January 14, 2007

Size Does Matter: Appeals to Size and Age in the ESCR Debate

Ok, well now I know I have your attention. As I've been reflecting on the latest use of rhetoric within the embryo-destructive research debate, it is evident that proponents of this research are not really debating whether or not the embryo is a life. Justification for the killing of embryonic people is rooted in "it's no bigger than a head of a pin" and an embryo is "a clump of cells only 5 days old" from which the embryonic stem cells will be harvested. It may be a small world for the human embryo, but it's clear that the big world of full-grown human beings is viewed as more valuable than that of smaller human beings. Sadly, size does matter.

As members of the human species, each of us were once at the embryonic stage, and each of us were once just 5 days into our life. One would think, using objective mathematics, that every embryonic person that exists for 5 days is 5 days old. Yes, that includes all of us. But for some reason, no one on the other side can tell us when life begins, and consequently, when each of us were 5 days into our life. Yet it is this 5 day mark that they use to suggest that it is acceptable to destroy embryonic life for destructive research purposes. For them, the embryonic person is not 5 days old, rather she is just five days old - and she is no bigger than the head of a pin. They really don't reject the application of an age category, proponents of embryonic-human-destructive-research see the measurement of days as a way to minimalize the humanity of an embryo, but not really deny her humanity.

I'll be drawing more out on this aspect of the debate in the coming days. Is there anything more scary than a society that can target for destruction certain members of the human species because they look different than the rest of us? Don't forget, the argument "well they are just going to be destroyed anyone" is not a scientific argument that justifies the science and it does not take into account the embryonic humans that will be created for the purpose of their destruction.

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