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Mohler compares embryo research to Nazi Germany in panel discussion

LEXINGTON, Ky. (BP)–Embryo research is a “nightmare scenario” reminiscent of the hydrogen bomb, according to R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., who appeared on the television program “Kentucky Tonight” Aug. 16.
Mohler was one of four panelists who cordially discussed the issue of embryo research, specifically stem cell research, on the live program broadcast across Kentucky on public television. The other three participants were Robert Sexton, a Louisville neurosurgeon and chairman of the Jefferson County Medical Society’s ethics committee; James Thobaben, professor of medical and social ethics at Asbury Theological Seminary; and Panos Zavos, professor of reproductive physiology and andrology at the University of Kentucky.
Stem cell research is a relatively new technique that utilizes certain undeveloped “stem” cells which have the ability to develop into any kind of cell or tissue in the body. The stem cells come from aborted human embryos and could theoretically be used to replace diseased or damaged tissue in human patients.
Mohler said the creator of the hydrogen bomb “saw it detonate and realized that they had opened something he wished they had never started. I really think what has happened with the embryo research is a nightmare scenario of equal proportion, perhaps greater. What is involved here is the wanton destruction of human life.”
Sexton and Zavos took a position contrary to Mohler’s. “I think that the embryonic tissue can be used and I think that there’s lots of embryos out there that are available, whether we like it or not,” Zavos said. “It’s a marvelous tool via which I think that we can increase and improve the quality of life for a lot of people without violating anybody’s ethics.”
But although the scientists argued for the benefits of stem cell research, they both agreed the issue wasn’t clear-cut.
“These are human cells,” Sexton said. “That places constraints and ethical tensions and religious tensions and all sorts of things on this type of research.”
For Mohler, however, the ends don’t justify the means. The Southern Seminary president said there are more than 100,000 embryos in the United States which have been cryogenically frozen and stored, some of which will be used for medical experimentation.
“Quite frankly, it sounds to me much more like Nazi Germany than the America that we know,” Mohler said.
Instead of using stem cells from aborted fetuses, Mohler said researchers should instead use stem cells from other sources — such as spontaneously aborted fetuses, blood from the umbilical cord or even from bone marrow in adults. “I would say that stem cells taken from fetuses who died as a result of a spontaneous abortion are an entirely different moral category here, for there is no destruction of human life,” he said.
Mohler argued that the importance of preserving human life at all costs should take priority in such ethical quandaries as stem cell research. “We ought clearly to understand that embryo is a human being, worthy of all protection from the very moment of fertilization,” he said. As for determining the point when life begins, Mohler said “the only failsafe position for any civilized society is to go back to the point of fertilization.”

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  • Tim Ellsworth
    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.Read All by Tim Ellsworth ›