By now you may have heard (front page of the Star, a piece on Q earlier today, probably more places) of the new breakthrough with stem cells. If you haven't, it goes something like this: by activating four genes in adult mammalian cells, the cells get put into a state where they can function like stem cells. This is huge, without a doubt, but it isn't the birth of the "ethical stem cell" that the Star is claiming.
These cells are not useable in anything more than tests. They can't be told how to grow after this point, and when spurred on to change, they become tumors of random material. Useful? Eventually.
The thing that bothers me most about this is that it's science walking lightly around a political issue. Sure, this technique is cheap, easy and efficient, but you know what's even more so? Directly harvesting actual stem cells.
I can't believe that we are being bullied by this bullshit idea of sacred life in embryos. If a woman wants to donate eggs, why the fuck should the government have the right to step in the way? If they're worried about people being coerced, then don't allow the sale of eggs. Bam! Presto! Done!
Eggs from in vitro fertalization clinics are being discarded, and yet somehow pulling DNA out and giving them some worth is wrong?
This whole issue is just fucking ridiculous. There is no concern about ethics (and I say that word with as much venom and contempt as I can in this case) here. So long as the research is done with the goal of medicine there is no reason for anyone to get up in arms about this. Hell, I even question the outrage over human cloning (assuming it gets to a point where the results aren't doomed to cancer, developmental issues, or premature death).
*ahem* Ok, I got a little off topic there...
Real, actual stem cells are going to be needed to further the results of these manipulated cells. They do have the bonus of eventually being useful for individual therapy, since you can get stem cells which are from the person who needs the treatment, elliminating rejection, so they do actually have a use.
At this point North America is going to be far behind the rest of the world in stem cell therapy. If we don't pick up the slack (and drop at least some of these absurd restrictions) we're going to be stuck importing the knowledge and minds behind stem cell technologies with money which our economies simply won't have.
Can anyone tell me what the big problem is with stem cells?
 Ok, I have to get back to my math, but I just had to add this: Why don't we allow stem cell research for medical purposes, but support an individual's rights to refuse to work in such a way (because I'm sure there's a ton of scientists out there who are abhored by such things /sarcasm).
And then, when we have a cure for cancer, all of the christians who use it and hate embryonic stem cells so much can be as hypocritical as the people who are against animal testing and yet use virtually any medicines.