Science, Religion and Stem Cells
The New York Times, June 23, 2005
To the Editor:
Mario M. Cuomo mars his well-reasoned essay on the use of embryonic stem cells by characterizing the crucial moral issue as whether "human life starts at conception."
Even the earliest embryo conceived of human parents is alive and a member of Homo sapiens, and that is enough, in the eyes of many, to make it a living human being.
The crucial moral question is not when human life begins, but when human life reaches the point at which it merits protection.
It is to that question that the significance of consciousness and viability, discussed by Mr. Cuomo, should be addressed.
Unless we separate these two questions - when does life begin, and when does it merit protection? - we are unlikely to achieve any clarity about the moral status of embryos.
Princeton, N.J., June 20, 2005
The writer is a professor of bioethics at Princeton University.