Guest Article #1 - Stem Cell Research and the Soul

Some implications of stem cell research from a person of faith.

A slightly different version of this article was originally published at The Stone Bryson Experience. Used here with the permission of the author.

Stem Cell Research and the Soul

By Red Cedar Owl

The recent news of a South Korean scientist that his team had cloned humans cells to retrieve stem cells gave me pause to think about life, human life and the soul. I consider myself to be a person of faith. I have deeply held beliefs and because I do understand the science of our modern world I frequently find myself having a dialogue with myself concerning my faith. I humbly ask that each person who reads this article, do just that, read the article, do the research, peer into your own heart, then and only then make up YOUR OWN mind.

Here are some excepts from an Associated Press article that sparked this article:

Scientists Speed Creation of Stem Cells
[Published: 5/19/05]
WASHINGTON (AP) - South Korean scientists have dramatically sped up the creation of human embryonic stem cells, growing 11 new batches that for the first time were a genetic match for injured or sick patients.

It is a major advancement in the quest to grow patients' own replacement tissue to treat diseases.

This research is not cloning to make babies. Instead, scientists create test-tube embryos to supply stem cells - the building blocks which give rise to every tissue in the body - that are a genetic match for a particular patient and thus won't be rejected by the immune system.

If scientists could harness the regenerative power of those stem cells, they might be able to repair damage from spinal cord injuries, diabetes, Parkinson's and other diseases.

The Seoul researchers collected eggs that were donated by 18 unpaid volunteers and removed the gene-containing nucleus from them.

Each is a genetic match to the patient who had donated a skin snippet, and each can form other tissues, such as brain cells or bone cells. Next, the scientists must learn how to control that cell development.

This is the question that I asked myself – What is the Soul and when do we aquire it?

Soul – the principal of life, feeling, thought and action of man, regarded as a distinct entity separate from the body, and commonly held to be separable in existence from the body; the spiritual part of man as distinct from the physical

The definition above is from an old dictionary. Can the existence of the soul be proved? No. Does that mean it does not exist? No. All people of faith believe in the existence of the soul.

This debate is not about what happens to the soul after we die, but WHEN do we acquire our soul? At what point in the development of a Human embryo does it acquire a soul? Is it at conception? Conception is the stage at which the egg is fertilized. Does the fertilized egg gets its soul when it in implanted or attached in the womb? This is the start of pregnancy in the human female. Very often the implantation does not take very well in this early stage of pregnancy and the embryo is expelled with the next menstrual cycle. Does the embryo have a soul at this stage? This is THE QUESTION. We as a people of this country must come to some kind of consensus, no matter what faith we adhere to or practice.

Here are a few facts; the first stage of human life is the creation of an egg, the egg must be fertilized by a sperm cell. If the egg is fertilized, it undergoes rapid cell division, this is the beginning of the blastocyst stage. At the end of this stage, this bundle of cells, a potential human is implanted or attached to the wall of the womb. From this point it will be 4 to 5 weeks before this tiny lump of "living" tissue even begins to take identifiable shape. From this point in the development of this potential human anything can go wrong and this potential human can be aborted naturally or as most people call this condition–miscarried.

What the Korean scientists did was take an unfertilized egg, remove the nucleus (the yolk so to speak). They then inserted the nucleus taken from a cell of the patient. They then forced this egg to grow or to divide as if it were a normal fertilized egg. This egg was never an embryo. Are they manipulating Life, living tissue? Yes. Does that tissue have a soul?

I am not a theologian, scholar, doctor or scientist. I am just an average guy trying to understand this increasingly complicated world we live in today. When do we acquire our souls? You know, I just don’t know. I do know that I want the men and women, the doctors and scientists doing this research watched. I want their work monitored closely. I do not want this research to become another Pandora’s box.

Red Cedar Owl
A Pagan person of faith


This article is Copyright © 2005 by Red Cedar Owl.
All rights reserved. Quotes may be used for noncommercial purposes provided credit is given. For commercial purposes, please contact the author directly.

The views and opinions expressed in the Guest Article are the author's own and don't necessarily reflect mine. I do believe the article is worth careful thought, and I would like to thank Red Cedar Owl for allowing Pagan•Vigil to host it.

Also, I would like to thank Red Cedar Owl for approaching me with the idea of guest articles in the first place and I thank Stone Bryson for looking out for his contributors. Classy guy there, and he has a pretty good website.

— NeoWayland

Posted: Sun - September 18, 2005 at 08:07 PM  Tag

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