Stem Cell Research and BYU

by Emily Updegraff

Emily Updegraff is a BYU alum an holds a PhD in Biology. Emily submitted this wonderful post to us, which we are excited now to share with you.

Last week President Obama issued an executive order removing a lot of restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. Federal funds can now be used to support research using hundreds of stem cell lines, not just the 21 lines President Bush approved in 2001. Over the past eight years, embryonic stem cell research has been limited to private research institutions that have sufficient support to run without NIH grants, and a few academic labs that have carefully partitioned themselves into NIH funded and privately funded domains. Research at universities across the country will be significantly impacted by the executive order, both in the long and short term. I believe Obama’s executive order is the beginning of a new era of stem cell research, one that will likely require the Church to re-examine its position on stem cell research, and consequently its position on when life begins.

The immediate impact of the executive order will be that existing embryonic stem cell labs can add new cell lines to their repertoire, that private research institutions can now apply for NIH funding, and that academic labs that were previously of mixed funding can now freely share resources and information among themselves and their colleagues.

In the long term, it could mean many different things, depending on how Congress acts. Congress passed two bills during the Bush administration relaxing the rules regarding federal funding, but Bush vetoed both of them. Obama’s executive order will hold for now, but if research is going to continue long-term using the lines Obama just freed up, Congress will need to act to make it permanent. Also, Because of the Dickey-Wicker Amendment of 1995, federal funds still can not be used to create new stem cell lines, because that would require destroying an embryo. Congress could repeal Dickey-Wicker, which would allow federal funding to support the dismantling of human embryos.

In my opinion Congress will act, sooner or later, to lift restrictions and pave the way for embryonic stem cell research to go forward in an ethical way. I think this is a good thing. My position stems from the fact that I don’t believe human life begins at conception, so I do not believe that using a very young embryo to create a stem cell line is the equivalent of an abortion. The Church does not have a position on the use of embryonic stem cells in research, nor does it have a position on when human life begins (although it does not support elective abortions). But the Church does (at least indirectly) support research at BYU. Would the church allow embryonic stem cell research at its flagship university?

Currently there are no researchers doing embryonic stem cell research at BYU. The research done in the College of Life Sciences weighs heavily towards ecology and evolution, with rather few professors doing biomedical research. But last year the Microbiology and Molecular Biology department hired an assistant professor whose research depends on the use of adult stem cells. I wonder if this professor could foresee his work utilizing embryonic stem cells, or if BYU would hire a professor who planed to do research using embryonic stem cells. It’s an important question because if embryonic stem cell research were done at BYU, it may require the Church to clarify its position on embryonic stem cell research, which may require clarification on its position on when life begins.

I have know idea how much oversight BYU’s board of directors has regarding what kind of research gets done at BYU. It would be fascinating to know that. I am doubtful that the board approves every research proposal that goes out of the University, but who knows? I know prospective hires are thoroughly vetted regarding their moral standing and commitment to the Church, but how much attention do the ecclesiastical authorities pay to the research they plan to do?

There are several reasons why embryonic stem cell research may not happen at BYU for quite a while, maybe ever. One is that for some reason the life sciences at BYU are heavily dominated by people who study ecology and evolution. This doesn’t mean they don’t hire people in other fields, of course, but like attracts like. Otherwise why would there be so very many ecologists there? Two, embryonic stem cell research is expensive and BYU professors have to teach, which limits the time they have to write grants, which limits their financial resources. Three, BYU doesn’t have quite the ability to attract grad students and post docs that major research institutions do, which is a reason why it may be hard to attract people doing cutting-edge stem cell research to BYU. But it’s not impossible that someone doing embryonic stem cell research could apply for a job at BYU. Of course, we’ll only know if that has happened if the person actually gets hired.

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Comments

  1. Rameumptom says:

    Just why would the Church have to revisit this issue, when it hasn’t established any viewpoint on stem cell research at all?
    Second, this is not as big of an impact anymore, since newer research over the past 8 years has developed other methods to create stem cells from existing cells other than embryonic cells. Many of those who were originally involved in embryonic cells are now switching over, because they are less controversial, and show as good a promise as do embryonic cells. The other benefit is that a person’s own cells could be used to develop stem cells to be retransplanted into the individual, rather than risk using cells from another being.
    I personally do not see the importance of this decision. It was as lame as Pres Bush’s initial act to ban it. Science is bypassing the importance of this issue, and so it is basically a non-issue now.
    BYU could easily do stem cell research without using embryonic cells, and avoid any controversy whatsoever.

