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An Ethical Brave New World

December 3, 2007

"O wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that has such people in't!"

--from Miranda's speech in The Tempest

Ever since Aldous Huxley borrowed the title of his frightening 1932 novel from this line in Shakespeare's famous play, the phrase "Brave New World" has come to be understood as the genetic manipulation of human beings for the greater good of society.

Seventy-five years ago, Huxley's vision of a 26th-century civilization peopled with genetically engineered human beings created specifically for certain jobs was pure science fiction. Today, it could be, as they say, ripped from the headlines.

The debate over the ethics of destroying human embryos to create stem cells has become one of the great moral issues of our time. Now comes the recent discovery that human skin cells can be used to create something very much like stem cells - without the moral stigma.

Japanese scientists have discovered that they can transform adult human skin cells into cells that resemble embryonic stem cells. The converted cells have many of the physical and genetic features typically found in embryonic stem cells and can produce other tissue types, including neurons and heart tissue, according to the researchers.

Of course, those committed to the agenda of destroying human life - leftist radicals who worship at the altar of bio-science-as-savior - refuse to concede that this is a great step forward. Actor Michael J. Fox, whose Parkinson's disease has led him to advocate - irrationally, some would argue - in favor of embryonic stem cell research was quick to say that embryonic stem cells were still the "gold standard."

Nothing could be further from the truth.

If embryonic stem cells hold such promise for curing all sorts of diseases, why is the private sector not clamoring to fund the research?

If this is the cure-all that 2004 vice presidential candidate John Edwards promised it was when he crassly assured us that, "when John Kerry is president, Christopher Reeve will walk again," why are we not witnessing the greatest race medical science has never seen to be the first private company to make this miracle research pay off?

If embryonic stem cells are so useful in treating disease, why are researchers plagued by the continued formation of tumors in tissue treated with these cells?

And finally, if embryonic stem cells show more promise than adult stem cells (which have already been used effectively for the treatment of various ailments), why are there currently dozens of clinical trials going on using adult cells, but not a single one using embryonic stem cells?

As I have written before, the intellectually honest American knows the answers: it's all about abortion. As the tide of public opinion turns against abortion on demand, the defenders of the indefensible must create new reasons to destroy the unborn, at whatever stage of development.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote that "To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical." There can be no greater example of the truth of that statement than to force American taxpayers to fund the destruction of innocent human life, whether it is at the moment of fertilization or at the age of ninety. This is especially true when alternatives are available.

With the advent of this new skin cell discovery, medical science is bypassing the relics who continue to cling to the lie that destroying human life is the only way to improve it. Only time will tell if we truly can produce an ethical brave new world.

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Copyright ©2007 Doug Patton

Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself more often than not. His weekly columns are syndicated by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Readers are encouraged to email him at dpatton@cagle.comand/or to follow him on Twitter at @Doug_Patton.