Stem cell research

By now, the controversy surrounding human embryonic stem cell research is familiar to most of us. At its center are two opposing viewpoints. One argues that such research may bring tremendous benefits to human health: potential cures for debilitating conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injury. The other asserts that such research violates the sanctity of human embryos and is therefore morally and ethically unacceptable.

In my view, the eventual outcome of this debate will be decided by a simple fact of human nature. My prediction is that in the long run maybe a few years, maybe a few decades most people will have forgotten the controversy, while a small band of scientists continues their stem cell studies without much public attention.

Why this prediction? Because I believe the viewpoint supporting stem cell research is predicated on a universal and eternal human drive, whereas the opposing side is based on a contemporary cultural conviction that is neither universal nor eternal.

The universal and eternal human drive is to have a better life. This drive is not unique to humans. A product of evolution, it is encoded in the genes of all living things. Organisms with more of the drive are better equipped to survive and pass on their genes than those with less of it. In our species, this fundamental drive motivates us to work, to find friends and lovers, to have children, and to dream about grander and better things for ourselves and those we care about. Call this selfishness if you will. While it may seem distasteful to some, being selfish is a crucial quality that has ensured the survival of our species to this point.

Stem cell research is simply one more step to help fulfill the human drive for a better life. I don't want to sound unreasonably rosy about the benefits of stem cell research. Indeed, I find some of the unqualified promises of stem cell research a bit exaggerated. Nevertheless, stem cell rese

Contact: Catherine Gianaro
University of Chicago Medical Center

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