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Through extensive research about the extensive medical benefits of embryonic stem cell

research, I came to understand that the popular controversy surrounding their use is not morally

and ethically warranted. I came to the conclusion that from sociopolitical, scientific, and

theological perspectives, embryonic stem cell research is not only morally permissible but is

morally commendable. Although opponents of stem cell research do have noble concerns about

the sanctity of life, to argue that it is immoral to use unwanted or unneeded embryo or blastocyst

tissue (otherwise destined for destruction) as a means to conduct life-saving scientific research is

to turn morality on its head. Although alternatives to embryonic stem cell research have been

proposed, none provide the same practical and medical benefits of embryonic stem cells.

Political / Social Disciplines

Abortion Viewed in Moral Terms: Fewer See Stem Cell Research and IVF as Moral Issues.

(2013, August 15). Pew Research Centers Religion Public Life Project RSS. Retrieved


A recent pew survey asked Americans whether abortion, embryonic stem cell

research, and in vitro fertilization are morally acceptable, morally wrong, or not a moral

issue. Whereas 38% of adults either do not consider abortion to be a moral issue or

consider it to be morally acceptable, over 68% do not consider embryonic stem cell

research to be a moral issue or consider it to be morally acceptable.

I will use these statistics from the Pew Research Center to argue that from a

public policy and sociological perspective, it is faulty to view stem cell research as

inherently tied to the abortion issue. Because Pew is a highly respected polling research
agency and this study was published recently, it should have a lot of authority.

Stem-Cell Research. (n.d.). In Culture Wars: An Encyclopedia of Issues, Viewpoints, and Voices.

Armonk: M.E. Sharpe. Retrieved October 15, 2013.

Whereas scientific utilization of adult stem cells is for the most part not a major

source of public controversy in that the cells come from consenting adult donors or from

umbilical cord blood, ES stem cells are believed to possess greater therapeutic potential

because they are relatively rare in the body and are not easily cultured in the laboratory.

To those who believe that life and personhood begins at conception, the destruction of an

embryo is as repugnant as the murder of an adult human being. However, it is argued that

opponents of stem-cell research seem not to be bothered by the fact that thousands of

embryos are destroyed annually by IVF clinics, merely as a consequence of the fact that

they “are no longer wanted or needed. Allowing religious beliefs to restrict scientific

research and funding can be argued to be a violation of the establishment clause;

moreover, it is unethical to deter potentially life-saving research due to the objections of a

few individuals who may themselves eventually benefit from its results.

This is a very helpful article concerning stem cell research that gives a brief

overview of both sides of this position. I will bring up a few points that the authors of this

source raised that I had hitherto not given much attention, notably the relationship

between the restriction of funds for stem cell research and the separation of church and

state as it relates to the establishment clause of the first amendment.

Theology and Ethics

Kilner, John Frederic., C. Christopher. Hook, and Diane B. Uustal. (2002). Cutting-edge

Bioethics: A Christian Exploration of Technologies and Trends. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B.


The argument of this source is essentially that the use of human embryonic stem

cells is based upon a utilitarian consequentialism instead of deontological ethics and

virtue ethics. ESC research is argued to be “the equivalent of murder” and a a violation of

the sixth commandment (88). According to this source, even embryos that have been

cryopreserved in the process of IVF treatments for infertility should not be used for stem

cells, even if there is no longer any hope that the embryos would ever be implanted and

allowed to mature. The moral argument that we should produce the greatest good for the

greatest number by using these embryos that are destined for destruction to treat various

diseases is compared to supporting experimentation upon holocaust victims: “It is like

saying, ‘these Jews are going to be gassed anyway, so let’s do horrible experiments on

them to gain information that will benefit our soldiers’” (88).

I will use this source in order to critique the counterargument to my position

regarding stem cell research. Furthermore, I will argue that it is morally repugnant to

compare stem cell research to genocide and Nazi experimentation upon the Jews.

