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Volume 11 FALL/WINTER 2004 Numbers 3/4

CONTENTS


STEM CELL RESEARCH:
ETHICAL DILEMMAS, MEDICAL REALITIES

About the Contributors

Preface: The Profound Controversy Over Human Stem Cell Research
Robert S. Frey

ARTICLES

The Science of Stem Cell Research: Implications for Aging and Public Policy
Richard R. Haubner, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Gerontology
College of Mount St. Joseph
Cincinnati, Ohio (USA)

Evolutionary Epistemology and the Politics of Stem Cell Research
Ronald F. White, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy
College of Mount St. Joseph
Cincinnati, Ohio (USA)

The Ethics of Belief: Taking Religion Out of Public Policy Debates
James H. Fetzer
Department of Philosophy
University of Minnesota
Duluth, Minnesota (USA)

Life, Personhood, and Somatic Nuclear Transfer: A Possible Solution to the Ethical Dilemma of Stem Cell Research
Burton J. Webb
Professor of Biology
Indiana Wesleyan University
Marion, Indiana (USA)

SELECTED BOOK and FILM REVIEWS

BOOKS

Davis Baird, Thing Knowledge: A Philosophy of Scientific Instruments
Raphael Sassower

Yvonne P. Chireau, Black Magic: Religion and the African American Conjuring Tradition
Therese A. Paetschow

Cleomedes, Cleomedes’ Lectures on Astronomy
Pedro Blas Gonzalez

GianCarlo Ghirardi, Sneaking a Look at God’s Cards: Unraveling the Mysteries of Quantum Mechanics
Art Spring

John F. Haught, Deeper Than Darwin: The Prospect for Religion in the Age of Evolution
Art Spring

Richard H. Jones, Mysticism and Morality, A New Look at Old Questions
Ingrid H. Shafer

Tod E. Jones, The Broad Church: A Biography of a Movement
Art Spring

Evonne Levy, Propaganda and the Jesuit Baroque
Clayton Crockett

Avishai Margalit, The Ethics of Memory
Yoram Lubling

Steve Neal, ed., Miracle of '48: Harry Truman’s Major Campaign Speeches & Selected Whistle-Stops
Angus Crane

Theodore M. Porter, Karl Pearson: The Scientific Life in a Statistical Age
Raphael Sassower

Jeffrey W. Robbins, Between Faith and Thought: An Essay on the Ontotheological Condition
Kathryn Locey

Andrea Sterk, Renouncing the World Yet Leading the Church: The Monk-Bishop in Late Antiquity
Rosamond Kilmer Spring

Charles Taylor, Varieties of Religion Today: William James Revisited
Yoram Lubling

Nanda Van Der Zee, The Roommate of Anne Frank
Steven Jacobs

FILMS

Arthur MacCaig, I am Become Death: They Made the Bomb
Michael J. Gorman

Peter Cohen, Architecture of Doom
Michael J. Gorman

Peter Cohen, Homo Sapiens 1900
Michael J. Gorman

John Walker, Distress Signals: An Investigation of Global Television
Paul Stiles

BOOKS OF NOTE
CUMULATIVE INDEX (Volume 11; 2004)

Abstracts of Current Issue

The Science of Stem Cell Research: Implications for Aging and Public Policy
Richard R. Haubner

Today, society is confronted with numerous chronic diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and spinal cord injury. These diseases are very prevalent within the older adult population. Currently, older adults, 65+, comprise 12.3% of the total population, and this is projected to increase to 20% by the year 2050. An increase in the older adult population, especially in the 75+ age segment, will bring with it an increase in the number of people with chronic disease. This will cause healthcare costs to spiral upward even further, and will also burden families, businesses, and the government to a greater extent. With developments in stem cell research, the potential for successful treatment of these chronic diseases appears to be close at hand. Or is it?

An overview of the science of stem cell research is provided. Important definitions, concepts, and types of stem cells are addressed. The advances of stem cell research and their potential for developing effective therapeutic interventions will be discussed with implications for aging. Public policy issues will be addressed, emphasizing the moral status of the embryo and the decision making process required for formulating public policy in the area of stem cell research. The conclusion suggests that empirical evidence must be used in determining personhood, and rational decision-making must be employed in determining public policy for stem cell research so that decisions benefit the general welfare of American citizens as a whole.


