Saturday, August 20, 2005

stem cells

Jesse Reynolds, Center for Genetics and Society, and Susan Frank of the Steven and Michele Kirsch Foundation have a back and forth on stem cell research on

Reynolds wants to ban human cloning and genetic engineering while providing public funding and oversight for embryonic stem cell research and the harvesting of eggs from fertile donors. Whatever cloning techniques are used in that research will also be supervised.

Frank is all gung-ho for "therapeutic cloning" and anything that has "potential" for curing disease. Like all apologists for this kind of endeavor, she takes a wish--supposition or hypothesis--and turns it into a fact she then uses to justify a course of action that might make that wish come true.

No one is served by these inflated expectations. By now the scientists should know better than to raise them, even if the so-called science journalists do not. Stem cells appear a promising avenue for research, but much about them, including their efficacy in curing disease or repairing damaged spinal cords, remains unknown.

I'd certainly like someone to find a fix for Parkinson's and every other degenerative disease. I have no problem with scientists using embryos from fertility clinics that are unwanted and that their owners willingly donate for research purposes. And adult stem cells are more than worthy of study. But I can see no justification for human --animal--cloning at this time. I'm willing to admit that research might show no other way to obtain stem cells that can work miracles, but it hasn't yet and we lack the knowledge and wisdom to start mucking around with the genome.

That's not unusual for us humans. We can manipulate and alter far more easily than we can understand the full import of our actions and decide to let a technology lie fallow, perhaps forever.

No comments: