Stem Cell Update: Stauble Sr.

Here’s a fantastical ditty published to-day about the evils of embryonic stem cell research. Ron J. Stauble Sr. thinks the research must of course kill future humans and it also detracts funds from more worthy lines of stem cell research. I think the first argument about killing people in their embryonic stage has been addressed ad nausea, so I will deal exclusively with the other argument.

It is important to note that there is no research in his article. There is not a quotation from anyone that says the aid is fungible and trades off with each other. Maybe the embryonic stem cell research money would go into weapons research. Stauble Sr. has a conjecture that it would instead go into non-embryonic stem cell research. Here’s the catch of his argument: if the two research fields are so similar that the money is necessarily split between them, then the research is also so similar that a benefit in one area will benefit the other. Stauble Sr. has constructed a false choice, a binary that does not hold true.

Now, let us assume that he is correct about the research drain argument. His proof about the ills of embryonic research is suspect. He claims only tumors have been developed. While he is correct that embryonic research has not yielded the beneficial results non-embryonic research has, it would be a mistake to conclude that it will always be nonproductive. Notice the examples he cites: liver repair and bone repair. The afflictions embryonic research looks at are far more difficult and debilitating. Parkinson’s Disease cannot be treated by the non-embryonic stem cell research. In a sense Stauble Sr. is correct that we do need to make choices between the results of embryonic and non-embryonic research, but we need to be clear what it is we are really choosing: mending bones and livers or mending the brain and spinal injuries. Do not forget that the trade-off is not a clear either/or decision. It is possible to have both forms of research, but Stauble Sr. would have us forgo helping anyone with certain afflictions.

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