Moreover, the author clearly doesn’t hide his or her personal bias on this issue. I will

point out that it is anachronistic to use the sixth commandment to critique stem cell

research is anachronistic because when that text was written, the murder being spoken of

was that of another human being and to apply that command to stem cell research is

quoting the Bible out of context.

Peters, Ted, Karen Lebacqz, and Gaymon Bennett. (2008). Sacred Cells?: Why Christians

Should Support Stem Cell Research. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

The primary argument is that stem cell research can be both morally and

theologically justified. They articulate three ethical frameworks (the embryo protection

framework, the human protection framework, and the future wholeness framework) and

defend the third framework in order to justify their assertion (42).

The abortion debate can be contrasted with the stem cell research debate by

noting that whereas with abortion the moral argument centers around the ethics of

removing a living fetus from its mother’s womb, with the stem cell debate the debate

over stem cell research “the moral argument is over the blastocyst in a laboratory Petri

dish” (47). I will emphasize this point repeatedly in my paper. I will argue that the moral

status of a fetus is thus superior to that of a blastocyst because the fetus represents a

potential human person, whereas 60% of zygotes and blastocysts in a mother’s body are

expelled prior to implantation (50).

I will use the research contained in this book to examine the moral logic behind

the the Vatican’s opposition to stem cell research on the basis of the doctrine that the

creation of a novel genetic code at fertilization corresponds to the moment of ensoulment

(as articulated in the papal encyclical Donum Vitae) and note that monozygotic twins

challenge the idea that genetic uniqueness is related to ensoulment because that would

imply that twins have a split soul (50).

The “human protection framework” is the ethical framework morally opposed to

stem cell research based on the idea that it involves “playing God” and would lead to a

scenario in which human nature would be fundamentally compromised. In my paper, I

will defend the contrasting notion that humans are meant to be “created co-creators”

alongside God and state that stem cell research is one further application of God’s

command in Genesis to have dominion over nature.

I will essentially argue that stem cell research is morally justified but will use

information gleaned from this source to warn of a few moral abuses that could result

from it, such as the possibility that wealthy families could afford to enhance the genomes

of their future children and warn that “today’s economic inequality could become

expanded into tomorrow’s genetic inequality” (74).

With regard to this source’s timeliness of information, it must be noted that it was

published in 2008. However, because the book spends a significant amount of time

dealing with abstract and unchanging ethical arguments, much of the information it

presents is thus still current. With regard to relevance, the intended audience of this book

is likely Christians with a background in science, theology, or politics who have an

interest in the issue of stem cell research; hence, the information contained in this book

relates strongly to my topic. The authors include Ted Peters (a theologian), Karen

Lebacqz (a professor of ethics at a Christian university), and Guymon Bennet (an

anthropologist, biologist, and theologian). Hence, the authors are highly qualified to

present information on this topic from multiple perspectives. With regards to accuracy, I

have checked some of the information contained within this book against other sources

and have found it to be correct. The authors clearly state that their purpose is to persuade

Christians to support stem cell research in their subtitle, which is “Why Christians Should

Support Stem Cell Research.” Hence, the authors admit their bias concerning this issue.
Wright, Richard T. (2003). Biology through the Eyes of Faith. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

In therapeutic cloning (or nuclear transfer), embryos are taken as far as far as the

blastocyst stage (that is, up to 200 cells), and the embryos with cloned nuclei are

disrupted to result in the production of individual cells that retain pluripotency. Because

the embryonic stem cells retain their pluripotency, they can differentiate into almost all

human cells and tissues (80). Although stem cells can similarly stem from from embryos

frozen for IVF (in vitro fertilization) purposes and from fetal tissues acquired via

terminated pregnancies, stem cells resulting from therapeutic cloning possess a distinct

advantage: “they are antigenically identical to the animal that “donated” the nucleus to

the enucleated egg,” (184). Hence, they are from which cell lines capable of producing

replacement tissues and organs fully compatible with the donor (184). This is distinct

from reproductive cloning in that with therapeutic cloning an embryo is created

without fertilization or the intent for it to ever become a person. It is highly controversial

in part because opponents argue that permitting therapeutic cloning would only serve to

make human cloning that much more of a possibility.