  2. My guess is that the Board would decline approval for embryonic stem cell research at BYU because of the sensitivity of the issue and the divergence of opinion within the Church.

  3. I think you must be joking DavidH – clearly the Board does not restrict research in sensitive areas about which Church members may have “digergent” opinions. (As evidenced by the strong evolutionary biology research group despite the relatively low level of “belief” in evolution among Church members, as if one can believe or disbelieve in such things)

  4. By the way, the Board does not approve or disapprove of research proposals submitted by the faculty. The highest level of administrative approval required is at the level of the Office of Research and Creative Activities.

  5. Emily Updegraff says:

    Rameumptom –

    Science is actually a long way from inducing adult stem cells to differentiate into a variety of other cell types. Embryonic stem cells are unique in their ability to differentiate into any kind of cell, which is what makes them so useful in research. It is just not true that adult stem cells are a substitute for embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cell research opponents like to tout the efficacy of adult stem cells (and they are very useful for some purposes) but they aren’t a replacement for embryonic stem cells, at least not yet. One reason embryonic stem cells are so important is that we know very little about what gives them their unique power to differentiate, and if we’re ever going to get adult cells to act like them, we have to study the real thing first.

    If BYU did embryonic stem cell research, it would be an implicit endorsement, and I think the ramifications of that would be pretty big.

  6. Dave, I may have understated things by saying “sensitive”, and the stakes are much greater than research regarding evolution depending on which side is “right.”

    For some one who considers life to begin at conception, embryonic stem cell research might be consider akin to participating in or benefiting from the homicide of an embryo. I would say that would be an incendiary matter.

  7. Cynthia L. says:

    This old slate.com piece on Mormon members of congress’ support for embryonic stem cell research seems relevant to this discussion.

    If Orrin Hatch supports it, isn’t that like official™? ;-)

  8. John Mansfield says:

    This is a fascinating question, though one that, as pointed out, may be dodged for a while simply because BYU is not a medical research institution. I hope all appreciate that sources of potentially useful stem cells don’t stop with embryos. There are fetuses, too, such as those aborted in the second trimester that have provided oflactory cells for experimental treatment to fight Lou Gehrig’s disease. The ethical issues were addressed, and everyone involved came to the conclusion that what they were doing was the right thing.

    (NPR, Morning Edition, Dec. 10, 2004)

  9. My suspicion is that IF such a person (someone whose research requires embryonic stem cells) were to apply to BYU, and the Department faculty wanted to hire them, that person would get hired. Without any fanfare, or extraordinary scrutiny at the higher levels. My other suspicion is that the Board would NOT consider a decision to allow such research to be an endorsement, implied or otherwise, of any particular view of when life begins. I guess I just think that the Church would be OK with saying “we don’t know when life begins”.

  10. Well, I suppose I should weigh in here as a member of the Biology Department. First, in our college we have received no advice on stem cell research from the Church. My sense is that this is an open question that the Church has left opened to the prayer, investigation, and circumstance of individual members. There are broad issues that play into fertility treatments and other things that are ethically and morally ambiguous and knotted that would not be served well by a blanket policy.

    As far as research at BYU goes it must (1) be cleared by an IBC board which, covers “The Institutional BioSafety Committee supervises the use of recombinant DNA and other biological safety and hazard issues in experiments at BYU. Such use might involve constructing and handling DNA molecules in organisms.” and (2) must pass an IACUC board, which is “The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee is required by federal regulation and is intended to ensure appropriate housing, care, and humane treatment of animals used in research or other academic activities.” And (3) If humans are involved it must pass an IRB board, which is “Brigham Young University’s Institutional Review Board is responsible for the review of all human subjects research conducted at BYU, or conducted elsewhere by University faculty, staff, or students.”

    All of these are typical requirements of federally funded research institutions. There is no Church review of research. BYU is a major research institution and the faculty are under the same research requirements and freedoms of any major university. Teaching is highly valued at BYU, but we are not off the hook for getting grants to fund our research or to publish in major research journals. We are evaluated as rigorously as those in any university and getting “Continuing Status” (CS is like tenure except we are expected to be loyal to the Church) is as hard here as anywhere. The year I went up for CS, six people went up in the College and only two got it. It is as “publish and perish” here as you will find anywhere. Publications are evaluated both in number and the impact factor of the journals published in. This is mandated. If you are not publishing you will not be allowed to stay long. Look at any member of the faculty on BYU’s website they are expected to be teacher-researchers.

