Considering the continual revisionist biology about what constitutes a human embryo we have heard in the halls of Congress and from among some members of the science intelligentsia, I thought it worth revisiting an old Nature editorial that decries the sophistic attempt within bioethics and the life sciences to pretend that an embryo before implantation in a uterus isn’t really an embryo. Nature supports ESCR, but its editorial notes that the redefinition of the term “embryo” is being pursued for political purpose rather than scientific accuracy. From the editorial, “Playing the Name Game,” Nature Vol 4367 July 2005 (No link, my emphasis):

Last month’s meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research in San Francisco witnessed a bizarre semantic debate. Delegates discussed a proposal to refrain from using the term ‘embryo’ when referring to the blastocysts from which human embryonic stem cells are harvested. The scientists involved reject the accusation that they are creating and destroying human lives, and fear that the word ‘embryo’ is a lightning rod that attracts negative scrutiny.

It is true that embryo is an emotive term, but there is little scientific justification for redefining it . Whether taken from a fertility clinic or made through cloning, a blastocyst embryo has the potential to become a fully functional organism. [Me: But it is a “fully functional human organism” for that stage of human life, but never mind that for now.] And appearing to deny that fact will not fool die-hard opponents of this research. If anything, it will simply open up scientists to the accusation that they are trying to distance themselves from difficult moral issues by changing the terms of the debate.


Indeed, that is precisely the game that is afoot. Alas, Nature is a minority voice within the Brave New World Complex. Too many proponents of ESCR prefer obfuscation to scientific accuracy in discussing these important public ethical issues because they know that is the easiest way to win the political debate.

Articles by Wesley J. Smith

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