Supreme Court Declines Stem Cell Case

WASHINGTON (BP) — The Supreme Court declined Monday (Jan. 7) to hear a case about the Obama administration’s funding of embryonic stem cell research, thereby allowing the continued use of taxpayer dollars for studies that require the destruction of human embryos.

The high court refused to hear an appeal from two scientists who have been challenging the funding.

“Americans should not be forced to pay for experiments that destroy human life, have produced no real-world treatments, and violate federal law — especially in burdened fiscal times like these,” said Steven H. Aden, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which helped litigate the case against the Obama administration.

“Congress designed a law to ensure that Americans don’t pay any more precious taxpayer dollars for needless research made irrelevant by adult stem cell and other research,” Aden said in a news release. “That law is clear, and we had hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would uphold its clear intent.”

At issue is whether the Obama administration’s policy violates the 1996 Dickey-Wicker Amendment, an annual spending bill rider which bars federal funds for “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.”

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in August upheld a federal judge’s dismissal of a legal challenge to Obama’s 2009 executive order that overturned a more restrictive funding policy under President George W. Bush. As a result, federal guidelines continued to allow funding for research on stem cells derived from embryos created by in vitro fertilization.

Many scientists and biotech firms have promoted embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) — and federal funds for the experimentation — even though the extraction of such cells from an embryo results in the destruction of the days-old human being. (Read more here.)

  • Bill S

    Life develops over time. All mammals start out as eggs fertilized by sperm. A fertilized egg isn’t anything to anyone with one exception. It would be of great value to a woman who has had trouble conceiving a child. In all other cases, it has negligible value. And so it goes for the embryo and fetus. We become who we are as we develop and experience life.

    When people get all bent out of shape over the destruction of a day old or week old embryo they are projecting characteristics and attributes onto the embryo that simply don’t exist in the real world. They superstitiously assume the existence of a soul, which is a metaphysical concept for which there is not the slightest bit of evidence. Based on misguided beliefs, they try to persuade the government to place restrictions on research that destroys embryos. No progressive government would ever listen to them.

  • Victo

    Bill I don’t see any mention of terms such as soul on this article. I don’t want to sound malicious, but assumptions are dangerous: you cannot be sure these scientists base their concern on soul or faith related subjects. I’m actually more curious about why there isn’t a wider promotion of adult stem cells research which already hold great results (or maybe I’m missing all the promo) ? How can they do anything with stem cells from a being who is still forming his brain (if I remember correctly a fœtus only have a few “sides” of his brain during the first weeks)?

    • Bill S

      “you cannot be sure these scientists base their concern on soul or faith related subjects.”

      I am sure that people doing research that involves the destruction of embryos are not concerned about those embryos having souls. Even with issues like the morning after pill or in-vitro fertilization, I think it is misguided that the Catholic Church places so much value on a day or week old embryo. The only reason I see for that position is the idea that the embryo has a soul, or if not that, characteristics that it would not assume for months, if not years after conception.

