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The World according to Lothar part V
by Mark on 3/19/2004 (0)

Lothar ponders stem cell research

From Zurich, with love.
Hello, my dear friends. My name is Lothar Von Rasmussen. I am a free thinking Neo-Kantist, BMW motorcycle racing enthusiast, Dominican cigar affeciando, connoisseur of Swedish women and French brandy, bidding salutations from Zurich, Switzerland, the cradle of refined taste and invention.

La Primavera to my friends and followers in the States.

Spring is in the air. The tireless cycle of life on the planet earth begins anew, as it has for countless millenia. The northern latitudes shake off an icy slumber of wintery death, and new life re-emerges once more.

Today, I'd like to consider the manipulation of human embryos as a source of stem cells to cure disease.

Perhaps the most spirited, unsettling debate of the 21st Century is defining when a fertilized human ovum can be considered "alive", and is priviledged to the protection of Law. Opinions vary wildly, from the moment an ovum is fertilized, to 8 weeks after conception. The debate is heated and often violent. Abortion clinics and stem cell research labs have been targets of violence by militant "right to life" radical fringe groups. Some doctors and researchers have even been murdered.

A life for a life. How distastefully ironic, indeed.

The potential medical benefits gained from harvesting stem cells are enormous and alluring, from curing an untold number of terrible, societally crippling diseases such as Parkinsons, Alzheimers and cancer, or appealing to the vanity; to cure baldness, or retard or stop aging.

But is a unanimous, -or even correct- asessment of when an embryo is to be considered "alive" even possible with today's understanding of biomedicine? Or, will hundreds, or perhaps thousands of more years of research be required to fully understand what life is, who we are, and if meddling with our very own genetic fabric is an unspeakable Sin of the highest order, or simply the epiphany of excellent science?

Before we ponder further, let's look back in time at decisions that the human race has committed to and forged into law, that are considered barbaric and unthinkable by today's "modern" perspective.

1. Slavery: Since recorded history, through almost to this very day, slavery was accepted as sober and reasonable, an obvious form of natural order and selection. The ancient Romans created and maintained a complex, refined legal system on slave ownership and slave owner rights. In March of 1857, as a result of the Dred Scott decision, the United States Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, declared that all blacks -slaves as well as free -were not and could never become citizens of the United States.

It is almost incomprehensible for the balanced, modern mind to fathom legalized slavery, so far, far out of accord is slavery with human compassion as to be almost bad fiction from a poor writer. But all too real it was.

Is "trafficking" in embryos on the same level as slavery? Is that how history will look back on stem cell research 150 years from now?

2. Suffrage laws: It is equally unfathomable for the balanced, modern mind to accept the notion that women could not vote in America until passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Until then, and certainly even today in many parts of the world, females were not considered to be equal to their male counterparts.

How were, and how are, such things possible?

It is the coldy clinical compulsion of the human brain to catagorize and class

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