Responses to the Human Embryo and Embryonic Stem Cells: Scientific and Theological Assessments

Jones, D. Gareth
October 2005
Science & Christian Belief;Oct2005, Vol. 17 Issue 2, p199
Academic Journal
The prospect of employing embryonic stem cells for research has reignited debate over the status of the human embryo. However, the current debate centres on the very earliest stages of embryonic development, notably on the blastocyst at around 5-7 days' gestation. After a scientific overview of early embryonic development, three theological perspectives are considered. These provide insight into the contrasting ways in which the interrelationship between biblical material, traditional moral positions and scientific concepts on reproduction are currently being approached. In assessing the part biblical perspectives play, four categories of response are outlined and discussed. Of these, the one advocated is that the Bible is one of a number of sources that inform our decision-making, but may not be the predominant one. It is argued that the environment in which blastocysts are encountered has considerable relevance for theological debate, and consequently for acceptance or otherwise of the legitimacy of utilising embryonic stem cells. Two sets of Christian stances towards proceeding with embryonic stem cell investigations are contrasted in order to highlight their respective theological, moral and scientific emphases. It is concluded that both represent valid Christian responses, even though they envisage different roles for blastocysts within the human community.


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