      • Victo

        Okay just to be sure: you’re point is that from your standpoint the concept of soul cannot apply to an embryo, but a fully formed human after/during birth (I’m not sure to understand your idea that you gain the soul « after years », so I’ll put aside if you don’t mind). However a baby still in the womb of his mother can have the characteristics of a being (as seen from the strictly secular view) before birth (which if I’m not wrong explain the fact that after a number of months you cannot have an abortion – well except if you leave in China and already have one child…*shivers*). So you could probably extend your definition of « an human to which you could apply the concept of soul because his developed enough to be human » to the baby « X time » after conception and before birth. Now for the baby before the said X time (which would be your limit) all I can think of now is that your vision seems tangled to the philosophy of duality mind/body of Descartes. Your idea is that the embryo is a body but it lacks the mind or soul, therefore it isn’t « bad » to destroy it. Descartes gives a position which permits to see the body as less valuable than the mind or viceversa. While you could probably use this argument (« the baby has no mind/soul yet ») with a philosophy or dogma which always give privileges to the mind over the body, it is flawed for a Catholic (and yes I know Descartes was probably trying to prove the soul immortality). I won’t rebut his idea because my eyes are tired which means my english is probably going to degenerate minutes by minutes (if I begin to write in french you know I’m gone) and it would need more than just a simple comment made by a simple Internet user. But I’ll said this: for the Catholic, the mind/soul and the body are joined together because the soul is a form of a body. They are joined for life. If there is a body, there is a soul. But if a body as no soul, from a Catholic point of view, it must be a corpse, since life is an invitation to love God. And when life vanish or is interrupted, the soul is at the door of the world where God reside or in his way for a darker place (or the Purgatory, you know). So, while I can’t talk for other denominations or religions, I think the concept of soul you’re presenting here doesn’t match greatly the one of the Catholic Church. I’ll try to back-up with sources in another comment (if I can) on the Catholic Church teachings – but now I’m too tired. Feel free to google it before me.

        • Bill S

          Victo: I appreciate you going through all this trouble to enlighten me, I really do. But within say the last two years, my worldview has changed. On one hand, I have been influenced by the New Atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, Carrier, etc.). On the other hand, say within this month, I have been similarly influenced by two incredible phenomena: the fine tuning of the universe and intelligent design (not creationism, just intelligent design).

          But, from all this, I am still convinced that there is no supernatural anything (although I might be willing to consider the fine tuning and ID as appearing to be of a supernatural nature, but these could still have natural causes that we don’t yet understand). To me, human beings are just extremely well evolved mammals. Dogs and cats don’t have souls, why should I be any different? The intelligence that resulted in a universe that can support life has created an intelligence that can recognize intelligence. That is fascinating. But does that require me to have a soul? Isn’t that just a concept that has been developed over the past 2,000 years (actually longer than that since it predates Christianity). How did that concept become a reality for which there is no real evidence?

          The Catholic Church is no longer my teacher. I disagree with everything it has to say that isn’t supported by science, reason or logic. I do appreciate the effort you have made to convince me otherwise. Thank you.

          • Rebecca Hamilton

            Bill, you do realize that what science has to say changes constantly don’t you? Also, do you understand that science is just the fine art of figuring out how God did the things He did? Just because God gave us minds that are capable — over centuries and in a cumulative way — of unraveling things He’s done, that doesn’t make either us or science God.

            As for reason and logic, those things can be and have been employed to justify any horror.

            “I disagree with everything it has to say that isn’t supported by science, reason or logic.”

            • Bill S

              “Bill, you do realize that what science has to say changes constantly don’t you?”
              Yes, it does change constantly, as well it should. It is the Church that forms an opinion and then is unable to correct itself.

              “Also, do you understand that science is just the fine art of figuring out how God did the things He did?”
              That’s how science got started, but it has a more agnostic approach now, if not atheistic. Let’s just say “secular” so as to include religious scientists.

              “Just because God gave us minds that are capable — over centuries and in a cumulative way — of unraveling things He’s done, that doesn’t make either us or science God.”
              We are really the highest known form of intelligence. That doesn’t make us God. It doesn’t make anyone God. I believe there is an ultimate intelligence behind all this, but I wouldn’t call it “God” just because people would confuse it with the Judeo-Christian God, which does not fit the bill at all.

              “As for reason and logic, those things can be and have been employed to justify any horror.”
              Yes. And religion can be employed to justify its own horror stories.

