Saturday, October 18, 2008

Stem Cell Research

Most of my readers will be know that I almost always focus on debunking creationism or presenting the evidence for evolution. However, I'm going to focus on something different for this post: An example of how creationism is dangerous.

AiG recently uploaded a video on cloning and stem cell reseach. As you can see, the man in the video (Mark Riddle) considers a dividing patch of cells to be "baby" and killing these cells to be "abortion". But let's think about this rationally: Men have billions of sperm which they will never use. Collectively, womankind hosts billions of eggs which will never be fertilized. Why not take these cells, put 'em together, and allow them to divide for a few days? It offers us the potential to cure many nasty illnesses, and we will not be harming any conscious agents in the process (the embryos used are not anywhere near even developing brains!). Riddle's reason is that God said not to: Thou Shall not kill. Human beings have souls.


Riddle also claims that adult stem cells are just as good as embryonic stem cells. He does not cite a reference for this. However, my own google research has pulled up two websites which say different (Both of which are reputable). Riddle only holds "a degree in mathematics and a graduate degree in education". Decide for yourself who you will trust.

In the meantime, here is something to think on: Creationism threatens to stand in the way of promising research which will cure horrible diseases which inflict pain and misery on fully conscious human beings, not just embryos.

12 comments:

dolli@teaparty said...

actually, womankind do not 'host billions of eggs'; two million maybe. By the time gals reach puberty they have approximately 200,000 eggs remaining.

Since, by your own admission, creationism holds all life as sacred and important, is it therefore evolution, and the theory of chance, that is actually "dangerous"? Create life in order to experiment with and destroy at will?
That is more scary to me than any creationist ideology.

AIGBusted said...

Hi dollie,

By 'womankind' I meant all women alive (there are about 6 billion people on earth, half of them women, so there are about 3 billion women). Since, by your own admission, the average woman has about 200,000 eggs (most of which they will never use) women as a whole have billions and billions and billions of extra eggs.

Secondly, creationism does not hold all life sacred (neither does any other idealogy). No creationist I know has a problem eating meat, and neither do I. Even my Buddhist roommate doesn't think all life sacred, as he will eat plants.

Now let's think about that: Why isn't it wrong to eat plants or other animals? Simply because they are not conscious (or as conscious) as we are.

Think about the embryo: We are using something which does not have consciousness and would not come to life anyway (men and women waste billions of sex cells). We are doing it in order to learn and to prevent disease in people who are conscious and who will live.

Why is stem cell research wrong?

Ben said...

hi, did you know that the earths magnetic field is decaying at 5% per century? Because this is true, if the earth were "rewound" any more than about 10,000 years our magnetic field would be so strong that the earth would fry to a crisp!!!!
I would like to talk some about this, please give me your thoughts!
Ben

AIGBusted said...

Ben,

Yes I've heard that argument before. It has been refuted here:
http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CD/CD701.html

Basically, the earth's magnetically field goes through cycles of strengthening and weakening, so your argument is flawed.

BTW, Are you the same person as dolli@teaparty? You sound very familiar.

dolli@teaparty said...

Hi there.
I took a week's sabbatical and now I am returned to pick up where i left off

I would argue that stem cell research is wrong on the grounds that it requires the destruction of a human embryo. I suppose it all goes back to the question: when does human life begin?
I think at the moment of conception it is a human in the making. How far along in the pregnancy does one have to be before you consider them to be carrying a human?

Does it matter if it got its start with good old fashioned sex or in a lab? An embryo was still developed. So whether or not they would ever have come into existence anyway, isn't really relevant since we started an embryo by whichever method.
Then of course all that leads to the slippery slope of cloning and devaluing human life.
That is basically why I am against.

Secondly, when I said creationists hold life sacred. I meant human life is held sacred.
Being created in God's image as stated in the Bible, and with a soul, makes humans different from every other life force.
Since we need to eat to live, we have to eat plants (not necessarily animals, but who's going to turn down a marinated steak?)

And lastly, Ben is not my alter-ego.

AIGBusted said...

Hi dolli,

The idea of human beings getting a soul right when the sperm hits the egg is very problematic. What if the egg later divides into twins? Do the twins only get half a soul each? What if they start off as twins and then later one twin absorbs the other? Does that person have two souls?

Furthermore, what evidence do you have that we even have souls? What are souls? How do you know that we get them at conception?

Finally, the Bible itself does not seem to be against abortion.

This is from Exodus 21:

22 "And if men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart [or so that she miscarries], and yet no harm follow; he shall be surely fined, according as the woman's husband shall lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

23 But if any harm follow, then thou shalt give life for life,

24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

25 burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."

Here God only commands a fine for those who kill an embryo but death for those who kill a grown person.

brock said...

Hi Aigb;

A developing embryo is genetically different from the mother. It is also genetically different from the sperm and egg that created it. A human being has 46 chromosomes (sometimes 47 chromosomes). Sperm and egg have 23 chromosomes...

The idea of humans getting souls immediately when the sperm hits is the egg is actually very simple and not problematic at all:
If the egg divides, there are two people with two individual souls. If they start off as twins and one absorbs the other, then one lives, one dies. One soul left.
No one has two souls, no one has half a soul. As for evidence supporting the belief in having a soul, this comes from Genesis 2:7.
"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."

