Human Exceptionalism

Nature Editorial Decrying the Embryo Redefinition Game

A correspondent sent me this editorial from the science journal Nature of a few months ago, decrying the ongoing effort by politicized scientists to redefine the embryo that is created through somatic cell nuclear transfer cloning. The mainstream media should listen to Nature and quit permitting them to get away with it. Here are some relevant excerpts:


Nature 436, 2 (7 July 2005) | doi: 10.1038/436002b


Stem-cell biologists should not try to change the definition of the word ’embryo’.

Last month’s meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research in San Francisco witnessed a bizarre semantic debate. Delegates discussed a proposal to refrain from using the term ’embryo’ when referring to the blastocysts from which human embryonic stem cells are harvested. The scientists involved reject the accusation that they are creating and destroying human lives, and fear that the word ’embryo’ is a lightning rod that attracts negative scrutiny.

It is true that embryo is an emotive term, but there is little scientific justification for redefining it. Whether taken from a fertility clinic or made through cloning, a blastocyst embryo has the potential to become a fully functional organism. And appearing to deny that fact will not fool die-hard opponents of this research. If anything, it will simply open up scientists to the accusation that they are trying to distance themselves from difficult moral issues by changing the terms of the debate…(My emphasis.)


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