President Obama announced last Wednesday his pick of Francis Collins, former director of the Human Genome Project and an evangelical Christian, to lead the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the government's biomedical research wing. While a couple news reports have highlighted onlookers' hesitation over Collins's faith, few have examined Collins's views on embryonic stem-cell research, for which President Obama lifted by executive order a ban on federal funding this March.
So what exactly are Collins's views on the ethics of embryonic stem-cell research and when life begins? Below are some comments he has made on the matter in the last few years. See what you can parse out:
In a 2006 interview with Steve Paulson of Salon:
Paulson: Geneticists are sometimes accused of "playing God," especially when it comes to genetic engineering. And there are various thorny bioethical issues. What's your position on stem cell research?
Collins: Stem cells have been discussed for 10 years, and yet I fear that much of that discussion has been more heat than light. First of all, I believe that the product of a sperm and an egg, which is the first cell that goes on to develop a human being, deserves considerable moral consequences. This is an entity that ultimately becomes a human. So I would be opposed to the idea of creating embryos by mixing sperm and eggs together and then experimenting on the outcome of that, purely to understand research questions.
On the other hand, there are hundreds of thousands of such embryos in freezers at in vitro fertilization clinics. In the process of in vitro fertilization, you almost invariably end up with more embryos than you can reimplant safely. The plausibility of those ...1
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