I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a report on a presentation that allowed half the space for “debate,” after the fact.
The Stem Cell Debate at Dartmouth
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D. was recently invited to give a lecture entitled “Stem Cells and Cloning: Understanding the Scientific Issues and the Moral Objections” at Aquinas House, in observance of the Feast of St. Luke, the patron saint of medical professionals. Pacholczyk, or Father Tad as he encourages his audience members to call him, is the Director of Education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center. He arrived at this position after receiving degrees in philosophy, biochemistry, molecular cell biology, and chemistry, a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Yale University, and years of research in molecular biology, bioethics, and dogmatic theology. In a free public lecture lasting more than two hours, Pacholczyk outlined both the scientific and ethical considerations of human embryonic stem cell research and to a lesser extent cloning, giving justifications for the Catholic Church’s positions on these technologies.
After giving an in depth layman’s version of the science involved in stem cell research and a history of both scientific milestones and relevant policy decisions, Pacholczyk corrected what he believed were some of the most pervasive myths about stem cell research. He believes that individuals and organizations within the media and others who engage in expensive advertising campaigns have deliberately misled the American people in an effort to reframe the debate over the use of human embryos for research.
The Dartmouth Review understands that this is an issue on which reasonable moral people can disagree, and so Michael S. Gazzaniga ‘61, Ph.D., Director of the Sage Center for the Study of Mind at the University of California, Santa Barbara was asked to explain some of the ethical justifications. He indicated that, “The handling of human tissue has always commanded the respect of the biomedical community and always will.” However, Gazzaniga does not consider an embryo to be in possession of the same moral status as an adult human, while acknowledging that the issue has “deep meaning to millions of people.”
The Review has raised several ethics questions regarding the virtual debate they created by interviewing Dr. Gazzaniga after Dr. Pacholczyk’s talk.
Will they seek out opposing views in the future or is it only Catholic priests who require such answers? Will they now give Dr. Pacholczyk an opportunity to respond?
In addition, Dr. Gazzaniga finds the determination as to when a human being becomes a human being fairly simplistic:
Asked the basic question underlying this debate and that about abortion, when a human embryo becomes a human being, Gazzaniga called it a “social decision, not unlike the kind a society makes about when to call someone legally blind.”
Does Dr. Gazzaniga’s emphasis on contrasting “adult” human beings with embryonic human beings indicate that he finds differing moral values in the lives of infants, children, and “adults,” does he extend these differences to the state of function of the brain, and can he justify these variations at least as well as we can our culture’s definition of “legally blind?”