Tuesday, October 11, 2005

those teeny stem cells..

Got the latest issue of my Philosophers' Magazine. If anybody doesn't know about this brilliant publication, please explore it as soon as you get a chance. I have been enjoying reading their articles and I think the magazine is a great resource to stimulate your philosophical mind and get it off your daily troubles.

I just read the little news section and couldn't help thinking about it and so writing on this section which had a little blurb on the future implications of stem cell research. I am divided on this contemporary bioethical issue.. I'll be looking for your comments.

The article titled 'Warnings on Primate Stem Cell Research' in Issue 32 of The Philosophers' Magazine pg. 4 starts with a provocative claim:
"...experiments that implant human stem cells into the brains of non-human primates can unintentionally change their moral status."
The underlying argument being that human stem cells could potentially change the cognitive and emotional capabilities of animals, hence even their moral status. I believe we could learn a lot from animal behavior but how would they be classified if they were to develop more pronounced cognitive and emotional faculties than they have at present? I have come to the tentative conclusion (I'm full of contradictions aren't I) that all life evolves and no matter how much is done to stop or prevent anomalies, these anomalies are the very basis of evolution and the progression of our universal life force.

Moral status is a big question. I am all for any kind of healing research. I believe stem cell research could be a breakthrough for neurological setbacks like Parkinsons even Alzheimers. Is it really necessary to stop researching stem cell therapy? Why are we so afraid of experimenting with the environment we dwell in? The playing with nature argument does not cut it for me anymore. Morality changes along with our technology, freedom, political process, and biological tendencies.. let's face this fact.

As with any philosophical problem, there are other sides to the story. Some scientific dissidents believe that implanting stem cells in animals may lead to their suffering. This debate is a contemporary twist in the 'Don't test on animals' ethics campaign. Animals are precious creatures that make our planet vibrant and resourceful.. but we still use them for our benefit.. as herd, for food, for skin, for protection, and for medical experiments. Even when we treat animals in the most ethical way, we use them for our selfish survival goals. Sad but true, we're animals after all. I have no time to explain the connection, but this debate ties up with post-modernist determinist thought which throws ethics and free will out the window.

Back to the issue, the article ends of course inconclusively. (Boy do I love getting lost in Philosophy!!)
"There is no philosohpical consensus on the moral significance of changes in (cognitive/emotional animal) abilities if we could detect them".
These experts spent one year discussing whether stem cell experiments on animals should continue. Even if experiments were to stop now, they will start up inevitably.. the temptation to find a cure for neurological ills is too great for our selfish brains.

Bottom line is.. I'm still a proud member of the human race. Even though we've done some sucky things in the past, good is around us only if you choose (or are wired) to look at it. Playing with nature can find us answers. On the flipside if stem cells do prove to be the answers to Parkinsons and Alzheimers, we still will not rest as more diseases creep into us all the time. Trust me on that.


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