    There are six departments in the College of Life Sciences: Mine, The Biology Department tends to focus on Ecology and Evolution. The Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology focus on, well, Microbiology: bacteria, viruses, etc. The Department of Nutrition, Dietetics, & Food Science, and Department of Physiology & Developmental Biology, do laboratory type work in their disciplines. The Department of Plant and Wildlife Sciences focuses on practical environmental biology, genetics of plant systems and wildlife issues. All of these Departments require extensive extramural grants to function.

    Actually, the Collage of Life Sciences is considered a major research institution and is something that members of the Church can be very proud off. BYU is not lacking anything. We do not have a Med school, but major medical research is being done here. The laboratories at BYU are excellent. We have DNA sequencers in my department that are state of the art and the envy of other institutions. Our students go on to graduate and medical schools at a rate much higher than most institutions and get an education that is second to none. Really. BYU has one of the highest rates of undergraduate publication rates in the nation as undergraduate research is emphasized and internally, within BYU, strongly encouraged and well funded.

    If I sound like I’m bragging, I am. BYU gives a first class education in the life sciences. It is something that every member of the church can be proud off. The amazing thing is that these world class facilities and faculty are faithful members of the church (and we do have a few precious non-member faculty who bring diversity and strength to BYU–and all of which follow BYU’s rules including WofW). It’s one of the few places where a biology class can begin with prayer. I start every biology class I’ve taught with prayer.

    So there you have it. BYU is recognized as a major research university in terms of expectations of teaching, research, and publication. It’s a jewel in the Church’s crown. It really is.

  11. Emily, (your response (#5) to Rameumptom), what are your reasons for saying we are a long way from inducing adult stem cells to differentiate?
    Specifically with regards to papers like http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature07863.html

  12. I’m glad you pointed out the Dickey-Wicker amendment.

    Odd that Obama, to much publicity, signed the Executive Order banning the banning, if you will, and then 2 days later essentially reversed himself by signing the Omnibus spending bill. Anyway, not to get into politics, but it does point to the very complicated process that any government funds will need to follow if they’re ever opened up for the research you describe & the tenuous nature and ‘strings’ of those said funds.

  13. Emily Updegraff says:

    Dave –

    What I should have said was that we are a long way from inducing adult cells into becoming embryo-like stem cells for therapeutic purposes. A few years ago scientists were able to get adult cells to display many of the properties of embryonic stem cells. But there are problems with the technology, like it requires adding genes that can cause cancer, and this would make the cells risky to use in therapy. The paper you mention from a month ago seems like a significant advance since they were able to transiently express the factors that cause the cells to become pluripotent. It’s certainly a promising area of research, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some day adult-derived stem cells are used in therapy. But science is in the beginning stages of being able to induce adult cells to become any kind of cell we want them to, and research on embryonic stem cells is still important in advancing that goal.

  14. Emily Updegraff says:

    SteveP –

    I certainly felt I got a very good education at BYU. I was able to do undergraduate research there and it was good preparation for grad school.

    Thanks for your post.

  15. Interesting post.

    Some of the BYU faculty could (in principle) begin working on hESC almost immediately. They already have an incubator, tissue culture hood, etc., so they just need a source of cells/embryos (like a collaborator from another university). Well, that and a reason why ESC help their research….

  16. One is that for some reason the life sciences at BYU are heavily dominated by people who study ecology and evolution. This doesn’t mean they don’t hire people in other fields, of course, but like attracts like. Otherwise why would there be so very many ecologists there?

  17. Sorry, hit the wrong button.

    One is that for some reason the life sciences at BYU are heavily dominated by people who study ecology and evolution. This doesn’t mean they don’t hire people in other fields, of course, but like attracts like. Otherwise why would there be so very many ecologists there?

    Another reason is that the West is such a wonderful canvas on which to do ecological research. There is such a thing as urban ecology, but the disturbing of humankind has a profound impact on the ability to conduct some natural history research. Brother Stutz’s work with evolution of sagebrush was a natural for BYU.

    I also think there is another HUGE reason that wasn’t mentioned and that is the lack of a medical school at BYU. Nowadays the big funder (NIH) is into translational research, a “lab bench to bedside approach” and that isn’t possible at BYU. Which is why it is easier for the big medical centers to get the funding.

  18. The lack of a medical school was mentioned in the comments, but I don’t think that is preventing ESC research at BYU. Some people at the NIH tout translational research (and thankfully the main proponent of that, Zerhouni, is out), but the fact is that the vast majority of RO1 grants in basic science actually fund basic science. Sure, most grantees include translational buzzwords in their applications, but few of them are actually engaged in any translational research.

