It is not smart to insult God, yet that is what supporters of embryonic stem cell research are doing, mocking a small cluster of cells that don’t (yet) look like a human being. But that’s how we all got started.
We Were All Once Embryos
George Washington was once a cluster of embryonic stem cells, and so were the authors of these dumb editorials and the scientists who are so eager to dismember stem cells and use their parts, killing small human beings in the process.
Consider stories with such headlines as “What to do with a city’s worth of stored embryos?” or an editorial in the Chicago Sun-Times entitled: “Cells in Petri dish don’t add up to human being”—along with a few positive ones such as a Sun-Times letter, “Judge’s decision on pre-embryo was brave.”
We even got a small quote printed around the country: “That’s scientifically correct: Life begins at fertilization, not implantation.” You will recall the story—the Illinois judge who said a couple could sue a fertility clinic for wrongful death, when someone at the clinic discarded the embryo the couple intended to have implanted in the woman’s womb.
Science and the Human Embryo
We thought it might be educational to read a statement on embryos from a book written in way back in 1911, to answer the Sun-Times 2005 nonsense headline, “Cells in a Petri dish don’t add up to human being.” This is from Edwin Brewster’s A Child’s Guide to Living Things:
Before it becomes a body [it] is a ball. [Then] a furrow doubles in along the place where the back is to be and becomes a spinal cord. A rod strings itself underneath this and becomes the backbone. The front end of the spinal cord grows faster than the rest and becomes the brain. The brain buds out into the eyes. The outer surface of the body buds inward and makes the ear. Four outgrowths come down from the forehead to make the face. The limbs begin as shapeless knobs, and grow out slowly into arms and legs.
Jump ahead to 2005 with all our modern technology, the discovery of DNA, microphotography, ultrasound. Alex Tsiaras and Barry Werth, co-authors of From Conception to Birth further describe the wondrous early development of the embryo with the benefit of more recent research:
The ball of cells has curled into a C-shape, tiny comma. Throughout the embryo long stringy cells bundle to form nerves, which connect through the tube to the bulge at the top of he comma, the beginning of a three part brain. The cells have a remarkable ability to contract and release. They have twisted into an S-shaped loop and have started pumping cells filled with oxygen and nutrients to every other tissue in the body. The human heart begins to beat. Folding and refolding happens everywhere. Soon finger rays appear.
Very Serious Business
Tsiaris and Werth say there is something elegant about Brewster’s sense of a divine infrastructure, of physical laws governing human construction. But Brewster wrote his description of the development of the embryo nearly a hundred years ago. Tsiaris and Werth go on:
Embryonic stem cells . . . possess a protean capacity to morph into the more than 200 other types of building blocks that, copied a million billion times and working in magnificent concert, make up a human being. Contained in these microscopic units are virtually all the data needed for answering [the] enduring question—how do living things know when, where and how to build themselves? . . .
[A] perfect sphere of cells suddenly elongates, inverts on itself, stretches, bends and molds into elaborate living shapes. Starting from the point of conception—the unseen mingling of two coils of chemical information—the transformation defies imagining. Within this tiny nestled dot an embryonic human being organizes itself and takes form. [Emphasis added.]
Our knowledge can leave no doubt that cells in a Petri dish do add up to a human being. Period.
Perhaps if you just don’t want the truth to be true, you just call it false. Trouble is, in the end the Truth will out, and if cells in a Petri dish do add up to human beings, those using them like guinea pigs will have a terrible truth to face and to answer for. And we’re talking Eternity here. Very serious business.