Monday, April 23, 2007

What a terrifying realization. I think that I am, for the first time, from now until I am convinced otherwise, pro-life. Innocently reading a developmental biology book ("The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology" Moore, Persaud, Saunders, 1998), searching for an answer to my previous question about mitochondrial DNA, I read some incredibly obvious but for the first time meaningful sentences: "The intricate processes by which a baby develops from a single cell are miraculous. The zygote results from the union of an oocyte and sperm... A zygote is the beginning of a new human being."

That's it. Simple as that. No debate about when personhood starts, no question about whether or not a clump of cells is actually human; a simple statement straight from a popular textbook changed my avidly pro-choice mind. It's quite amazing, this information never meant anything to me when pointed out by a pro-lifer; they were always just kooky religious folk, they thought the earth was 6000 years old, they couldn't know what they were talking about. There's something about the way we process facts given to us by opponents; I suppose it is extremely telling about my own mental flaws, and inability to consider an argument as impartially as I had once naively hoped. It goes without saying that I need to correct this from now on. But a science book, something my scientific, materialistic, atheistic self has always considered an ally, laid out the obvious answer. A weak rhetorical flourish provided by a scientist pretending to be a writer made me see for the first time what I could not see, despite the occasional eloquence of the pro-life argument. Because while stem cell researchers will tell you that a blastocyst is not yet a human, the textbooks they studied in med school told them differently, and they have forgotten what they had learned for the sake of convenience and ambition.

What does this mean, then, for me? Does this mean I can no longer be an enthusiastic supporter of stem cell research? Is is possible for someone to be pro-life and pro-stem cell research? Is it right and consistent for me to weigh an existing human life over a nascent one? Is it morally bankrupt of me to consider this question to be more of a pragmatic one? What would I be if I posited that the use of stem cells to cure a man's Parkinson's was contingent on his estimated remaining life span? This is an unfamiliar and wearisome position to be in; I realize that my newest job acquisition, which involves working at a lab that performs embryonic stem cell research, is suddenly terrifying. Could I soon be a murderer? The extent to which this now affects me is startling; my heart is racing, I am surprisingly and very afraid.


At 1:35:00 PM , Blogger Zachary said...

This is based on a rather naive definition of "life". You've been spending too much time with Justin.

At 10:45:00 PM , Blogger Parijata Mackey said...

Thank you, Zach, for that insightful comment. Hopefully a few more will bring me to my senses. I doubt it, I am vegan after all, being pro-life is only consistent...


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