    Judging by the kind of research done at BYU there are faculty who could, in principle, easily fund ESC work. For example, any kind of vertebrate animal research is incredibly expensive, and some of that is done at BYU. And I’ll mention once again how much more affordable all of this would be if one had a collaborator who could send cells for particular studies at BYU.

    The bench-to-bedside movement is not the reason the big medical centers get more basic science NIH funding. It is because they tend to attract the best basic scientists and they have better shared facilities. They also have graduate students and postdocs who devote all of their time to research—all of which typically translates into more productivity. That’s not a knock against BYU: I agree with SteveP that it is a great place for research, but it’s not trying to compete with the likes of UCSF or Duke.

  19. Jeff Edwards in PDBIO studies plasticity in neurons and so maybe he would have interest in using ESCs. Who knows, maybe he already has plans to start, I’ll ask him.

  20. Interesting post. Thank you for it.

    #10

    BYU is a major research institution and the faculty are under the same research requirements and freedoms of any major university.

    This seems a tad overstated.

  21. Is that the real Dave or a new Dave in this thread?

  22. Who is the real Dave? I guess if I have to ask, then it is a new Dave.

  23. @20

    This will be a threadjack, so we can’t really have this discussion in the comments, but I’d like to know why you believe that a researcher at BYU experiences less “freedom” than a counterpart at Duke, Princeton, Harvard or elsewhere.

    Certainly there are political pressures, institutional biases, etc. Those exist at all institutions. Do you feel you have concrete examples of research being stymied or rejected at BYU at a greater rate due to these pressures?

  24. Cynthia L. says:

    Don’t feel bad, new Dave. The naming around here is kind of a mess. It’s like going into a new ward—you know people have their benches staked out, but there’s no like actual tags to let you know it’s reserved, it’s all just unspoken, so you don’t know where to sit. I actually started commenting as “blah 2″/”sister blah 2″ just because I figured with the “2”, probably that wasn’t taken. It’s like a minefield. I feel your pain.

  25. nasamomdele says:

    I have to take your word for it Emily, you no doubt know more than what I have picked up on the internet, but I was under the same impression as Ram.- that there are growing fields in stem cell research and development that do not require embryonic destruction.

    Either way, this is a very interesting issue for LDS. The fact that embryos are discarded in the in vitro process is unnerving anyway, let alone that they would become the subject of experiment.

    I’m not saying that it is wrong, but it is highly unnerving. I’m not sure the Church would support such research, perhaps on account of the ethical questions I have mentioned. The Churhc would most likely be more apt to let the U pioneer such research in Utah, the U having a greater dedication to facilities and funding of such things.

  26. Mouse embryonic stem cells are currently in use in the College of Life Sciences. I asked three of my colleagues in PDBIO and MMBIO departments and all three said that they would not anticipate any obstacles at the University level should they have a need to utilize human ESCs. As per Steve’s post, I’m not sure who would need to approve such research (if anyone). These experiments don’t necessarily require any recombinant DNA aspects (so the IBC committee would not be relevant), their may not be any need for animals (so the IACUC would not have any objection) and it’s doubtful that you can classify ESCs in culture as “human subjects”, eliminating the IRB.

    So with President Obama’s reversal, if someone here were to start working with ESCs, it is possible that very few people would no about it until they started publishing.

  27. #20 Freedoms in research. We obviously aren’t free to find fault with the Church. But I’m an evolutionary biologist and no one tells me what or how to do research. I’m speaking of research freedoms here.

  28. @new Dave: even human-derived (or primate-derived) cell lines that have been safely used for decades are considered biosafety level 2, including HEK, COS, and HeLa cells. Primary cultures (such as ESCs) would be considered at least as potentially hazardous, thus falling under IBC oversight. And I would guess the IRB would be watching as well, seeing that the human subjects generate those embryos; one must be certain that donors are not being coerced or exploited.

    As for few people knowing about it, you’re probably spot on (barring a letter to the Daily Universe editor from an offended student lab assistant, of course!).

  29. BrianJ, yes I guess you are right that the IBC “oversees” work with biosafety level 2 cell lines. But what that means in practice is not clear to me.

    My guess is that those who would potentially work with human ESCs would not be generating their own but probably get them from a collaborator. Would BYU’s IRB then still have any say in the matter?