Evolutionary Epistemology and the Politics of Stem Cell Research
Ronald F. White

In the United States, public debate over governmental regulation and funding of stem cell research has been dominated by the application of incommensurable metaphysical principles, which has opened a floodgate of religious debate over the moral status of human embryos, and the utilitarian creation and use of those embryos in scientific research. Unfortunately, this framework offers little hope for the forging of public policy based on rationality and overlapping consensus. This stalemate can be attributed to two naive assumptions: first, that in a pluralistic society, irrational, incommensurable, substantive religious beliefs can be reconciled under the magic wand of open public debate; and second, that we can confidently predict the future utility (costs v. benefits) of scientific research.

So rather than contribute to that interminable “religious” conundrum, the epistemological consequences of governmental regulation and funding of scientific research will be explored. The line of argumentation will be based on evolutionary epistemology, as championed by Charles S. Peirce and Karl Popper. As it turns out, stem cell research raises two fundamental issues that relate directly to public policy and science. The first concerns the epistemic foundations for the continued advancement of scientific knowledge and technological innovation. The second addresses the political foundations for the maintenance of a “scientific culture” capable of generating sustained scientific knowledge and technological innovation.

Both the epistemic and socio-political foundations of scientific culture will be explored along with the corresponding public policy implications for the regulation and funding of scientific research in general and stem cell research in particular. The government can justifiably regulate stem cell research, and do so without eroding the socio-political environment that nurtures scientific culture. However, the question of governmental funding (and conducting) of scientific research is much more complicated. Hence, over the long run, when the government funds scientific research “in the public interest,” it opens the door to not only increased governmental control of science, but it also, by implication, may stifle innovation by steering that research toward the government’s own narrow, short-term political ends. Governmental funding may also undermine the long-term “growth of science” by its tendency to fund expensive, unpromising, “dead-end science” in political response to petitioning by special interest groups.

So although some naive supporters of stem cell research rejoice in light of President Bush’s decision to provide “limited funding” for stem cell research, it is a short-term victory at best. Over the long term, the practice of forging public policy based upon metaphysical principles espoused by a well-situated religious minority will almost certainly reduce scientific innovation and eventually erode the very foundations of scientific culture. Hence, although the Bush decision on stem cell research may yield short-term benefits, in the long term, it cloaks an insidious threat to both scientific culture and religious pluralism in the United States.


The Ethics of Belief: Taking Religion Out of Public Policy Debates
James H. Fetzer

According to a principle known as “the ethics of belief”, we are morally entitled to hold a belief only if we are logically entitled to hold that belief. We may be logically entitled to hold beliefs about logical truths and mathematics apart from observations and experiments, but beliefs about ourselves and the world around us require empirical warrants, which excludes most theological beliefs. Indeed, we are entitled to accept beliefs about ethics, no less than other beliefs, only when we are logically entitled to accept them. Debates over public policies-concerning abortion, cloning and stem cell research-should be based exclusively upon beliefs that we are logically entitled to hold, which otherwise corrupt the political process.

Life, Personhood, and Somatic Nuclear Transfer: A Possible Solution to the Ethical Dilemma of Stem Cell Research
Burton J. Webb

Stem cells can be derived from a variety of sources including: newly formed embryos, umbilical cord blood, and adult bone marrow. The potency and potential of these cells appears to vary according to their source, genetic programming, and local microenvironment. Understanding these cells has become somewhat difficult in recent years because of the regulations imposed by the Federal Government, which are directly related to the ethical issues arising from using cells derived from the earliest moments of human life. While human life is relatively easy to define, personhood is much vaguer across the spectrum of religious and theological belief. The concepts of genetic uniqueness and somatic nuclear transfer may provide the foundation for an ethical framework that makes the use of some stem cells acceptable to both sides of the ethical debate.

The cover design for the FALL/WINTER 2004 issue of BRIDGES was created by Mr. Ty Bachus.

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