In response to Elaine Morton’s recent cartoon (Nature Calls, 01/27/2009), it was irresponsible and dangerous for the Daily to publish a cartoon that anthropomorphized embryonic stem cells. This gives a false impression of the issues behind embryonic stem cell research.

The stem cells currently allowed for use in laboratory research are created in the labs from a sperm and an egg. The embryos are not conceived naturally, and thus had no potential of ever being “human” — no more so than an egg in any month that is not used in procreation. By anthropomorphizing the cells, the cartoon implied that they have the feelings and emotions of a human. At less than five days after the fertilization (the point at which the stem cells are extracted from the embryo, destroying the embryo itself), this is simply not the case.

While many would try and draw links between this debate and the abortion debate, they are two completely separate issues. It is unknown when a fetus develops the emotions to a level where it can be considered human and have a right to life, but that point is certainly not within five days of fertilization. Of course, there is also the fact that a single cell would not “be a human” anyway, though I do not believe the cartoonist was going for scientific accuracy.

Stem cells have the potential to do so much, but the research requires the support of the general population so that appropriate funding can be allocated to these scientific programs. The good that can come of this research far outweighs the bad. Making embryonic stem cells have human characteristics — even through a cartoon — could influence understanding of the issue with no factual basis. While I do not believe this was the intention of Elaine Morton, its potential effect on public perception should have been considered.

Alexander Vilagosh
LSA junior

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