Archive for September 2007

The Tower of Babel in a Petri Dish

September 19, 2007

Embryonic stem cell research. If you follow the news, you know that Missouri voted last year to allow more or less unrestricted research on stem cells – the raw material, as it were, for human tissue development – taken from embryos produced, then destroyed, for that purpose. The late “Superman” Christopher Reeve and former First Lady Nancy Reagan had earlier made widely-publicized appeals for such research, and the Missouri campaign featured Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease. One can certainly understand the desperate hope of suffering people for some miracle cure, but what happened in Missouri is a disturbing commentary on American culture.

To put it bluntly, Missouri – the “Show Me” State – was hoodwinked, and America with it. That is no exaggeration. To date, billions of dollars and millions of man hours have been poured into embryonic stem cell research. About 2000 relevant scientific papers have been published, and in just the last five years, the National Institute of Health has funded more than fifty different research projects. But according to Dr. Maureen Condie, a researcher at the University of Utah School of Medicine, the results of all this expertise, time, and money is exactly . . . zero. Missourians were lead to believe that stem cells would soon enable doctors to regenerate damaged nerves, brain tissue, and diseased organs. The lame would walk, the blind would see, and dialysis would be a thing of the past. But it hasn’t happened – and given the research problems, it likely never will. Dr. Condie says flatly that “there is no compelling scientific argument for the public support of research on human embryos.”

So why the hype? Why the impassioned appeals? Why the debate? Why the obsession with embryonic stem cells? For some, no doubt, it’s just blind hope combined with ignorance. Said one researcher, “people need a fairy tale.” But what of the researchers themselves, who know the grim realities? For example, embryonic stem cells transplanted into adult tissue often form tumors – non-malignant, but fast-growing and often fatal (in many studies, 70%-100% of lab animals died!) There is also evidence that embryonic stem cells spontaneously convert over time to cancerous cells. And there are many other problems well-known to researchers. So why do they keep pushing?

Maybe it’s money (labs cost a lot). Or maybe it’s arrogance (if we just put our minds to it, we can solve any problem). Or both. Or could it be a cutting edge version of that ancient human ambition to play the part of God? Could it be just building the tower of Babel in a petri dish?

God will not give his glory to another (Is. 42:8). He stopped the Tower then (Gen. 11:5-9) and He will stop the mad scientist now. But while they work, babies become expendable-like slaves making mud bricks-and God’s gift of precious life is treated with contempt. Let us never forget what’s at stake when we fight for the right to life.