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In natural science, scientists seek to expound on the rules of nature that govern and influence our existence through scientific methods. The discipline is described as natural science to distinguish it from other branches of science such as social science, which is more concerned with the patterns and changes in human behavior.
Natural science is divided into five branches: astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics, and the earth science (Graen & Gooding, 2005). It is highly believed in the scientific world that natural science is purely driven by curiosity.
The history of natural science can be traced back to the pre-literate human era when understanding the natural world was a necessity for survival (Graen & Gooding, 2005). Knowledge was passed from generation to generation and that is how natural science came into existence. This paper seeks to outline and discuss the ethical dilemmas in natural science and precisely in stem cell research.
There has been an enormous progress in natural science over the years. One of the latest developments in this discipline is the stem cell research. However, natural science has its challenges, which include ethical issues. To describe what stem cell research is all about, it is important to understand what it entails.
All organisms are classified as either unicellular organisms or multicellular organisms. Unicellular organisms are those organisms that consist of a single cell such as bacteria while multicellular organisms are made up of many cells (Graen & Gooding, 2005). They include plants and animals.
Considering that the cell is the basic structural and functional unit of all known living organisms, stem cell research has had a great impact on natural science. Therefore, stem cells are biological cells in multicellular organisms, which can divide through a biological process known as mitosis (Graen & Gooding, 2005). Through this process of division, individual cells differentiate into different and specialized cell types. Different cells therefore can self-renew to produce more of their kind.
The ability of stem cells to differentiate into any type of cells has brought forth an opportunity for the development of treatments in varied medical conditions (Peters, 2008). Conditions such as physical trauma, degenerative conditions, and genetic diseases are good examples of problems that stem cell research can help to mitigate (Graen & Gooding, 2005). There is further anticipation on the medicinal value of the stem cells especially in repairing damaged tissues (Peters, 2008).
Stem cell research criticism
Nonetheless, the regeneration of cells has its effects. This attracted a lot of criticism with some claiming that if the practice goes unchecked some people may assume Godly supremacy. Stem cell research has been attacked through two main ethical theories, which include Consequencialism and the Deontological ethics (Weiss, 2003). The consequences of the results of stem cell research have been under greater scrutiny and the rightness or wrongness of the practice is very unclear.
The decision to reject research funding by Clinton’s administration in 1995 was influenced by moral and ethical concerns (Weiss, 2003). Religious views that oppose the human embryonic stem cell research have also played a great role in opposing the practice. Religious groups such as the Christians oppose the practice of human stem cell research arguing that human beings are created in the image and likeness of God.
This therefore prohibits any human from getting involved in any scientific alteration of the original structural formation of the human cell or body structure let alone creation of it. Their concern is the destruction of the embryo in embryonic stem research. However, they have no problem with the adult stem cell research, which does not involve or require the destruction of the embryo (Weiss, 2003).
The Catholics insist that no form of life destruction practice is acceptable whether it is done to help others or not. Therefore, the destruction of the human embryo is unlikely to gather support from the Roman Catholic adherents. Church leaders have also raised concerns about the practice of regenerating stem cells from the tissues of aborted fetuses (Peters, 2008). They argue that this would further perpetuate the formidable act of abortion, which should be outlawed.
Ethical dilemma in stem cell research
The ethical dilemma in the stem cell research has left the natural scientists with two critical moral choices. While it is their duty to avert and ease suffering, they also have the moral obligation to respect the value and protect human life. The embryonic stem cell research cannot support and respect both moral principles, because for scientists to obtain embryonic stem cells, the embryo has to be destroyed which means the destruction of a potential human life (Peters, 2008).
Nonetheless, it is possible to develop new medical treatment that can greatly help alleviate pain for suffering patients. The dilemma is to determine which moral obligation should take precedence. How to regard the embryo status is the main challenge in this dilemma. Many people feel an embryo has a full status of an actual person or a potential person. An embryo has further been defined as a full human being in the embryo stage. Hence, destroying it would amount to human life destruction.
On the other hand, supporters of the embryonic stem cell research argue that a human being is defined by psychological, emotional, and physical properties (Graen & Gooding, 2005). These essential characteristics of a human being need to be respected and protected. An early embryo that has not been implanted into the uterus is said to lack these properties (Graen & Gooding, 2005).
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Therefore, destroying the embryo to benefit a patient who is a fully formed person is justified. Supporters of the stem cell research argue that it is inappropriate to treat something that has the potential to become a person as an actual person (Graen & Gooding, 2005).
The potentiality of an embryo used in vitro fertilization to survive and become an actual person is not guaranteed (Graen & Gooding, 2005). The 14 days after fertilization period is also a factor to consider when describing the potential for a fetus to develop into a real person.
Scientists argue that the 14-day window after fertilization creates a possibility that the embryo might form or fail. This should justify the embryonic stem cell research since the fertilization may or may not develop into a full person. Natural causes influence loss of more than half of fertilized eggs. Understanding this, embryonic stem cell researchers see no harm in their practice.
The dilemma and moral stands as discussed in this paper pose a challenge in natural science. Choosing to save one life leads to losing or exposing the other to suffering which is a real dilemma.
Graen, K., & Gooding, M. (2005). Research on Human Embryonic Stem Cells Is Ethical and Needs Additional Federal Funding. Web.
Peters, T. (2008). Proleptic Ethics vs. Stop Sign Ethics Theology and the Future of Genetics. Web.
Weiss, R. (2003). 400,000 Human Embryos Frozen in U.S. Web.