The ethics of stem cell research remain the subject of fierce debate; more particularly, there is a persistent notion that a technological ability to do something
must be viewed through a larger ethical prism. George W. Bush's administration initially resisted requests for a general tolerance regarding stem cell research, though it eventually adopted a compromise position in which federal funds would be granted for such research if certain stringent criteria were satisfied ("U.S. Policy on Stem Cell Research"). The compromise failed to satisfy all of the interested Conservative groups and seems more of a stop-gap policy within Conservatism than a long-term resolution. The debate has hardly subsided.This essay will examine how Conservative thought ought to resolve the ethical dilemmas involved in stem cell research; more specifically, this essay will examine the religious dimensions of the debate and whether Conservative thought can be reconciled with stem cell research. To this end, this essay will define what is meant by stem cell research and then discuss the extant to which the religious orientation of modern Conservatives is consistent or inconsistent with stem cell research.As a preliminary matter, it must be noted that stem cells are not new. It is the manipulation of stem cells that has raised a myriad of ethical issues. Most simply, as defined by the National Institutes of Health, the biomedical organization vested with executing American health policy regarding stem cell research...
Indeed, as stated by Dr. Samuel D. Hensley, a fellow at the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity as well as an Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine, "The critical ethical issue here is whether cloned human embryos are unique human beings--with inherent human dignity and therefore worthy of protection--or whether they are, as some have asserted, merely microscopic globs of cellular material. We must ask ourselves if embryos are human beings deserving of protection. Are they human persons" (2003, np).
On the other hand, there is a second type of stem cell that often generates less criticism. This second type of stem cell is an adult stem cell. This type of stem cell is already in existence, it can be extracted from human beings rather than being created through cloning, and it offers the possibility of escaping the argument that scientists are both creating and destroying life in order to attain certain scientific goals. The distinction, as will be demonstrated below, is hardly insignificant. The embryonic stem cell, derived through cloning, is created and then deprived of its essential universal function (developing into a human being) in order to attempt to solve certain medical challenges such as heart disease, Parkinson's disease, and diabetes. By contrast, adult stem cells do not involve the creation issue so directly and they can be extracted rather than created in order to pursue certain medical goals. Even the more devout Conservative bioethicists, such as Hensley, concede the significance of the distinction, "A steady stream of scientific publications suggests that clinically promising stem cells can