Divergence of Opinion between Science and Religion

Annotated Bibliography

Monroe, Kristen, Ronald B. Miller, and Jerome S. Tobis. Fundamentals of the Stem Cell Debate: The Scientific, Religious, Ethical, and Political Issues. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008. Print.

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Monroe, K., Miller, R. B., & Tobis, J. (2008). Fundamentals of the Stem Cell Debate: The Scientific, Religious, Ethical, and Political Issues. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Monroe, Miller, and Tobis’ book delve into an argument on the importance of protecting the rights of the elderly people as well as the rights of the fetuses. The authors emphasize the need for stakeholders’ meeting, with a view of establishing the ethical consideration of stem cell research using embryos. Additionally, the authors provide us with concrete information that facilitates the understanding of a low success rate of stem cell research. But despite the presence of biased information, this book will be of great use in my essay since it will provide an analysis aimed at establishing the preeminence between the rights of the fetuses and the rights of the elderly people by highlighting the benefits of stem cell research to the sick, elderly people.

Peters, Ted, Karen Lebacqz, and Gaymon Bennett. Sacred Cells?: Why Christians Should Support Stem Cell Research. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008. Print.

Peters, T., Lebacqz, K., & Bennett, G. (2008). Why Christians Should Support Stem Cell Research. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Peters, Lebacqz, and Bennett’s book analyze the steps taken by the scientific grouping in its endeavor to convince the religious grouping of a sound definition of ethical and moral principles. The authors present the central problem related to morality by encouraging theologians to participate in the research to evaluate the ethical principles behind the practice. Though the cause of disagreement between the Christians and the Scientist persists, the authors have found out that many Christians are willing to give up their claim that stem cell research is unethical and immoral on grounds of compassion. Despite the presence of diverse opinions between Christianity and science, this book will be of paramount importance in my essay because it will help me enforce the idea that stem cell research is not unethical or immoral since it facilitates compassion for the sick.

Weaver, John. Christianity and Science. London: Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd, 2010. Print.

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Weaver, J. (2010). Christianity and Science. London: Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd.

Weaver’s book rebuffs the argument that stem cell research is morally wrong by basing his argument on claims that opposing such kind of practice on grounds of perceived ethical principle holds back the act of compassion for the sick. As such, the author recommends a meeting aimed at achieving a consensus between science and religion. Weaver’s book will be of paramount importance in this essay because it will help me highlight that the ethical questions regarding stem cell research still abound despite various gatherings between the scientific and Christian groupings aimed at finding the rationality of the act and the motive behind it.

Introduction

Stem cell research is the study of how different types of cells from embryos, fetuses, or adults can be used to repair tissues as well as organs of patients suffering from diverse diseases, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, cancer, and spinal injuries, most of which can be cured through embryonic stem cells (Peters, Lebacqz, and Bennett 11). The curing process, according to Peters, Lebacqz, and Bennett (12), is done by first obtaining stem cells from human eggs fertilized in vitro for some time. This is subsequently followed by transplanting the embryonic stem cells in the affected part of the patient’s body.

For instance, Alzheimer’s disease is cured by transplanting the embryonic stem cells within the affected part of the patient’s brain, as this facilitates the development of new, effective tissues within the area. Embryonic stem cell research has gained popularity over adult stem cell research simply because, besides having the capacity of providing a wider application, the embryonic stem cells have a longer life span in an in vitro clinic than the adult stem cells (Peters, Lebacqz, and Bennett 14). This creates a challenge while adopting adult stem cell research as the process of producing adult stem cells is often ineffective.

Over the years, religious groups have regarded embryonic stem cell research as an unethical or immoral practice despite knowing the underlying principles behind it. Various denominations from the Christian religion have come out in the open to prevent the move toward embryonic stem cell research, with the Catholic Church’s Pope announcing his position that “a human person begins at conception and the human embryo has the same moral status as a human person” (Peters, Lebacqz, and Bennett 119).

Moreover, several bishops have added that allowing embryonic stem cell research would only amount to supporting the rights of some people at the expense of others (Peters, Lebacqz, and Bennett 123). However, not all Christians oppose such research, and the practice of stem cell research has elicited the claim that “contrary to what Christianity has argued over the years, it is not unethical or immoral to practice embryonic stem cell research as it amounts to compassion” (Weaver 175).

