Helen Weir
"These things exist"
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By Helen Weir
March 10, 2009

The intelligentsia has spoken. In the person of Mark A. Kay of no less esteemed a citadel of higher learning than Stanford itself, we have been provided with an ironclad, succinctly formulated, scientifically unassailable, inscrutable-to-mere-mortals, final justification for embryonic stem cell research of the kind our undocumented President just opened the federal funding floodgates for. What is this justification, you ask? Drum roll, please:

"These things exist."

That's it! There you have it! Or perhaps, given the change in administration, we really ought to say, voilà!

"These things exist and are going to be discarded," concludes Kay (in www.washingtonpost.com, "Obama to Loosen Stem Cell Funding: Move Will Repeal Limits on Embryonic Research," by Rob Stein, March 7, 2009). "It's really mind-boggling to me these things are going to be discarded and scientists haven't been allowed to use them to do research."

African-Americans exist; Native Americans exist; Jewish people exist; women exist; children exist; and embryos exist. Lots of human "things" exist. The real question throughout history has been: given that state of affairs, what exactly are we allowed to do with them? Let's see how Stanford-caliber reasoning might hold up in some other situations.

"These things exist," so why not capture them, ship them over here, and put them to work on the cotton plantations? It would be absolutely mind-boggling, to let all that valuable labor go untapped!

"These things exist," so let's slaughter those we can, round up the rest, and confine them to reservations somewhere out of the way.

"These things exist" and we don't particularly want them to, so how about setting up a nice system of extermination camps and getting to work?

"These things exist," but there's no need for them to have the vote.

"These things exist" and so do many sweatshops. Hey! I've got an idea . . .

The denial of the humanity of others is no great new breakthrough. It is the same old tired lie that has been used whenever and wherever the case for human-on-human exploitation needs to be made. We often hear it argued that our situation is different because the "things" we happen to want to exploit are not of the same moral standing as the other sets of victims, but — and here is the truly mind-boggling point — that is not a difference; it is the most telling of all possible similarities. Slave holders whipped the skin off men's backs because they didn't see a man there in the first place. Nazis herded people into the gas chambers because they didn't think they were doing anything much different from herding cattle. Our modern-day scientists have taken logical contortion to its ultimate extreme in claiming that they need embryos for research purposes precisely because those embryos are human, and that they are allowed to do research on embryonic humans precisely because their subjects are "things," but there you have it — your tuition and now tax dollars, hard at work.

Unlike other episodes of brutal exploitation, however, in the case of embryonic stem cell research we also need to raise the question of why "these things exist." Why are there embryos that are "going to be discarded" in the first place? Everyone knows the answer, but we're supposed to pretend that we don't know, or that it has nothing to do with the situation Mark Kay and his kind feel so breezily justified in taking advantage of. "I personally don't have any problem creating embryos for embryonic stem cell research," Kay also, quite casually, notes. So, let's get this straight:

Because American researchers have undermined human rights and dignity by causing embryonic human beings to come into existence under laboratory conditions, outside of the context of the natural family which God established for the procreation and education of offspring, they feel they can now take the next step and do research on these violated children — using the original violation as their very justification! It's as though a murderer were to argue in court that he went ahead and took his victim's wallet because, after all, it wasn't like the guy needed any money any more.

In voicing our opposition to embryonic stem cell research, then, let's do it right. True, these cells haven't proven as promising as adult stem cells, but that is not the main point after all. It would be like arguing against slavery because of the invention of the cotton gin. We must make it known — to the party that nominated embryonic-stem-cell-research-supporting John McCain, as well as to the Democrats — that we believe all human life is sacred, and that therefore creating human life under unethical conditions is just as unacceptable as destroying it or using it for research purposes. There is nothing short of the fullness of God's truth that will set us free.

© Helen Weir

 

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