The stem-cell research debate continues to be disingenuous and a bit sleazy. If the candidates and party leaders who continue to push "stem cells" as a political wedge issue really cared about the afflicted in this nation, they would be more careful to tell the truth. Opportunistic politicians should not promise that the blind shall see and the lame shall walk, if we can just defeat the Republicans and move forward on stem-cell research. They know better.

Here is a review of some of my thoughts on the stem-cell dilemma from a while back:

There is no federal ban on stem-cell research in America. As a nation, we are engaged in an honest debate about when life begins. Until we come to a consensus, we are withholding our common federal money for a procedure that is highly offensive to a large segment of our community. In the meantime, research continues with large amounts of private and individual state funds (the previous post in its entirety).

How does this issue play politically?

Will the people of Missouri see the intervention of Michael J. Fox as a morally superior Hollywood outsider who knows better than the simpletons of the show-me state? Or is Fox a sympathetic and beloved figure who serves as a powerful representation of friends and neighbors in pain? Too close to call.

The biggest problem with the anti-stem-cell-research position is in the complexity and distance of the argument. As I have said before, "life begins in the Petri dish" takes some getting used to. The tragedy of butchering embryos is infinitely more theoretical than a loved one in pain.

The Child in the Well

The fourth-century BC Chinese philosopher, Mencius, argued that man was innately good. As proof, he noted that all of us would react automatically to prevent a child from falling into a well. We would attempt to save a child in danger, not for personal gain (sometimes at personal risk), out of an instinctual desire to save the child.

Regardless of whether the example proves the ancient assertion concerning the nature of man, the scenario is instructive. Proponents of abortion rights must tread lightly on our emotions and sensibilities when defending the right of one person's choice to end the life of another human entity. For we can sympathize with a human fetus living inside one of us. We are disturbed by the taking of these unborn lives; we wince at pictures of destroyed fetuses. Our hearts instinctually react to the plight of these living beings.

An aside: a few years ago, without any prompting from his parents, my son began praying for his cousin who was still in the womb. It was logical for him to acknowledge the personhood of this unborn family member.

The problem with the stem-cell debate is the detachment most of us feel for embryos created outside of the natural process via in vitro fertilization. Most of us do not feel a similar sense of loss when we hear about the destruction of embryos manufactured for the purpose of implanting at some subsequent point. Generally, our hearts do not cry out for the embryonic child in the well.

Indeed, many Americans have no moral compunction against, in the name of procreation, creating many more of these embryos than they can possibly bring to human fruition. It follows logically that these excess embryos must be destroyed. Why are we not troubled by that process?

The anti-embryonic-stem-cell-research position asks for an almost superhuman level of empathy. I frankly admit that the position requires an intense intellectual stretch for me. I am inclined to make it--not because I can honestly say my heart cries out for these suffering embryos--but mainly because so many of the people I respect as ethical and moral ask me to. No matter where we stand on this dilemma, we should understand that this issue is very difficult for most of us.

As for the mundane, I make no prediction as to how this series of unseemly political acts will play out in Missouri and Maryland this election cycle. But it is incumbent on all parties to deal with this volatile issue with sensitivity and honesty.