          • Victo

            I understand. I don’t have enough source to develop the idea of soul. I do however think that because we only discover a concept at a certain time it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t there all along . Therefore even if we only thought about the soul a few centuries before Christ, it doesn’t mean cavemen didn’t have souls (it’s important to remember that the Church present God as out of our time – Eternity is the present for Him). Ancient Jews didn’t believe in Heaven, it doesn’t mean Heaven wasn’t there. Anyways, I’m glad you were open to this discussion. And if I can add anything, I would suggest you look up for the definition of Beauty by Thomas Aquinas – it’s kind of out of subject but since you were talking about the fine tuning of the universe and intelligent design I thought you could appreciate it. Beauty, as Aquinas define it, must be composed of Integritas (perfection, wholeness, it must serve the purpose of the whole – nothing wasted), Consonantia (due proportion or harmony) and Claritas (is it clear ? Does it convey ?). I guess it must seem for you as far from science, but I feel that as a person who appreciate art, I should share this (this doesn’t mean an artwork who lacks one of the composite cited shouldn’t be exposed – but I do think they are a necessity in the creation of a masterpiece). After that, maybe you’ll want to scrutinize artworks and see if you find this intelligent design you’re talking about (and think about the definition by Aquinas). Have a wonderful day !

            • Bill S

              “Ancient Jews didn’t believe in Heaven, it doesn’t mean Heaven wasn’t there.”

              According to the New Testament, the Sadducees at the time of Jesus did not believe in an afterlife. I don’t know that much about the actual, historical Jesus as opposed to the one described by the evangelists, but it seems true to me that he believed that those who believed in him would never die, which, since they did, meant that their souls would live forever.

              I don’t use this train of thought to conclude the real existence of the soul. Eternal life was offered as a means of gaining more and more followers. Living forever, having a soul that lives forever, having a resurrected body, etc. all conflicts with what I believe from science, reason and logic.

              You have a wonderful day too.

              • Victo

                From what I recall they already believed in being eternal entities (at some point – since the belief evolved) and that sinners and righteous alike would go in a specific place. The reason why Christians believe in Heaven is the promise of a communion with God because of the salvation Jesus offered us (that’s why I said Heaven was already there – because the salvation did not only touch us since 2000 years – God isn’t bound by time). And since God is Goodness, Truth and Beauty, having eternal life with the absence of God is what we call Hell. While I understand where you skepticism come from (Heaven as a reward to gain a profit), but it would probably only work in our modern times and because of the misconceptions of Heaven for Christians. It doesn’t justify the conversion of the first Christians or many Christians (and I know people who believe in eternity and heaven but not God – and no they’re not spiritual). 2 reasons: 1) The portray of Heaven as an eternal vacation trip, a literal Club Med in the sky and a reward for being a supportable human being is specific to our modern medias (books, shows, even evangelical art). And 2) The concept of Happiness which appeared during le siècle des Lumières. The picture of Heaven as changed to an equivalent of an earthly happiness. No wonder more and more people now profess we’ll create Heaven on earth (which is a noble cause, but couldn’t be an equivalent of the Christian Heaven) : Heaven isn’t the eternal and constant communion with the Creator anymore, but a trip to the Barbados. However, when you read the book of Revelations, Heaven is more similar to what would be a gigantic and infinite mass. But then why the modern man doesn’t despise Heaven ? My hypothesis is because of the pursuit of happiness : If seeking to go to Heaven is the thing to do, if Heaven is far from this wicked world, then Heaven must be the home of eternal happiness, right ? While I don’t rebut this idea, it would probably be impossible for the modern man to enjoy a Christian Heaven if his idea of it is a big spa or a luxurious hotel. My point is that it seems like a big stretch to think that Heaven (as described in the Bible) would gain followers because 1) if you believe in Christ salvation and follow Him, Heaven is inevitable to reunite with God, not an option or a prize (I don’t think I would deserve more than a toast with Nutella for my good works, so Heaven…) and 2) it would look more like a chore for the secularist or the pagans (what ? No buffet ? No free wifi ? And where is my coconut drink ?). I’ll quote a catholic blogger at patheos: « If religion is the opium of the people, we are a masochistic people smoking some godawful opium ». Okay now I think I said everything I wanted, Internet consume to much of my time and I need to work.