Another advantage of embryonic stem cells is that they could be induced to turn

into the insulin- producing cells that the pancreas normally produces and subsequently

introduced into diabetic patients, or they could be stimulated to morph into dopamine-

producing neurons and and then subsequently be “implanted into patients with

Parkinson’s disease” (185). Although most stem cells come from human embryos or

from aborted fetuses; some, however, are “derived from human umbilical-cord tissue,”

which the pro-life movement is more inclined to see as ethical.

Dr. Richard Wright, the author of this source, is a a credible source for my paper

because he is a Professor Emeritus of Biology at Gordon College in Massachusetts, has a

Ph.D. in Biology from Harvard, and is a member of several prestigious scientific

organizations. Therefore, he is. However, this book was published in 1989 and updated

last in 1989; therefore, some of his information may be out of date. However, I have

verified the accuracy of all of the information that I am planning on using in my paper.

The author is very unbiased and displays a very apparent “just the facts” attitude in his

chapter on stem cell research and concludes that he is unable to find only one position on

the issue that can be labeled “the Christian position.” I will use this resource to talk

about the moral controversy surrounding stem-cell research in connection with

therapeutic cloning.

Biology / Sciences

Lanza, R. P. (2009). Essentials of Stem Cell Biology. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Although appearing only for a short time in mammalian development,

pluripotential stem cells are a foundation of an creature’s “complete array of cell types at

every stage of development, from embryogenesis through senescence” (2). Information

derived from stem cell research, such as analyzing the diverse causes of cell degeneration

and cell death, is assured to assist us in the creation of new drugs. Progress in research

has made it possible, at least in principle, to utilize stem cells for cell therapy. That is, it

is now theoretically possible to identify new molecular targets for disease treatment to

contain oncogenesis [or] to reconstruct or replace diseased tissues.” (xx). Stem cell

research has also played an enabling role in gene therapy. The stem cell revolution was

initially delayed by funding restrictions, arising from those with ethical concerns about
using human embryos for research. However, it is likely that future acceptance of stem

cell research will skyrocket “because of iPS [induced pluripotential stem] cell

technology, which obviates the use of human embryos” (xix).

This source was published recently and is a goldmine of information about stem

cell research. will use the information found in the preface and introductory chapters of

this book in order to outline the medical benefits of stem cell research in depth as a part

of answering my research question.

Mackey, T. K., & Liang, B. A. (2013). Dangerous science: Online promotion of unproven stem

cell therapies and global health risks. Journal Of Commercial Biotechnology, 19(4), 19-

28. doi:10.5912/jcb.624

The abstract notes that stem cell-based therapies represent a potential pathway for

a new era of regenerative medicine; it is, moreover, enormously useful for understanding

the process of human embryonic development, for pharmaceutical research, and for

developing tissues and cells that can be used to repair damaged tissues and organs. After

stating that a global multibillion-dollar research endeavor is underway to create a base of

scientific evidence for safe, effective use of stem cells clinically, an explosion of

questionable and often illegal stem cell providers around the world are now offering

access to largely experimental stem cell treatment.

This is a peer-reviewed scientific research paper published in 2013, so it has a lot

of currency and authority. The paper is related to stem cell research and clinics,

regenerative medicine, and internet/online pharmacies that use direct-to-consumer

advertising. Hence, it is highly related to my topic and will prove very useful when

discussing these issues in my paper. The paper describes the proliferation of questionable
and often illegal stem cell providers around the world. Thus, this article is relevant to my

research question only insofar as it details the ethical abuses that may arise from stem cell

research but are not inherent in it. I will use the information presented in this paper by

stating a series of lessons that should inform future global regulation and policymaking in

this arena. Because this source is published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Commercial

Biotechnology, it can be considered very authoritative and reliable information. The

article is unbiased, and its purpose is to present information.