Soul and spirit are often used interchangeably, which can cause some confusion.
Man is made up of three parts: body (physical), soul (mind, will, and emotions) and spirit (this is the 'you' part of you that lives on after death)

You quoted Exodus 21, in support of abortion, however there are at least two problems with this interpretation. First, the normal Hebrew word for miscarry is not used in this passage (cf. Gen. 31:38; Exod. 23:26; Hos. 9:14). Most believe that the action described in verse 22 is a premature birth not an accidental miscarriage. Second, even if the verses do describe a miscarriage, the passage cannot be used to justify abortion. The injury was accidental, not intentional (as abortion would be). Also, the action was a criminal offense and punishable by law.

AIGBusted said...

Hi Brock,

There's a lot of objections that come to mind reading your comment, so let me just address a few.

1. Your quote of Genesis 2:7 actually supports my view. Man does not get a soul until after he begins breathing. Fertilized eggs and embryos most certainly do not have the breath of life in their nostrils. This is further supported from the fact that "soul" and "spirit" are derived from the word for air or breath:
http://www.atheists.org/Atheism/mind.html

2. I don't think you understood my point about the twins: If a fertilized egg is given a soul, then what happens if that egg divides into two? Is the twin given a soul? in that case, the twin's soul would not have been present in the original embryo. So not all people would get a 'soul' at conception.

3. Go to biblegateway and look up Exodus 21 in the NIV. There will be a footnote which states that this can also mean miscarriage. Nevertheless, what the passage is talking about is if two men are fighting and one hits the other's wife so badly that he causes her premature birth or miscarriage. This is most certainly a heinous crime, yet the punishment given for it is simply a fine. Would you agree that if I beat your wife so badly that she had a miscarriage I should get off with only a fine?Secondly, my point is that the embryo is not considered as being as valuable as other human beings. This same chapter says that if you strike your mother or father you must be put to death. That doesn't sound like equal treatment at all.

4. Why should we make government policies based on religious idealogy? We have separation of church and state you know. Unless you have some actual evidence for a soul, we cannot use this idealogy to establish public policy. I propose that we respect sentinent, conscious, and intelligent life. This means that we would never kill any human being outside the womb. All of the criteria I have proposed (sentinence, consciousness, intelligence) are things we can verify scientifically.

Finally, I want to state that I would never encourage abortion and that I think it should be completely illegal after the first term of pregnancy unless the woman's life is endangered. Since stem cell research does not even come close to meeting the first term deadline, and since it is done in the hopes of curing diseases, and since it is only aborting embryos which would others not be used, I think it is more than justified.

bacha2 said...

You never touch the subject of other sources of stem cells, which have been successfully used for research, such as those derived from skin cells, pulp in the teeth and umbilical cords.
Why create a living being and then kill it when there are more ethical means of obtaining these cells

AIGBusted said...

Bacha,

Adult Stem Cells do not have the promise that embryonic stem cells do, and I covered that. Umbilical Cord Stem Cells are better than adult stem cells, but not as good as embryonic stem cells (remove spaces to access this):

http://www.stemcellnews.com/

articles/stem-cells

-umbilical-breakthrough.htm

Anyway, why is it such a big deal to kill a cluster of cells? Do you feel bad when you swat a fly?

warrior2214 said...

First off, not to sound like a grammar nazi or whatever, I think you mean sentient life. Not sentinent. But that's unimportant.
Um, neither a premature birth or miscarriage are the same as an abortion. An abortion is intentional killing of the embryo, fetus, or even cluster of cells (as you put it). Premature births and miscarriages are both non-intentional.
As for the "why is it such a big deal to kill a cluster of cells? Do you feel bad when you swat a fly?" You didn't seem to pay attention the first time dolli@teaparty said it, so let me reiterate: Humans have souls. Animals don't. That little cluster of cells is the beginnings of a person. And in Genesis, it says that we humans were given dominion over all the plants and animals of the earth. Meaning we use the earth to benefit us. We harvest the plants, we use the resources to build, we eat plants and animals, etc. We live off the land.
Jeremiah 1:5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." Even before conception, God had plans for us all. So even that cluster of cells has a soul. Heck, before conception, the kid had a soul! You destroy that cluster of cells, and the soul is gone. Never will it come into the world as a part of the "cluster of cells" you use to refer to that tiny being.
And it doesn't matter from what the words "soul" and "spirit" are derived. It's what they mean to us that matters.

warrior2214 said...

First off, not to sound like a grammar nazi or whatever, I think you mean sentient life. Not sentinent. But that's unimportant.
Um, neither a premature birth or miscarriage are the same as an abortion. An abortion is intentional killing of the embryo, fetus, or even cluster of cells (as you put it). Premature births and miscarriages are both non-intentional.
As for the "why is it such a big deal to kill a cluster of cells? Do you feel bad when you swat a fly?" You didn't seem to pay attention the first time dolli@teaparty said it, so let me reiterate: Humans have souls. Animals don't. That little cluster of cells is the beginnings of a person. And in Genesis, it says that we humans were given dominion over all the plants and animals of the earth. Meaning we use the earth to benefit us. We harvest the plants, we use the resources to build, we eat plants and animals, etc. We live off the land.
Jeremiah 1:5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." Even before conception, God had plans for us all. So even that cluster of cells has a soul. Heck, before conception, the kid had a soul! You destroy that cluster of cells, and the soul is gone. Never will it come into the world as a part of the "cluster of cells" you use to refer to that tiny being.
And it doesn't matter from what the words "soul" and "spirit" are derived. It's what they mean to us that matters.