Given that there are many divergent opinions between Christianity and science, how then should this claim address the issue surrounding embryonic stem cell research? To start with, this question is interesting because it will help us establish whether science is compatible with the Christian religion and how Christianity can interrelate with scientific practices, beliefs, and acceptance to eradicate diverse diseases encountered within the community.

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And given that Christianity embraces scientific practices carried out in medical research, the ethical question in this scientific practice can be addressed through an interdisciplinary perspective of ethics that takes into account that stem cell research creates an opportunity for healing the sick people within the community through scientific practices that demonstrate compassion (Peters, Lebacqz, and Bennett 40).

Discussion

Divergence of Opinion between Science and Religion about Morality

The gap between science and religion has always existed primarily because science attempts to describe what we perceive naturally, while religion describes what we perceive spiritually. As a result, science attempts to solve morality questions surrounding stem cell research by carrying out an observation and formulating pertinent questions, while religion solves the same questions by starting with the conclusion and giving reasons as to why stem cell research is unethical or immoral practice (Weaver 176).

However, there has been an effort of establishing compatibility between science and religion to create a common ground that could facilitate decision-making concerning the creation of knowledge of high sensitivity issues, and key amongst these issues is stem cell research (Monroe, Miller, and Tobis 52).

In this regard, Peters, Lebacqz, and Bennett (40) have recently pointed out that the practice of science has been influenced by religious practices through major debates concerning ethical issues in stem cell research. And even though Christians embrace medical research and are aware that stem cell research helps to cure several ailments, they have continuously alleged that the practice is immoral since it is based on destroying of body tissues, including that of fetuses that are already aborted (Peters, Lebacqz, and Bennett 41). It is from this background that stem cell research has been regarded as immoral amongst them.

Consequently, the definition of morality seems to differ between Christianity and the scientific point of view, with scientists regarding morality as avoiding biased and dishonest medical research practices. In contrast, the Christians regard morality as refraining from using embryos and fetuses in stem cell research (Kurtz and Koepsell 46). And even as science and religion continue to contend with the issue of morality concerning embryonic stem cell research, the validity of the claim that stem cell research is not unethical or immoral can be ascertained by using an interdisciplinary approach of ethical theory, including Christian ethics.

Christian Ethics

Christians do not uphold deduced and analyzed knowledge to ascertain whether an embryo is a real person or not; this makes them act in an uncompassionate manner towards the sick people who need embryonic stem cell research. Thus, Christianity is faced with moral challenges since its law informs us about the moral act that we should perform [compassion] but fails to inform us about the methods, leaving us with several views that call for critical examination. However, the Catholic Church has affirmed that adult stem cell research is not immoral or unethical primarily because it does not deprive other people’s rights to life (Peters, Lebacqz, and Bennett 121).

Thus, it would be credible to argue that using embryonic stem cells in medical research is not unethical or immoral in cases where the scientists acquire the stem cells in a manner that does not harm the embryo, as this amounts to doing the right kind of action to the right people (García-Bosch, Ricart and Panés 279). But in what situations should Christians consider embryonic stem cell research as an immoral practice?

Situation Ethics

The ethics of the situation is derived from the principle of agape love, which is one of the foundations of Christianity. This ethical principle regards an action that results in love as appropriate and an action that results in selfishness as inappropriate (Wogaman 244). Thus, morality is based on the situation surrounding a particular circumstance. In this respect, embryonic stem cell research is appropriate when a patient requires treatment that necessitates embryonic stem cells instead of adult stem cells, which cure only a few diseases (Peters, Lebacqz, and Bennett 11).

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In this regard, embryonic stem cell research is not unethical or immoral since it provides an avenue for acting compassionately towards people suffering from diverse diseases by using spare embryos that could have been destroyed (Peters, Lebacqz, and Bennett 44). The practice could only be classified as unethical or immoral if it purposely encourages or funds abortion for research purposes. Thus, the practice cures many ailments, and this creates an opportunity for preserving the lives of many people through natural law.

Natural Law

Natural law highlights several principles that can be used to verify that stem cell research is not an unethical or immoral practice. A Christian point of view that justifies stem cell research as an ethical act is evident as the natural law claims that “life should be preserved”(Østnor 238). Unlike the scientific point of view, which aims at protecting the fully developed/elderly people rather than the fetuses, the Christian point of view is aimed at protecting all humanity.

