Once upon a time, there were professionals in the medical, scientific, research, legal and education fields who examined questions and practices based on a standard ethical framework, which is explained by Professor Dianne Irving in her article “Which Medical Ethics for the 21st Century?”:
The first ethical principle of the natural law, from which several other principles are drawn, is familiar to us all: “Do good and avoid evil.” Natural law also includes three (not one) general norms against which we determine what is right or wrong: (1) the subjective norm — not just “conscience,” but a well-formed conscience; (2) the objective proximate norm — right reason, a very rich understanding of reason which embraces the harmony, interrelationship and good within any single individual, as well as among individuals within a society. Here the “common goods” must flow back upon the backs of each and every member of that society, and the institutions are there to ensure that; and, (3) the ultimate norm — the Divine Nature itself, the ultimate measure of right and wrong, and of goodness. Of course, the Divine Nature is not the subject matter of natural law philosophical ethics, but of theology (which I will address in a moment).
In applying these general norms to concrete situations we decide what particular actions are right or wrong based on three (not one) conditions: the kind of action, the intention for doing the action and the circumstances under which the action is done.
It’s very helpful to keep this fundamentally rational principle in mind when considering what is happening currently in the areas of science and medicine that impact the question of when a human being exists and how that individual should be treated. For example, the State of California, which is, for all intents and purposes, bankrupt, has just awarded grants to entities claiming to be able to develop therapies for serious diseases by using technologies not involving human embryonic stem cell research (HESCR). The $230 million went to 14 projects, but news reports confirm that at least four of these will use HESCR, which means that preborn children will be killed, even though the grants are touted as supporting “projects in nonembryonic stem cells.”
The California grants also include a grant for research employing induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which are allegedly cells produced from a patient’s own cells and touted as having the same properties as HESCR. The problem with this is that such iPS cells are produced by unethical means. Theresa Deisher, Ph.D. has made this point many times.
The ability to transform adult cells into embryonic stem cells could be moral, however, a close inspection of the two published papers revealed that cells from an electively aborted fetus were used in the work, and therefore it cannot be considered moral.
In order to transform adult cells into embryonic cells, the researchers (Yamanaka, et al) introduced four genes essential for "embryonic stem cell character" into the adult cells. First, the researchers had to make the genes and virus materials needed to transform the adult cells. Both researchers used versions of the HEK 293 cell to do this. This is a cell, the Human Embryonic Kidney 293 cell, used commonly in biomedical research for DNA (gene) and virus production. I was informed quite recently that the 293 cells were produced from an electively aborted fetus. I was able to verify that easily. The term embryonic in the name is misleading.
Such projects fail to meet the natural law ethical criteria as defined above. It is apparent that those involved with such research—not to mention abortion, in vitro fertilization and political deconstruction of objective truth—have developed a new set of “ethics” which have no similarity whatsoever to natural law standards. This is why we are witnessing practices that totally violate the obligation to respect the integrity of the individual human person.
In another incident, scientists recently announced that they had developed a process for creating progenitor cells [fundamental cells] of human sperm and human ova by using material from HESCR. Some claim that this latest discovery could lead to the creation of human beings without men, women or sexual relations. This sounds a bit far-fetched, and one would have thought at least a quip would have been heard from the major media, but no such comment was reported.
According to Hilary White of LifeSiteNews.com,
The report, published in the journal Nature by Stanford University researchers, says that the primary aims of the researchers were to unlock the secrets of genetic malformation of ova and sperm by creating germ cells and eventually to treat infertility and genetic defects that are common in in vitro fertilization treatments. In the experiments, embryonic stem cells taken from “spare” IVF embryos were treated with proteins to stimulate the growth of germ cells….
[Renee] Reijo Pera of Stanford’s Center for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research and the senior author of the new study, said, “Figuring out the genetic ‘recipe’ needed to develop human germ cells in the laboratory will give us the tools we need to trace what’s going wrong” for infertile couples.
The center’s research focuses on experimentation involving human embryos, germ cell development, gene manipulation and human cloning. A quick study of Pera’s background provokes the question of precisely how far this research will have to go before someone pays attention to its destructive ramifications.
In this age of science divorced from reason, perhaps it simply has not occurred to most people that such things are even possible. And perhaps this is exactly what some scientists are hoping.
Here, as in other such studies, the lives of preborn children are being taken for the purpose of experimentation in areas where, once upon a time, no ethical scientist would have dared to go. What can possibly be gained from such research and why pursue it? Clearly, the guiding principle, do good and avoid evil, has not only fallen into disuse, but has been buried once and for all by many scientists entrusted with research that should have, as its primary goal, service to the human person.
According to Fiona Macrae, of the UK’s Daily Mail, who wrote the original report on Pera's work,“The science also raises the possibility of ‘male eggs’ made from men’s skin and ‘female sperm’ from women’s skin. This would allow gay couples to have children genetically their own, although many scientists are skeptical about whether it is possible to create sperm from female cells, which lack the male Y chromosome.”
As noted in yesterday’s commentary, Dr. Irving reminds us that there are no depths too steeped in questionable practices for those involved in clinical research and reproductive technology these days. Whether it’s “pre-embryo splitting,” human cloning or the practice I have just described, nothing is taboo.
Once the fundamental language has been destroyed and recreated to suit the agendas of those bent on replacing God with themselves, there is nothing that cannot be attempted. Sadly, this applies even to some in Congress who claim to have pro-life concerns at the center of their efforts. In the proposed Stupak-Wamp human cloning “ban,” for example, not all methods of human cloning are addressed, and therefore, just as was the case eight years ago with the Brownback-Weldon “ban,” there actually is no ban. In fact, the bill is not worth the paper it is written on at the moment.
The wide variety of human cloning techniques currently of interest to researchers, including the creation of a human embryo without male/female involvement, is not even addressed! This in itself is shocking.
Are Stupak and Wamp misinformed? I cannot attest to that, one way or the other, but either or both of them could assign someone to do thorough investigation of current scientific practices and ask tough questions before authoring a bill that is allegedly addressing the abuses I have outlined in this article. Or perhaps for political reasons, such essential research is not in their best interests. If that’s the case, then they are guilty of misleading their peers and the public.
In today’s upside-down culture, anybody can define a word to mean what they want it to mean. And that includes the simple word “ban,” which used to mean forbid, period. Given that the average American’s attention span seems to be growing ever shorter, who is going to check up on these things?
This is why it is imperative to go back to basics. Each of us needs to understand the factual definition of words, whether we are talking about a ban or a banana. If we do that, we won’t get it wrong. But if we fail, all hell will break loose and these damning practices will continue to go unchecked.