Democratic House members hope to pass six items during their first 100 hours in control of Congress. Only federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research will raise serious objections by conservative Christians. President Bush has already vetoed a similar bill, and it increasingly appears that he is the final bulwark preventing the unchecked use of nascent human life for medical research.
It is becoming progressively more difficult politically to argue that we should respect the human life of those bundles of cells that hold promise for potential cures of diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Of course, such cures remain theoretical, the only proven therapies coming from adult stem cells.
Yet true believers in embryonic stem-cell research find our opposition heartless. They tell us we are imposing archaic moral codes on society. They tell us we care little about alleviating suffering or forestalling death.
It can be hard to know how to respond, since the logic of these believers appeals to a deep Christian instinct: to offer healing to those who suffer. No wonder even many Christians wonder: So what's the big deal, especially if we might save or extend human lives?
The problem is not just the immoral destruction of the embryos from which stem cells are extracted. The larger cultural issue is an ethic of immortality that undergirds the push for embryonic stem-cell research. It's an ethic that has already warped our culture's perspective and now threatens to warp our Christian worldview, too.
Quest for Immortality
Leon Kass, a member and former chair of the President's Council on Bioethics and professor at the University of Chicago, argues that "victory over mortality is the unstated but implicit goal of modern medical ...