At yesterday’s hearing on stem cells, some people argued for new lines of research and others condemned the proposed research as immoral–but the sides were the reverse of what we normally see. Some conservatives, notably Stanford professor and bioethics-council member William Hurlbut, have been proposing to try to get stem cells without destroying human embryos. They propose the creation of biological entities that could serve as sources of stem cells but would not be human organisms (because they would lack the capacity to organize themselves and direct their own development). According to Rick Weiss, Democratic Senator Tom Harkin “criticized Hurlbut’s approach as monstrous” in a hearing yesterday. “If it’s not an embryo, what is this Frankenstein-like thing we’re creating?” Harkin asked. “The hypocrisy here is indefensible.”
It’s Harkin’s own inconsistency that seems hard to defend. If Harkin thinks it is fine to create and then kill human embryos for research, how can he object to creating sources of stem cells that aren’t human embryos and wouldn’t have to be killed?