Human Exceptionalism

Eloquent and Cogent Description of the Human Embryo

Stanford bioethicist, William Hurlbut, Princeton professor Robert P. George, and stem cell scientist Markus Grompe, have published a defense of ANT in the Hastings Center Report. (No link available.) It is a cogent essay, beyond my capacity to reproduce here. But it contains a splendid description of the rich essence of the human embryo and why these nascent members of the human species matter morally that I would like to share with the readers of Secondhand Smoke.

The authors note that a human embryo is a human organism: “An organism is a dynamic whole, an interactive web of interdependent processes that express emergent properties not apparent in the biochemical parts. Within this dynamic, self-sustaining system is the very principle of life, the organizing information and coordinated coherence of a living being. With the full complement of essential elements, an organismal system subsumes and sustains the parts; it exerts a downward causation that binds and balances the parts into a patterned program of integrated growth and development.”

“In a true embryonic organism, the intrinsic powers and active potentialities are expressed in the coordinated unity and ordered unfolding of species-typical form. The very word ‘organism’ implies organization–an overarching principle that binds the parts and processes of life into a coherent and coordinated whole. As a living being, an organism is a self-developing and self-maintaining unity under the governance of an immanent plan. In practical application, these criteria mean that if we create an embryonic human being–an incipient human life–in a laboratory dish, then it is not a resource to be used, but a distinct human individual with a moral claim for just and respectful treatment.” (My emphasis.)

These guys are sure smarter than I am.

Source: Hasting Center Report, September-October 2006, pp 42-50.

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