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Michael J. Fox isn't telling the whole truth about stem cells in those ads.

6:54 PM, Oct 25, 2006 • By RYAN T. ANDERSON
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MICHAEL J. FOX is making a splash on television sets across Missouri, appearing in a stem cell commercial attacking Senator Jim Talent during Game 1 of the World Series. According to Fox, "Senator Jim Talent opposes expanding stem cell research. Senator Talent even wanted to criminalize the science that gives us a chance for hope." Of course Senator Talent has been a consistent supporter of increased funding for stem cell research that doesn't involve the destruction of human embryos and has only sought to criminalize human cloning, but one needn't let the facts get in the way. (And it is worth mention that Missouri has a bill on the State ballot that would allow the cloning of human beings and then require their destruction prior to gestation.)

Fox has also just released a similar ad attacking Michael Steele in his race for the vacant Senate seat in Maryland. The reality, however, is that the only person in that race to have voted against stem cell research is Steele's opponent, Ben Cardin.

In four other states, ads are attacking congressional Republicans who voted against federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The ads, paid for by the Democratic group Majority Action, attack Representatives Chris Chocola, Thelma Drake, Don Sherwood, and James Walsh. They all follow the same format: three healthy citizens tell of impending medical doom and how only embryonic stem cell research will save them. They conclude with these startling words: "Stem cell research could save lives, maybe yours or your family's, someone you love. Only Congressman Walsh said no. How come he thinks he gets to decide who lives and who dies; who's he?" (Apparently the irony of those who favor embryo-destruction accusing others of deciding "who lives and who dies" was lost on the ad's producers.)

These ads are repulsive. They play on the hopes and fears of million of Americans who are suffering from debilitating diseases, are caring for loved ones, and yearn for something, anything, to hold onto. They manipulate the public's emotions in the worst imaginable ways, promising them cures that are, in fact, quite uncertain, and pressuring them to forgo their own ethical convictions.

When emotions have subsided and right reasoning returns, one readily grasps three solid reasons to reject appeals for governmental funding of current methods of embryonic stem cell research: First, current methods are unethical as they destroy human beings in the embryonic stage of development. Second, embryonic stem cell research--contrary to all the hype claiming otherwise--doesn't show any signs of success in the near term, while adult stem cell research is curing diseases now. And third, methods of embryonic stem cell research may soon be available that will not require any human embryo destruction. That is, embryo destruction isn't only unethical: it's likely unnecessary.

The principled objection to current methods of embryonic stem cell research is that they all require the destruction of human embryos. Human embryos, as a matter of scientific fact, are human beings at a very early stage of development. For one to deny this basic biological truth isn't simply to be wrong, but to be unreasonable. The science is clear. While sperm and egg are both genetically and functionally parts of the adult parents, when a sperm fertilizes an egg and the respective pronuclei fuse; a genetically and functionally new, distinct, and unique human organism comes into existence. This embryonic human being possesses all of the internal resources necessary to guide him through further stages of development. The term embryo is a way of classifying the early human being, just as the terms fetus, newborn, infant, child, adolescent, adult, and octogenarian all refer to human beings at other stages. And even if the embryo is brought into existence by a process of cloning (for the unspoken reality of embryonic stem cell research is the necessity of cloning human embryos from the patient in order to have a genetic match and avoid auto-immune rejection), it is still the same exact biological organism as an embryo created by fertilization (if it weren't, the cloning procedure wouldn't be considered successful).