Neural Stem Cells. (2003). In Encyclopedia of the Human Genome. Retrieved from


A primitive pluripotent embryonic stem cell can be cut off from the developing

blastocysts and propagated in a tissue culture dish while holding onto the possibility of

generating into a multifarious variety of tissues, such as brain, blood, and muscle;

however, there is the “chance of tumor formation following transplantation” which can

be avoided via the use of multi-potent neural stem cells derived from the developing

central nervous system. This will likely play a huge role in the field of cell therapy, which

is still in its infancy.

I previously had no idea that the implantation of some stem cells carried a slight

risk of causing tumor formation. I will definitely mention this as one of my

counterarguments. This source seems reliable, and I have double-checked the facts it cites

and none of them appears to be outdated.

Power, C., & Rasko, J. J. (2011). Will Cell Reprogramming Resolve the Embryonic Stem Cell

Controversy? A Narrative Review. Annals Of Internal Medicine, 155(2), 114-W43.

Laboratory techniques have been designed to reprogram normal body cells to

“enter an embryonic stem cell–like state.” Induced pluripotent stem cells possess are not

only more medically promising than embryonic stem cells but have likewise escaped the

moral controversy wherein the latter is fixed. Although cell reprogramming can arguably

be expected to alter regenerative and reproductive medicine despite the sociopolitical and

moral obstacles that it faces, it will not untangle the stem cell controversy but will only

serve to further complicate it. Moreover, an assortment of legal and ethical problems

related to induced pluripotent stem cells do exist.

I plan on using the information discussed in this article to discuss and explain why

induced pluripotent stem cells will not serve as a reliable substitute for embryonic stem

cells and why results to substitute induced pluripotent cells for embryo derived stem cells

are likely to end in failure.

Silva, J., Chambers, I., Pollard, S., & Smith, A. (2006). Nanog promotes transfer of pluripotency

after cell fusion. Nature, 441(7096), 997-1001. doi: 10.1038/nature04914

Pluripotency is a vital, although temporary, characteristic of cells in embryos that

undergo regulative development. The preparatory phase of the development of a

mammalian zygote “culminates in creation of the embryo founder tissue, a population of

unrestricted pluripotent cells known as the epiblast,” which can be immortalized in

culture in the form of embryonic stem cells (723). One potential way to create a

pluripotent cell outside of an embryo would be to reprogram somatic cells. One possible

way to do this would be through Nanog, which is a “highly divergent homeodomain-

containing protein” necessary for pluripotency and essential at the earliest most primitive
stages of embryonic development. Moreover, in human cells it has been demonstrated

that Nanog possesses the capability of enabling molecular reprogramming. It has likewise

been demonstrated that Nanog promotes the “transfer of pluripotency” after embryonic

stem cell fusion (724). This indicates that it may be possible to use Nanog to reprogram

an adult cell to behave more like an embryonic stem cell.

As this source was published in one of the most prestigious scientific journals

worldwide, it is a highly credible and academic source for my research paper over stem

cells and the ethical, moral, and societal controversies emanating therefrom. Because this

provides a possible future alternative to embryonic stem cell research, I will mention it in

my paper, although I will note that that the technology currently depends upon te

embryonic stem cell to reprogram the adult cell and that it is difficult to ascertain as to

whether this requirement will be able to be overcome in the future.

Stem cell (biology). (n.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Retrieved from

There are many other types of adult stem cells, such as mouse embryonic stem

cells, epithelial stem cells, and neural stem cells. Since the early 2000s when the stem

cell debate achieved widespread American media coverage, the controversy primarily

centered on the creation, treatment, and destruction of human ES cells. However, it is

important to point out that not all research uses these cells but instead uses adult stem

cells, amniotic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. Prior to 2001, it was

supposed that only stem cells from embryos possessed the capability of developing into

different tissue types. Furthermore, there are an assortment of legal and ethical problems
related to egg donation to embryonic stem cell research. Moreover, there are many

unknown risks related to transplanting SCNT-derived stem cells (that is, stem cells

derived from somatic-cell-nuclear-transfer) into humans.

