have no right to life until they achieve “personhood.” I thought I’d bring out Aquinas’s argument–essentially that there is no difference between a human and a person. Anything that is essential to the characterization of a species is always a part of that species (it involves its “substance,” in other words), while the non-essential parts are referred to as “accidents.” So a human could be a human without being red-haired, or an airline pilot, or good at tennis–those are “accidental” qualities. But to be a person is “substantial” in humans; the substance of personhood has to be there from the time human life begins, or the product is not human. Whether or not this human person is good at tennis will develop later, as a non-essential quality.

Here’s a more theological argument, too: Humans are created in God’s image, and God is personal in nature. Therefore, humans are personal in nature, from the moment they are humans.

You can see how this would apply to embryonic stem-cell research. Scientifically embryos are humans, so rationally they also possess human personhood. (And hence human rights.)


Sadly, people no longer acknowledge that personhood is a real, ontological fact of human existence. They may rely on functional definitions that just do not hold water (e.g., Peter Singer’s thoughts on the subject).

I think people often know that embryos are human persons, but they cannot bear the emotional burden of favoring killing them, so they attempt to obfuscate reality with euphemisms and whatnot. It’s not usually a conscious attempt, but the average person would be pained to admit that he favored the killing of innocent people to benefit others potentially. The truth would be inconvenient to acknowledge; it would mean that people have to change and have to suffer.

Aquinas is right, of course, personhood consists basically in being an individual subject who can exercise free will. Even though embryos cannot actualize this faculty, if it were not present in them at conception it never would be. Every member of the species has to be a person or no one can be.

You are right. Personhood is inherent to every human being, of whatever status of maturity or dependency. Many nowadays reject this philosophical concept of personhood in favor of a functional concept: You’re only a person if you meet my (functional) definition. And when you fail to meet my definition, you are fair game for abortion or euthanasia. Thus, personhood is relativized. And when personhood is relativized, none of us are safe.