What would you lose in order to gain something better?
I was thinking about something someone said at a Halloween party I was at last Friday. She was talking about having shark fin soup at a wedding she'd been to.
You may know, you may not. Shark meat isn't very popular (ie - no demand and no market), however sharks fin is a delicacy in Chinese cuisines. So lost of sharking boats capture sharks, haul them up, perforate and tear off the cartilaginous and meaty fins, then toss the shark back into the water. Of course after this happens, the shark is hardly going to be as agile or mobile (not to mention probably in agony). These sharks usually quickly become victims of predation after leading a short and miserable existence.
The dilemma was this: the girl was aware of the - how would I say this - immorality? - inhumanness? associated with this practice and the production of sharks fin meat. But of course the caterers had already bought, received and cooked up however many hundreds of bowls of the soup. So she ate it. Two bowls, if I remember correctly.
It would be easy to say, "Eh, why let the soup go to waste? The damage is already done, might as well eat the tasty soup, afterall it's too late to help out those sharks."
But I think that's intellectually false, and if you have strong convictions about the issue, you should refuse to eat the soup.
If enough people refuse to eat the soup, the caterers will eventually discover they're ordering and cooking up too much of it, eventually they will cut back on the orders they put in to their suppliers.
So the wasted soup, the wasted agony of those sharks writhing in the ocean after their appendages are diced off of them, becomes an investment. Sure, the sharks themselves didn't volunteer to make that investment, but as the situation exists outside their control, those who oppose animal torture and inhumane treatment of sharks should take it upon themselves to do the right thing as much as it is in their power to do so. This investment of wasted soup can produce real results.
Chris, what the hell are you talking about?!
Alright, here's the thing. That story I just told is real, but I don't especially care about the issue of sharks. Well, not true. Animal torture is horrible, the practice is barbaric and needs to be stopped.
You guys know me - I'm more about abortion and human rights for the unborn humans.
And we all know that there's a big stockpile of sharks fin soup - I mean human embryos - already in existence in kitchens - I mean laboratories - all across this country, and Europe and Asia.
People point at frozen stockpiles of embryos and see an untapped and otherwise wasted source of embryonic stem cells. But the argument to use what we have because it will be wasted is completely, 100%, absolutely bogus. Put simply, using the supply creates demand for more supply.
You can be a supporter of embryonic stem cell research on the grounds that the research will open up new therapies. I'd disagree with you, but I'm digressing. At least your opinion is honest about what you're giving up and what you hope to receive: the honest pro-embryonic stem cell researcher is willing to exchange millions and millions of human embryos for the chance that they will provide a cure. The exchange is worthwhile because the embryos are not people. In this case, the discussion for or against embryonic stem cell research centers around whether or not the embryo is human and possessing human rights.
That's fine. I can handle that.
But what you can't, can't, can't be, is a supporter of embryonic stem cell research just because the raw ingredients necessary to start that research already exist and don't have a better path before them. There are millions (I think?) of embryos in liquid nitrogen, that spent last night in the freeze, and the weeks and months before that in the freeze, back until the time when their parents had them created for the nominal purpose of having them implanted into their mom.
It's appalling how many people fall prey to this thinking.
People need to open their eyes and understand that the path of least resistance - the platform of lazy people that say, "Hey, I don't really like the idea of dissolving our multi-celled embryos and killing them to extract their inner cells... but you know what, I can't think of anything better to do with these guys over here that already exist whose creators have abandoned them to the corporate entity known as Georgia Reproductive Specialists" is disengenous and only digs a deeper hole. Pray tell what will we do when the government starts pumping billions of dollars a year into embryonic stem cell research in the search for The Cure™ and the never-ending well of human embryos dries up but now there are millions of square feet of top-of-the-line laboratory spaces dedicated to the industry of extracting, culturing, coaxing and manipulating these embryonic stem cells?
At that point, my reader, the argument won't be whether or not the embryonic humans are in possession, or should be in possession of their human rights... forget all that. You'll have a host of people glaring at you, pointing to all the millions of IVF embryos that were destroyed to accomplish the body of research thus far created, and asking you with biting tongues, "You had no problem with using them (the embryos) this way back when they were produced as extras from IVF treatment, so how can you now oppose us when we ask for permission to start creating human embryos identical to those already used, but these not meant for implantation but solely to be destroyed for our scientific work?" If you advocate abandoning the IVF embryos of today to the laboratory needles, it will make it all that much easier to abandon the mass-produced embryos of tomorrow brought into existence not in order to fully execute their genetic and cytologic parabola of development into Homo sapiens but only to be destroyed to check for their Gata5 RNA expression levels.
I pray to God that enough of the population sees this logic, and so can have a firm footing when that day comes - and it will come if people continue to put emotional responses to young actors like Michael J Fox with Parkinson's disease ahead of the real question - the generation-defining question of what it means to be Human, whether or not size or cell count determines your humanity. Dr. Suess said, "A person's a person, no matter how small..."
As a closing note:
The foundation of all this misanthropy and short-sighted calls to sacrifice these embryos on the alter of scientific advancement - the reason things are so screwed up today - is that back in the early 80s when IVF technology first became accessible to the middle class of our society, people were either too ignorant or too scared to speak out when they saw couples creating 250 embryos, getting lucky on the first implantation cycle, and scratching their heads... "Hey honey? I guess we don't need the other 225...? Wow, $500 a year to keep them frozen? That's expensive. We don't really plan on needing them, do we honey?"
You want a plan of action? Look to Italy. There, couples paying for IVF services can only create as many embryos as they plan on implanting and giving an actual shot at developing. That's not convenient? Too bad. The fact is, creating millions of embryos is a symptom of a sick society, a society that must get what they want, no matter the cost, no matter the fact that in their wake lies a legion of unborn lying quietly in dark and cold, submerged in liquid nitrogen every night back at the lab, even years later as their siblings who were implanted and born play soccer, go to Church, go to school, living their lives as the human beings we all are.
Depressing? You bet. But is this not our reality?