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America's Culture War: Stem-Cell Research

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Harvard Pursues Human Cloning

by  Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

The Koreans lied and brought shame to the entire field. As a result, scientists are busy trying to “save face” in a race to see who can accomplish what Dr. Woo-Suk Hwang fabricated—the creation of human embryos by cloning. Sadly, the United States has picked up the baton and is now fully engaged in the race of human cloning.

While the name Doug Melton is not standard fare around most dinner tables, that will likely change in the near future, as this Harvard researcher has received the green light to pursue human cloning. After spending several years reviewing his funding to ensure that none of the monies allocated for this project were coming from federal funds, ethical review committees approved the measure and have given him permission to clone a human being. As Thomas Berg noted: “On April 13, word came that Harvard University had cleared stem-cell researcher Doug Melton to pursue human cloning. Melton is a Harvard researcher with his own 4,000 sq. ft. basement laboratory, the location of which is kept secret” (2006). Berg continued: “His proposal to clone human beings was approved last month by three ethical review committees and two institutional review boards that oversee human research” (2006).

Reporting on the recent decision, John Lauerman and Rob Waters remarked: “U.S. researchers at Harvard University and in California said they first will create ‘cloned’ human embryos in the lab by combining women donors’ egg cells with DNA provided by other adults” (2006). They went on to disclose that Melton’s main laboratory, which does receive federal funding, comprises some 4,000 square feet, and employees include at least 20 postdoctoral students, undergraduates, and technicians. They then added:

The location of his privately funded lab in an unmarked basement is kept secret because of the university’s concern that it might attract protests or violence. Reporters recently toured the building on the condition that they not reveal its location. “There’s nothing about the research I do that should be done behind closed doors,” he said. “It’s perfectly ethical and has an honorable goal” (Lauerman and Waters, 2006).

If everything is ethical and honorable, then why the worry about protestors and violence? The truth is, the identity of this lab is kept secret because they recognize many Americans find such experimentation repugnant.

Melton is the same individual who appeared before the Senate Labor HHS Appropriations Subcommittee and admitted that part of his research was driven by selfish ambitions—he has a young son who was diagnosed with Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes when he was just six months old (Melton, 1999). During that meeting he observed: “JDF (juvenile diabetes foundation—BH) understands that stem cell research raises important ethical considerations that need to be addressed. However, we feel that appropriate safeguards can and should be established to ensure that this important research can be conducted using federal funding” (1999). These are empty words coming from an individual who is now actively creating life, knowing beforehand that it will be destroyed in order to obtain the stem cells inside.

Where are the “appropriate safeguards” at Harvard? When one stops to consider just how far Harvard has digressed from the purpose set-forth by their original founders, it boggles the mind. As Dave Miller observed: “The Founders of Harvard believed that the central purpose of life is to follow the Word of God and Christ. They believed that all knowledge and learning depend upon this central pursuit” (2005). The 1636 rules of Harvard University state:

Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17.3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning (see Pierce, 1833).

And yet, within the last year, Harvard launched a multi-million dollar project to determine the “Origin of Life” (see Miller, 2005), and now they have opened the gate for human cloning!

But do not think Doug Melton is alone. On May 6, the San Francisco Chronicle featured an article written by Carl Hall in which he acknowledged that scientists at the University of California, San Francisco had also recently received a green light for human cloning as well. Hall went on to observe: “At least half a dozen other groups in the United States and abroad also are getting involved in such work, signaling a renewed global push to achieve what experimenters in South Korea falsely claimed to have done last year” (2006). Hall indicated that the first stage of the work at UCSF is being funded by private donations, and that the eggs used to carry out the work are “being obtained now through UCSF’s in vitro fertilization clinic” (2006). He went on to note that “the first donated eggs are expected to be transferred to the researchers as early as Monday.”

This announcement follows on the heels of a recent decision by the National Institute of Health (the federal gatekeeper for funding research) to fund a project that would use human subjects for genetic enhancement research (see “CBHD Denounces...,” 2006). Lest anyone get the wrong idea that these funds are being used to help someone who may have suffered a horrible medical condition or trauma, the real project is to “promote the genetic re-engineering of human beings for non-therapeutic purposes under the rubic of ‘enhancement’” (“CBHD Denounces...,” 2006, emp. added). Rather than fixing a condition, these scientists want to play God and see how much they can “enhance” humans through genetic manipulations. And sadly, the NIH (which allocates federal tax dollars for scientific research) has agreed to fund this project. The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity correctly observed: “The project presupposes that it is ethical to reengineer normal human beings,” says CBHD President Dr. Andrew Fergusson. “But in a society which correctly decries the use of artificial means, such as steroids to ‘enhance’ athletic abilities, the presumption of the NIH to pursue the re-engineering of human beings is the height of scientific and social arrogance.”

These instances—all of which have been reported in the news within the past few weeks—make it startlingly clear that science has outpaced the field of ethics. We are now carrying out research projects without adequate guidelines in place. Add to this the alarming truth that our society has silently watched the value of human life decline for more than three decades in this country, and one begins to comprehend what really lies before us. With little to no value placed on human life and no ethical guidelines to interfere, scientists will “go where no one has gone before,” only to allow the media and public to later decide whether it was right or wrong. At Apologetics Press, our belief is that stem cell research is acceptable—as long as it does not involve the destruction of human life. We recognize that adult stem cells (which have shown the most promise in research that has actually been conducted) and stem cells collected from umbilical cords do not involve the destruction of human life. Yet, far too often, scientists want to cross the line and argue for the use of embryonic stem cells, or as indicated in the cases above, they desire to clone humans in an effort to obtain these specialized cells. We have always maintained (and will continue to do so) that faithful Christians need to let their voices be heard if we are ever going to uphold the sanctity of human life as God expects.

REFERENCES

Berg, Thomas (2006), “Hitting Rewind,” National Review, [On-line], URL: http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=NTVkN2M1MzBjMTI1YmU1OWQ5ZDg5YjY1NGRjZjVh NWI=.

CBHD Denounces NIH Funding of Genetic Re-Engineering Project” (2006), The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity, [On-line], URL: http://www.cbhd.org/media/pr/2006-05-03.htm.

Hall, Carl T. (2006), “UCSF Resumes Human Embryo Stem Cell Work: Scientists Hope to Generate Lines by Cloning Donated Eggs,” San Francisco Chronicle, [On-line], URL: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/05/06/MNGUUIMR5D1.DTL.

Lauerman, John and Rob Waters (2006), “Scientists in U.S. to Attempt Human Cloning South Koreans Faked,” Bloomberg, [On-line], URL: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000103&sid=aTU0i_Rql_A4&refer=us.

Melton, Doug (1999), “Testimony on Stem Cell Research,” [On-line], URL: http://www.mcb.harvard.edu/melton/testimony.html.

Miller, Dave (2005), “Harvard & the Origin of Life,” Reason & Revelation, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/356.

Pierce, Benjamin (1833), A History of Harvard University (Cambridge, MA: Brown, Shattuck, & Co.).




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