Aug 12 2009

The unHoly Grail

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 5:34 pm

The Embryo as Human Being: A Scientific Case

For people who advocate the killing of embryonic human beings in the cause of biomedical research, the Holy Grail is an argument that would definitively establish that the human embryo, at least early in its development, is not a living human organism and therefore not a human being at all. The problem for these advocates is that all the scientific evidence points in precisely the opposite direction. Modern human embryology and developmental biology have shown that fertilization produces a new and distinct organism: a living individual of the human species in the embryonic stage of his or her development.

Some proponents of embryo-destructive research are willing to face up to these biological facts. They concede that human embryos are living individuals of the human species, but deny that this gives them the moral status of being persons. According to this argument, not all human beings are equal; not all possess inherent dignity and a right to life. Some, including those at early developmental stages, are not (or are not yet) “persons,” and they may therefore (at least in some circumstances, or in the pursuit of some goals) legitimately be killed.

There is much to be said against this position, but its defects are philosophical, not scientific. Its proponents recognize that there is no Holy Grail out there to find, and they are willing to defend the killing of human embryos while facing up to the biological facts. But then there are the Grail searchers. These people are determined to prove that what modern human embryology has been telling us is wrong, and to this end they scavenge the fields of molecular biology and human genetics.

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