Tuesday, January 24, 2006


"Turn to the light; don't be frightened by the shadows it creates."

"Are you justified in taking a life to save life?"

The Mailbox does a lot of raving and fawning over Dream Theater. One of their songs, "The Great Debate" from 2002's Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, deals with an issue that Missouri is facing now: Stem cell research. Read the lyrics for yourself.

In a nutshell: The advocacy group Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures is circulating an initiative petition to place a stem cell research issue on the ballot. If passed by voters, the bill would allow many forms of stem cell research while banning human cloning and providing governmental oversight of research. Read the ballot language here. The petition needs about 145,000 signatures to make it on the ballot. Claire McCaskill, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, mentioned her support of the petition while stumping.

At the same time, Missouri legislators are getting together to discuss stem cell research. The Republican-led General Assembly might go in a completely different direction when putting an issue to the people (if the initiative petition gets enough signatures, this will be a moot point). Legislators will host a forum Feb. 16 in Jefferson City for members of the Missouri Press Association to discuss the many facets of the issue.

There, that catches you up. What is being left out of the debate right now is a pretty crucial component: What exactly in the tyen-shiao-duh is stem cell research, anyway? Opponents will use the public's ignorance and general unwillingness to learn things to compare stem cell research to a much more touchy issue.

If you believe Wikipedia, stem cells are primal undifferentiated cells which retain the ability to differentiate into other cell types. This ability allows them to act as a repair system for the body, replenishing other cells as long as the organism is alive. Researchers believe that such cells can be programmed and grown to help repair damaged tissues and organs, thus promising the potential to radically change treatments for disease. The problem is these special cells come from undeveloped humans. Babies in the womb.

Does that remind anyone of another polarizing issue? Such as abortion?

The Mailbox thinks that most people will vote with their hearts instead of their heads on this issue. They will do so because of comparisons to abortion--killing embryos, created by God with the potential to live, just to harvest cells for some old guy with Alzheimer's. What proponents need to start doing is educating the general public about what stem cell research actually is.

Let's face it: The medical benefits of abortion are few and far between. The medical benefits of stem cell research are much more promising and applicable. It's incumbent on supporters to tell the public exactly how those benefits can be obtained, and at what moral cost.

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