Bioethics Expert Challenges Students to Take a Stand
By Doug Carroll
The president of the Bioethics Defense Fund visited the College of Nursing on Tuesday and presented a historical context for the controversial subjects of human cloning and embryonic stem cell research.
In an engaging hourlong talk at Howerton Lecture Hall, Nikolas T. Nikas said the Dred Scott slavery decision and the horrific experiments conducted by Nazi German doctors during World War II have much in common with a current culture that sees human beings as merely utilitarian in value.It’s a slippery slope for civilization, Nikas said, calling the debate over cloning and stem cells “a titanic struggle” and urging Christians to make a stand.
“This is the utilitarian seduction,” said Nikas, whose daughter is a freshman at GCU. “It says, ‘We can give you medical utopia if you’re just willing to get out of the way.’ But we cannot give up the absolute value of a human being.”
With a slogan of “Human Rights From Beginning to End,” the Bioethics Defense Fund is a national public-interest law firm whose stated mission is to advocate for the right to life through litigation, legislation, education and media. Areas of focus include abortion, cloning and embryonic research, and end-of-life issues.
In the course of his work, Nikas has spoken and consulted with pro-life lawyers and policy makers in countries around the world, including South Korea, France, Italy, England and Mexico.
He said the waters are murky regarding cloning, with few — including lawmakers and educators — holding a coherent position.
“The debate basically goes like this: ‘I’m against cloning, but I’m for research,’” he said, noting that cloning and somatic cell nuclear transfer are frequently perceived as different things when in fact they are not.
Nikas also said it’s important to carefully distinguish between embryonic and non-embryonic stem cell research.
With non-embryonic (adult) stem cells, advancements have been made in the treatment of cancers, Multiple Sclerosis, sickle cell anemia, heart disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
“This is the place where we’re having overwhelming success,” Nikas said.
Despite the fact that no one in the world has been cured as a result of embryonic stem cell research, Nikas said, “the hype is that it’s the next big thing.” And that, he said, should worry everyone as scientists continue to push the envelope.
“Our Christian witness demands of us that we say not anything goes,” Nikas said, citing a quotation from C.S. Lewis that “man’s continuing mastery over nature leads to some men destroying other men.”
“You can’t kill some human beings to help other human beings,” Nikas said, adding that the choice is ultimately between civilization and barbarism.
He encouraged Christians to study the writings of Plato, Aristotle and other philosophers to better inform themselves about the value of life and to “resist the siren song” of utilitarianism.
“I think we are a utilitarian country now,” Nikas said. “You need to know what it means to live in a post-Christian culture. You need to stand up and be heroes.”
Reach Doug Carroll at 639.8011 at [email protected].