Embryonic Stem Cell Research and on Animal Rights (1760 words)

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QuestionQuestion

Answer the following two essay questions.

1. Your first essay question is on the topic of Embryonic Stem Cell Research, which we covered during Week Five. To answer this question, you need to read through two articles on this topic:

The first is a 2009 speech from President Obama, when he lifted the federal ban on funding for embryonic stem cell research imposed by President Bush in 2001.

The second is a short summary of the Catholic Church’s teachings on embryonic stem cell research.

After reading through these articles, address these questions in your essay:

a) Start off by explaining what a stem cell is, the different types of stem cells, where we can obtain these different types of stem cells, and why scientists think that they are special and important.

b) Explain why President Obama thought it was morally permissible to provide federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Then explain which of the four different ethical theories that we studied in Week One President Obama seems to be drawing on to develop his view that it is morally permissible to provide federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. After that, explain why Obama thinks that there is no conflict between using our best science to pursue embryonic stem cell research while adhering to high moral standards.

c) Explain the Catholic Church’s position on the moral permissibility of embryonic stem cell research. In explaining the Catholic Church’s position on the moral permissibility of embryonic stem cell research, be sure to answer at least these questions: 1) why do they think that embryonic stem cell research is morally wrong, 2) how do they respond to the charge that since we have some spare embryos left over from things like In-Vitro Fertilization that are going to eventually die or be destroyed anyway, it’s morally OK to destroy these embryos to obtain embryonic stem cells from them to try to bring about a ‘greater good’ from these embryos, and 3) drawing upon what is stated in the article on
the Catholic Church’s position, how would the Catholic Church respond to the claim that we must harvest embryonic stem cells in order to make the medical progress needed to treat various serious diseases?

d) End by beginning to develop your own views on the issue of the moral permissibility of using embryos for stem cell research. Do you think that it is morally permissible or not? Why or why not?

2. Your second essay question is on the topic of Animal Rights, which we covered during Week Six.

The first is a 2008 Newsweek article, “The Rights of Animals,” by Peter Singer.

The second is a 2008 article, “The Rights of Apes – and Humans,” again by Peter Singer, which appeared in a number of newspapers around the world.

After reading through these articles, address these questions in your essay:

a) Drawing on both articles, explain some of the concrete ways in which the Animal Rights movement has made advances around the world in terms of changing public policies towards animals.

b) Drawing on the Newsweek article, explain some of the further changes that would be made to human society and culture if the Animal Rights movement were to gain further ground and traction the way that the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s did.

c) Drawing on both articles, explain how Singer defends the idea that animals have rights.

In explaining Singer’s view, be sure to address these questions:
1) What is the foundation that Singer sees the issue of animal rights resting on?
2) How does Singer draw upon the idea that there are severely mentally handicap humans and infants that are very intellectually limited but still are thought to have rights to defend the idea that there are at least some animals that should be recognized as having rights? (Note: Singer doesn’t explicitly use the term ‘mentally handicap infants and adults’ but when he is talking about very low-level intelligent humans, this is what he has in mind)
3) How is Singer’s defense of animal rights similar to the position we studied by Tom Regan?

d) After discussing the Animal Rights movement and the advances it has made, and the further changes it would bring about if it gains further traction, as well as how Singer defends it in these articles, explain how Carl Cohen would respond to Singer’s case for animal rights.

e) End by developing your own view on the issue of Animal Rights. Do you think that animals have rights and that we should not use them in medical experimentation or even, more radically, not raise them for food, or do you not think that animals have no rights and that it is fine to use them in medical experimentation and to raise them for food?

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Stem cells are biologically unique because they are as yet undifferentiated precursors to any other type of human cell or tissue. But, moral issues arise from this biological fact because, in a lab, stems cells can be made to selectively differentiate into a chosen cell type. One type, pluripotent stem cells, have the potential to be developed into any type of cell because they are maximally undifferentiated – essentially blank slates not yet developing into a particular cell. Pluripotent cells are obtained from fertilized human eggs, i.e. human embryos. A second type, multipotent cells, are undifferentiated but to a lesser degree than their pluripotent counterparts, and have begun developing into a broad category of cell – while yet retaining the plasticity to be steered toward becoming a particular, sub-type cell of that broad category. Multipotent cells can be obtained from human adult bone marrow, for example. Stem cells’ undifferentiation, particularly that of pluripotent cells, and their ability to be directed down developmental pathways to become particular cells, make them—potentially—powerful sources of treatments for a range of conditions, from cancer to Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis...
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