In a story in today's New York Times we learn what most rational folks suspected all along: you don't really need embryos to do stem-cell-like research anyway. As soon as the stem cell debate got under way in earnest a few years back, anyone who opposed it, even for principled reasons (or sometimes because of one's principled reasons), was seen as some sort of troglodytic moron living in the middle ages and benightedly ignorant of the aims and needs of science. Objections about doing unethical research on "human beings" were dismissed as quaintly unscientific and out of touch with modern reality.
Now it turns out that you can create stem-cell-like cells out of human skin cells just by adding four genes. To put it more bluntly, there is no need either to make or destroy human embryos in order to carry out this research.
Will there be any apologies from the Forces of Evil? Don't hold your breath, since they would approve of stem cell research even if it required killing everyone's grandmother to get the cells. But today's story certainly underlines a point that is often overlooked in the rush to judgment of the utilitarian crowd: in addition to the fact, which I have already noted in earlier posts on this subject, that some advances in science may not be worth the price we have to pay in order to gain them, we may add the fact that limited technology ought not to be used as an excuse to do the inexcusable. Some folks seemed to think that stem cell research was the silver bullet that was going to eradicate a whole host of nasty human ailments, and they thought this without any empirical evidence to support the idea; but more importantly, these folks were willing to toss any argument against them out the window without even considering pursuing alternative research strategies. In short, many early proponents of stem cell research were arrogant as well as short sighted and unethical.
Now we learn that any embryos that have been destroyed in this line of research were killed to no purpose whatsoever.
We live in debauched times, but at least some of us can now act all superior about it.