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Cell Research and Sacrifice for Others: the Inconsistency of the Conservative
Many conservatives seem not to understand the contradictions among their most cherished beliefs.
They oppose stem cell research bill on the grounds that it is wrong to sacrifice one life for another, while supporting wars that are not purely matters of self-defense, but are matters of freedom and liberation, or “nation-building”. In such wars, some lives are sacrificed for the well-being of others.
More importantly, the fundamental belief of conservative evangelical Christianity is the principle of sacrifice by God of His only child for the good of others. John 3:16 says, as every conservative fundamentalist Christian knows, that “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” For Christians, there is no nobler act or greater gift of love. But conservative Christians, in regard to stem cell research, hold that it is wrong to sacrifice one life for another. Presumably they think God was wrong to sacrifice His son for them.
The response might be that we are not God. True, we are not. But an act is not wrong for one person to do and right for another, unless there is some morally relevant grounds for the difference, and it is not a morally relevant reason that they are simply two different beings. We are supposed to try to emulate God in some ways; why not this one? What is the relevant difference between God and us that God is right to sacrifice His son for other people and we would be wrong to sacrifice our embryos for other people? And how can one hold that if it is wrong to sacrifice one life for another, how can we applaud God for doing it.
Even being God does not give one the right to kill the innocent. In Genesis 18: 22-25, Abraham argues with God about destroying Sodom:
"Abraham remained standing before the LORD. Then Abraham approached him and said: "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" And even God agreed with this line of thought, saying in verse 26: "If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake."
So it is not the case that it is right for God to do whatever He does or whatever He thinks he wants to. Thus just being God does not make it right for Him to have sacrificed His son; and therefore one cannot make this particular moral distinction on the basis that we are not God and He is. If God is bound by what is right, and we are too, it behooves us both to know what is right, not just that we are not God and He is. Even God must know what is right and not just know that He is God.
Without some sound moral reason for distinguishing why it was okay for God to sacrifice His breathing, conscious, suffering, fully formed son, but not for anyone else to sacrifice their embryonic cells (that will never become conscious living beings anyway) in order to add many years and infinite quality to the lives of countless innocent people, one cannot simply say stem cell research is morally wrong because it is morally wrong to sacrifice the life of one person for another. Furthermore one cannot consistently or without hypocrisy say that because it is wrong for us to sacrifice one life for another we cannot sacrifice our embryos for healing the devastatingly ill and injured while we at the same time sacrifice our conscious, breathing fully formed children, who have the best parts of their lives still ahead of them, for waging war that others might benefit?