The Harm That Religion Does
Singer, Peter. Free Inquiry24. 4 (Jun/Jul 2004): 17,58.
Singer examines the issues surrounding embryonic stem research, which is being opposed by the religion. He claims that embryonic stem cell research may eventually lead to therapies that could be used to treat diseases that afflict approximately 128 million Americans and hundreds of millions more citizens of other nations. He adds that no observer of American politics can doubt that, if it were not for religious opposition to the destruction of these early embryos, federal funding would be available for research in this area.
Ever since August 2001, when President Bush announced his shaky compromise policy on federal funding for research on stem cells, American scientists have been charging that the policy severely impedes progress in this promising new area. Bush's policy allowed federal funding only for research using stem cell lines that were in existence on the date of his speech. Thus, he maintained, such funding would not encourage anyone to destroy human embryos to obtain stem cells, because if they did so, the newly created stem cell lines could not be developed or studied with federal funding.
On August 9,2001, Bush claimed that "more than sixty genetically diverse stem cell lines already exist." Finding these stem cell lines proved difficult, however, and many of them turned out not to be suitable for research. In September 2002, Dr. Curt Civin, a stem cell researcher at Johns Hopkins University, told a congressional committee that "embryonic stem cell research is crawling like a caterpillar" and that stem cells were available "only to those persistent and patient enough to jump through a series of hoops and endure lengthy waits."1 Subsequent reports put the number of stem cell lines that satisfied federal guidelines for funding and were useful for research at eleven. Senator Arlen Specter, a Republican from Pennsylvania, asked...