One of my best friends is a biochemist, and he recently pointed out to me that while the a great amount of ink is spilled and blogs filled with debate about SSM, in his mind a farther reaching event has occurred: South Korean (Hanguk mansae!) scientists have cloned a human cell and grown it into a blastocyst.
If implanted into a woman this embryo would have a good chance of developing into the first cloned human. But these scientists only intend to use stem cells from the embryo to try and develop cures for diseases like Parkinsons and diabetes. The ability to make new stem cells (and therefore create new neurons or other specialized cells) genetically identical to a patient will open up many new possibilities in medicine.
The paper is already available (for free) on the Science website and has been peer-reviewed and throroughly examined. My biochemist friend insists that this is not the Raelians. It is real.
According to the The NY Times Carrie Gordon Earll, bioethics analyst for Focus on the Family, a conservative ministry in Colorado Springs, called the research “nothing short of cannibalism.”
“We don’t sacrifice one human life in order to possibly help another human
life,” Ms. Earll said. “This really is discrimination against the most vulnerable human being.”
The Catholic church and most mainstream Protestant churches, I am told, have denounced the finding and all research on cloning, for either therapeutic or reproductive purposes.
So where do we stand on this issue? Is there a Mormon perspective that could contribute to this debate? How would we even go about thinking through these issues? Thus far Mormonism has dealt with the abortion debates in a pretty atheoretical way. Despite the desire that Matt and other hard-core prolifers might have for determinate doctrinal statements on things like where human life begins, we really don’t have any clear theory explaining our moderate pro-life stance. I think that there are some huge advantages to this rather vague approach. On the other hand, as biotechnology starts throwing out more and more difficult scenarios, I wonder if we are going to be forced into more rigorous reflection on these sorts of issues.