To be honest, at first I thought that I did not need this source and was only going

to use it because I needed fifteen sources. However, I now think it will be very helpful in

writing my paper because it gives some facts about SCNT-derived cells of which I have

been hitherto unaware. Moreover Encyclopedia Britannica is a pretty standard scholarly

source; hence, I can be assured that the information is trustworthy and up to date.

Stem cell. (2013). In The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide.

Retrieved from


Prior to 2001, it was supposed that only stem cells from embryos possessed the

capability of developing into different tissue types, but this supposition was rendered

invalid in experiments concerning the extraction of stem cells from the brains of adult

mice; this led to the realization that adult stem cells can likewise develop into different

tissue types, which could lead to self-repair of damaged brains or spinal cords while the

need to use stem cells taken from human embryos unnecessary. In the past decade, a

group of scientists at the University of Minnesota heralded the discovery of a stem cell

known as a “multipotent adult progenitor cell” or MPAC, located in the bone marrow of

adults, that might possess the potential to develop into almost any tissue of the human

body, although this has yet to be demonstrated.

This was a very helpful article outlining one of the few legitimate
counterarguments that can be argued against my position in favor of embryonic stem cell

research, namely, that it may be possible to bypass the need for embryonic stem cells

altogether in the future; however, this does not seem to be a possibility at present. I will

use this article towards my conclusion while talking about recent developments in this

field of research.

Solomon, E. P., Berg, L. R., & Martin, D. W. (2011). Developmental Genetics. In Biology (pp.

369-378). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole Thomson Learning.

The section of the chapter Stem cells begins by defining stem cells as

undifferentiated cells that can divide to produce differentiated descendants but

nevertheless preserve and maintain the ability to divide to maintain the stem cell popular.

As each stem cell divides, moreover, its daughter cells can differentiate into specialized

cells such as muscle cells, neurons, or blood cells (373). Embryonic stem cells, unlike

adult stem cells, are pluripotent and hence more useful. The ultimate hope of researchers

would be to “establish lines of human pluripotent stem cells that can grow indefinitely in

a culture, be induced to differentiate under controlled conditions and stably maintain their

differentiated state, and be manipulated genetically” (374). This would allow the curing

of patients with an assortment of diseases and neurogenerative disorders.

This is a highly reliable source because it is the textbook that I use in class. It is

highly useful in that it provides a huge section on stem cell research in the chapter on

developmental genetics. It was only recently revised and as such is highly up-to-date. I

plan on using this in the introduction of my paper when defining my terms and providing

an introduction to stem cell research. This source gives definitions of cell development
and differentiation, totipotency, differential gene expression, transcription factors, human

therapeutic and reproductive cloning, in vitro fertilization, embryonic stem (ES) cells,

transgenic organisms, and so forth. I am familiar with its contents already, having studied

it for class.

Vitale, A. M., Matigian, N. A., Ravishankar, S., Bellette, B., Wood, S. A., Wolvetang, E. J., &

Mackay-Sim, A. (n.d). Variability in the Generation of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells:

Importance for Disease Modeling. Stem Cells Translational Medicine, 1(9), 641-650.

This source deals mostly with mesenchymal-lineage tissues, or mesenchymal

stem/stromal cells (MSCs). Usually only around one out of a third of umbilical cord

blood specimens can yield MSCs. To access earlier “fetal, placental, and amniotic

sources” requires access to abortive tissues. MSCs are needed for cardiac, renal, neural,

joint, and bone repair. This source provides a plausible experimental alternative method

for obtaining pluripotent MSCs without having to use abortive tissue.

This peer-reviewed article submitted to a journal specifically for stem cell

research was recently released. It provides information that will prove helpful in writing

the conclusion to my paper as I address the future of stem cell research. However, the

advanced level of scientific jargon found in this paper prevents me from obtaining more

information from this article than can be found in a cursory reading; thus, I plan on only

using this article in passing towards the conclusion of my paper.