"On Monday night University College Cork (UCC) Philosophical Society held a debate on the motion "That this House supports UCC's decision to use embryonic stem cell research." The catalyst for the motion was the decision by UCC to conduct embryonic stem cell research using surplus IVF embryos. Among others, the society had invited Baroness (Mary) Warnock to speak. Prior to the debate, the projection screen (pictured) advertised a forthcoming debate about the 1916 Easter Rising, subtitled: "Wanted: for crimes against the Irish State", which I felt neatly summed what many Irish feel about the influence of British and other foreign anti-lifers in Ireland!
Baroness Warnock (pictured) said that:
- there is an “absolute moral obligation” to conduct embryonic stem cell research, and a scientist who chose not to conduct it would be "failing in their moral duty". I think we can see in this claim a clear threat to conscientious objection.
- UCC's decision to allow embryonic stem cell research is means Ireland is "at the beginning”. Of the slippery slope?
- there was “no precise moment” at which a human embryo becomes a human. This is a really pathetic argument, so amateur that it would be laughed at in any other field.
- human-animal hybrid embryos are not hybrid animals because they won’t be implanted and therefore won't develop into animals. Her claim mirrors the bizarre idea that only a human being which is viable (i.e. likely to live) constitutes human life, and therefore non-viable human beings are only potential life. This idea would justify the killing of the terminally-ill, which Baroness Warnock is notorious for promoting also.
- embryonic stem cells are better than adult stem cells because they are able to turn into all 200 tissue-types of the human body. Such totipotency, however, is in fact a disadvantage, because it makes embryonic stem cells uncontrollable.
- everyone is agreed that all forms of stem cells hold enormous potential. This is a completely misleading claim, as years of human embryonic stem cell research have failed to benefit even one patient, and this absence of results may well be because it has no intrinsic potential. In fact, Dr Moore contradicted himself later when he admitted that embryonic stem cells were too dangerous to use in therapy and could only be used as a research model.
- there is no reason why Ireland should not allow embryonic stem cell research using surplus IVF embryos, because Ireland already allows IVF and the morning-after pill (which Dr Moore pointed out was abortifacient), as well as allowing the use of cells from foetuses aborted overseas. In fact, he said that destructive experimentation upon embryos is an inevitable part of IVF.
- the knowledge of how to reprogramme adult cells was gained, and could only have been gained, through embryonic stem cell research. What Dr Moore didn't tell the audience was that this knowledge was gained not through using human embryos but mouse embryos. In any case, as Dr James Sherley has pointed out, embryonic stem cells are not only unnecessary but not helpful for learning about adult cell reprogramming.