  30. I’m having a hard time understanding why LDS scientists are seriously discussing embryo-destructive stem cell research. Maybe the church hasn’t specifically and officially said when life begins, but they have been clear in saying that abortion for other than very rare circumstances is wrong, without reference to when and how the embryo is destroyed. I’d appreciate it if anyone can explain why the location of an embryo outside the womb makes a difference in its moral status as an individual member of the human species.

    Again, this may not be an official statement of church doctrine, but don’t these recent words of an apostle and medical doctor, Elder Russell M. Nelson, deserve respect and serious consideration?

    “The human mind has presumed to determine when “meaningful life” begins. In the course of my studies as a medical doctor, I learned that a new life begins when two special cells unite to become one cell, bringing together 23 chromosomes from the father and 23 from the mother. These chromosomes contain thousands of genes. In a marvelous process involving a combination of genetic coding by which all the basic human characteristics of the unborn person are established, a new DNA complex is formed. A continuum of growth results in a new human being.” (_Abortion: An Assault on the Senses_, October 2008 _Ensign_).

    The process he describes here begins with fertilization, also known as conception. I know that some unscrupulous biologists have tried to redefine the word conception, but that is what it is. I share Elder Nelson’s idea of when life begins. I reject Senator Hatch’s apparently confused and scientifically misinformed notions about when life begins, and would hope that informed LDS scientists would side with Elder Nelson.

    I am already very unhappy that President Obama is going to violate the consciences of many Americans by using taxpayer dollars to fund embryo-destructive research. I would be horrified if BYU started using facilities provided by tithing funds to do the same thing.

  31. Dave: Well, I’m not at BYU so I can’t speak specifically about its IRB/IBC, but in the places I have worked: IBC monitors labs for proper protective measures—vented culture hoods, adequate personal protective equipment (gloves, jacket, etc.), proper disposal and storage of cells, tissues, and fluids, and so on. In practice, it means that if you admit to working with or even storing any cell/tissue/dna of primate origin, then IBC will be in your lab annually for safety inspection and training.

    If the cells came from a collaborator at another institution, it is less clear what involvement the IRB would have. But since we’re talking about primary human cultures, I’d bet that BYU’s IRB would at least want to see that the collaborator followed her institution’s IRB guidelines.

    PerryY: “I’m having a hard time understanding…” Forgive my skepticism if it is misplaced, but I doubt that you are having a hard time “understanding.” Rather, I suspect that you either haven’t tried to understand the views of LDS scientists, or that you simply disapprove of their views (in which case, you should say you have “a hard time countenancing….“).

  32. PerryY,
    I’m also horrified by many things that go on here at BYU (for different reasons). Do you think we could get refunds on the portion of our tithing that support such outrages?

  33. Thanks BrianJ, I don’t work with cells of primate origin so I’ve never had the IRB inspect my lab, even though we do plenty of recombinant DNA work.

  34. OK, BrianJ, I actually have tried to understand the views of those who don’t agree with me about embryo-destructive stem cell research. Maybe it is hard for me as well to countenance views that appear to me to disregard the value of innocent human life for reasons that seem to me to be based in utilitarian ethics instead of the Golden Rule. I would like to understand, though, so why don’t you try explaining it to me? Please?

    And no, Dave, I would not consider asking for a refund of tithing. If whatever it is really horrifies you that much about BYU, I’d suggest taking it up with the Board of Trustees. I’m sure if your complaints have merit, they can be resolved. I’ve certainly never believed that BYU was perfect, and I’m sure they’d welcome the opportunity for improvement. I’d prefer that BYU not make this particular mistake, if it can be avoided by careful consideration up front.

  35. PerryY: “…views that appear to me to disregard the value of innocent human life…” That’s the problem: you are interpreting their views through your belief lens. As you note, many LDS do not believe that an embryo is an “innocent human life” any more than they believe that a kidney, oocyte, or pint of blood is “innocent human life.” If the embryo is not human life, then utilitarian ethics and the Golden Rule are not pitted against each other in the debate.

    The problem with your argument is that you acknowledge that there is a debate on when life begins (i.e., debate #1), then you jump to the issue of stem cell research (i.e., debate #2) and use language that vilifies those who disagree with you in the first debate.

  36. PerryY, I was being sarcastic about the tithing refund. It has always seemed very silly to me that people imply that they have any say at all about what happens at BYU, or have a right to feel ‘extra horrified’ about one policy or another, because it is supported by tithing funds (to which they contribute). When you suggest that I bring my concerns to the Board of Trustees because they would “welcome the opportunity for improvement”, well that certainly made me smile.