Thus, the use of stem cell research can be aligned with the principle of life preservation for the patients in need of stem cell research through the Christianity maxim that ‘life should be preserved by being our brothers’ keeper.’ Thus, preserving the lives of such people through the embryonic stem cells could be regarded as moral, as opposed to failing to observe the law of preserving life and being a brothers’ keeper. However, this raises the question of preeminence between the patients and the fetuses (Monroe, Miller, and Tobis 52).

Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism is an ethical principle that endeavors to establish whether an action is right or wrong by carrying out a detriment and benefit analysis of the outcome of the action (Geirsson and Holmgren 90). Thus, the preeminence between the fetuses and the patients can be ascertained from the fact that the aborted fetuses do not undergo any kind of a pain in the process of destruction, while the patients are subjected to severe pain if the stem cell research is not performed to their advantage (Monroe, Miller, and Tobis 52).

Hence, the principle of utilitarianism is based on the argument that Christians should endeavor to provide justice to the suffering population about the benefits resulting from the practice (Geirsson and Holmgren 90). As a result, it could be argued that the use of stem cells is not unethical or immoral because Christianity is built on the foundation of delivering others from the bondage of pain; this also includes patients suffering from diseases that necessitate the use of embryonic stem cell research. However, this raises the question of whether the practice serves the role of treating a human as the means rather than the ends.

Kantian and Virtue Ethics

Using spare embryos in stem cell research serves the role of treating humans as the ends, not as the means, and this amounts to compassion(Dean 137). The practice of stem cell research can be regarded as moral because the rationale behind the practice is to treat humans as the key beneficiaries. This claim can be substantiated by the fact that even though an embryo has cells that are alive, it cannot be regarded as a person since it lacks several cells that make up a complete human being. For a case in point, an embryo attains heart cells after 20 days from the day of conception (Peters, Lebacqz, and Bennett 47).

Thus, we could argue that it is not unethical or immoral to use such embryos for stem cell research before this period. Therefore, it is important to note that while determining whether embryonic stem cell research is immoral, one should establish the action that a moral person should be compelled to take in an effort of showing compassion to people ailing from diverse diseases necessitating embryonic stem cell research (Kotva 155).

Conclusion

In the light of this knowledge, it is apparent that embryonic stem cell research should be regarded as an indispensable practice in the minds of a moral, compassionate Christian even though it is compounded with contradictory viewpoints. A proper understanding of the factors that contribute to ethical or moral principles of stem cell research is necessary for affirming the claim that ‘it is not immoral or unethical to practice embryonic stem cell research as it amounts to compassion.’ However, this can only be ascertained by using an interdisciplinary approach to ethical theory.

Works Cited

Dean, Richard. The Value of Humanity in Kant’s Moral Theory. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2006. Print.

García-Bosch, O, E Ricart, and J Panés. “Review Article: Stem Cell Therapies for Inflammatory Bowel Disease – Efficacy and Safety.” Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 32.8 (2010): 939-52. Print.

Geirsson, Heimir, and Margaret R. Holmgren. Ethical Theory: A Concise Anthology. Peterborough, Ont: Broadview Press, 2010. Print.

Kotva, Joseph. The Christian Case for Virtue Ethics. Washington, D.C: Georgetown University Press, 2003. Print.

Kurtz, Paul, and David Koepsell. Science and Ethics: Can Science Help Us Make Wise Moral Judgments?Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2007. Print.

Monroe, Kristen, Ronald B. Miller, and Jerome S. Tobis. Fundamentals of the Stem Cell Debate: The Scientific, Religious, Ethical, and Political Issues. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008. Print.

Østnor, Lars. Stem Cells, Human Embryos and Ethics: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. New York: Springer, 2008. Print.

Peters, Ted, Karen Lebacqz, and Gaymon Bennett. Sacred Cells?: Why Christians Should Support Stem Cell Research. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008. Print.

Weaver, John. Christianity and Science. London: Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd, 2010. Print.

Wogaman, Philip. Christian Ethics: A Historical Introduction (2nd ed.). Louisville, Ky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2010. Print.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, February 13). Divergence of Opinion between Science and Religion. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/divergence-of-opinion-between-science-and-religion/

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