Science and Superstition

The National Institutes of Health instituted a moratorium on funding stem cell research in September for the purpose of examining the ethical implications of such research. The moratorium has been prompted by requests for funding stem cell research involving the creation of part-human chimeras by inserting human stem cells into other animals, which brings up the issue of the degree to which those animals could become humanized. Although there are effective methods of preventing the most extreme concerns from becoming reality, the concerns persist, and rightly.

Scientific progress is necessary and good; the use to which it is put may not be. It is difficult for humans to make good ethical decisions because most humans have not developed to a sufficient moral level to tackle the kinds of far-reaching issues we now face, such as stem cell research. Even if a person is capable of advanced moral thinking, it is impossible for anyone to foresee all the possible consequences of a course of action. A decision made with the best intentions and based on the best available information can still wreak havoc in some future time because of unknown and unknowable factors. It is a good idea for the NIH to call this moratorium; whether they can produce a good decision is another matter.

In my opinion, it would be wise to proceed with stem cell research, although with caution. The intentional infliction of suffering must be avoided, including the causing of suffering in animals. Animal research is not a good thing as it causes such suffering among our animal sisters and brothers, with whom we are one and share creation. It is just another instance of our profligate abuse of our planet and its resources. I hope that the necessary research can proceed with less suffering, not more. If we can continue to make scientific progress, not only will we gain the benefit of improved lives, the scientific progress itself will impel our moral development forward. With new information, our thinking must change, and we must embrace this.

 

Copyright © 2015 Teresa Chupp.  All rights reserved.

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