    If you are actually sincere in your question about “why the location of an embryo outside the womb makes a difference in its moral status as an individual member of the human species”, I can only say that in order for an embryo to develop into a human, it must be implanted in the mother’s uterus. It doesn’t seem right to assign human rights to something that will never become human. Far more embryos are formed than can be implanted. In your view, do these each have human spirits? What should happen to them (those that are not implanted)?

  37. Yes, BrianJ, there is a debate on when life begins. I would hope, however, at least here, that there is no debate on whether absolute truth exists. Either an embryo is an innocent human life, or it isn’t. I and more than one General Authority (I have found similar statements from Elder Packer and Elder Nelson) believe strongly that it is. Some people here appear to agree with Senator Hatch that “Human life begins in the mother’s womb, not in a petri dish or a refrigerator.” Since there is no official church position on the matter at this point, it seems the best we can say is: “We don’t know.” How then to judge whether human embryos can be morally destroyed? Let’s consider all of the possible combinations of the truth and our knowledge of that truth:

    1) The human embryo is an innocent human life and we know it.
    2) The human embryo is an innocent human life and we do not know it.
    3) The human embryo is not an innocent human life and we know it.
    4) The human embryo is not an innocent human life and we do not know it.

    It seems that in the number 1) case that it is clearly not permissible to destroy the embryo. Such a knowing act would be comparable to murder. To destroy the embryo in case 2) would be similar to manslaughter. You may not have intended the death of an innocent human life, but it is dead nonetheless. Destroying the embryo in case 4) seems very similar to case 2), in that we are acting the same way as case 2), acting in a way that would kill a possibly (since you don’t actually know) innocent human life, even though it isn’t there. It would be akin to driving a car over a lumpy overcoat in an area where children play without knowing whether there is a person underneath it. Even though there isn’t actually anyone there, a case might be made for criminal negligence. Should BYU fund research involving any of these three cases? It seems that case 3) is the only one that would make it permissible to destroy the embryo. I don’t hear anybody here making that case, and given the facts, I don’t think anybody can. I don’t want to vilify anyone, I just want all scientists, especially those at BYU, to be morally responsible when it comes to research. Saying in effect that “we don’t know if human embryos are alive or not” (and it seems that all here who support embryonic stem cell research are simply saying that they _don’t believe_ that life begins at conception, while providing no proof for that belief), and then using them in research that involves their destruction, does not strike me as responsible.

  38. Do the researchers really have “freedoms” if their job depends on them not having a coffee?

  39. “that there is no debate on whether absolute truth exists”

    I’m no philosopher, but I am pretty certain that this is debated among active LDS. But anywho….

    “I … believe strongly that [an embryo is innocent human life].”

    I don’t.

    “Since there is no official church position on the matter at this point, it seems the best we can say is: “We don’t know.””

    If you believe in absolute truth and a God who reveals that truth, why not just ask God yourself? Why wait for the Church to ask for you?

    “How then to judge whether human embryos can be morally destroyed?”

    See above. Or, if you prefer the rational approach, you could define what “human life” is and determine whether an embryo meets those criteria. For example, I know a lot of people like to consider brain activity as an essential criterion, for determining both the start and end of life.

    “I don’t hear anybody here making that case [that the human embryo is not an innocent human life and we know it]….”

    That’s because that debate has been done so many times in so many other places that it isn’t part of the discussion here. I’m not saying it isn’t a good question, or a reasonable thing to debate, but many people have already been through that debate, wrestled with those questions, looked at both sides of the issue and even invented sides just to make sure they had considered all sides, prayed, meditated, investigated, and contemplated the subject and reached a conclusion. These people’s interests are now on other questions, such as the possibility and implications of performing such research at BYU.

  40. Dave, remember back when the BYU football team had those silly dark blue uniforms with white bibs? Little known fact: offended members were allowed a 1.5% tithing refund.

  41. OK, if I’m in the wrong place for discussing what I was interested in, I apologize. Besides, if we can’t even agree on whether absolute truth exists, or whether we should listen to Elders Packer and Nelson, reference to whom you snipped out in your response, clearly we don’t have enough common ground to have a real discussion that might lead to the “common consent” alluded to in the title of this blog. I’ll take it elsewhere.

  42. This writer is convinced that expanded stem stem cell research will lead to many a woman,in many a country,to become pregnant to have a ready “Harvest” of these organisms. It’s possible that this is already the case. In the meantime, how many people in need of these cells can afford any treatment thereof? Michael J. Fox can afford treatment. How many others out there can? Health care providers are reluctant to pay for ANY procedure. Let’s get real.

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