REV. DEACON FRIEDEL Science should weigh full impact

You might recall that not too many years ago the scientific community appealed to the U.S. Congress to fund a "Superconducting Super Collider" (SSC) in Texas for sub-atomic particle research. The price tag for this "plum" was approximately $11.8 billion to construct the facility, with annual operating costs of about $500 million.
The machine would consume enough electricity to run a fairly large city and would employ hordes of people in construction, operations and research. In return for such a massive "investment," we were promised the most fantastic discoveries that you could possibly imagine. But then, the request for that funding came in a time of massive federal budget deficits and the project was wisely rejected.
Destroying research: Yet, the cost/benefit analyses at the time did not take into consideration a fundamental philosophical issue about the methodology of sub-atomic research itself: How was it possible to discover the fundamental nature of atomic matter by destroying it? Analogously, would it make any sense for a biologist to study rats by putting them into a blender and grinding them into little bitty pieces? Surely, the resulting slurry would tell him little of any scientific value. But the atomic scientists told us that their smashed-up atoms would reveal the innermost secrets of the universe.
Most of us understand rather intuitively that broken window glass, or rats, or atomic particles yield broken pieces that are unlike the original. So why would we study broken pieces of things? If that methodology had any real validity, we would more profitably spend our time in the city dump rather than in research laboratories.
Still, many of us believed the scientists and bought their argument that other countries would grab the lead in sub-atomic particle research if the United States did not step forward to fund the SSC project. From time to time we still hear scientists warning us that we will enter the Dark Ages of scientific research if we do not plunk down those billions for their plaything. Fortunately for us, the price tag was so steep we could not indulge them in their fantasies -- even if we failed to address the philosophical issues involved in such research.
Stem-cell issue: Today, stem cell research has become the latest scientific pipe dream. We have been promised endless wonders of biological renewal and miraculous cures from that line of research if only we have the sense to fund it. But, as in sub-atomic particle research, we seem to have ignored the philosophical -- and the theological -- issues of methodology involved in this research into stem cells in the mad rush for federal dollars.
The entire aim of stem-cell research is to grow cells that already exist. Wouldn't it make more sense to go to one of our local elementary schools and "harvest" those cells directly from one of the boys or girls running around the playground? Of course, many would say that is out of the question because to do so would be a violation of the rights of an individual to life. If you object to the playground, how about finding our "donors" in the prison yards as the Chinese do? Again, I suspect many might object.
Defining humanity: Why, then, do others find it so convenient to believe that the zygote is a more appropriate object from which to pluck these stem cells? After all, it, too, is a person with the same God-given rights to life that the sixth-grader or grandma has. They wouldn't think of carving up the sixth-grader to get Superman out of his wheelchair. Why do they think they can do it then with those first appearances of real personhood? Perhaps what I'm asking them to decide is the appropriate point to recognize the inviolability of human life. Six minutes? Six days? Six years? Sixty years? When?
The Holy Orthodox Church has always taught that we are created in the image and likeness of God from the very moment of conception. At no time do we cease to exist as persons with those God-given rights to life and that is solely because of that creation in the image and likeness of God.
Further, the Church teaches that, at all stages of human life, the person is inviolable. Killing the zygote -- or grandma -- is killing just the same -- even if it makes Superman fly again. When the adherents of stem-cell research parade all their wonderful promises before you, remember, precisely, what they intend to do to that zygote.
XThe Rev. Deacon William E. Friedel is deacon at St. Michael Orthodox Church in Youngstown.