The DC Appeals Court hears oral arguments today in the case over whether the federal government can legally fund embryonic stem cell (ESC) research.
At stake are dozens of research projects that could provide treatments or cures for millions of Americans.
Reportedly, an amicus brief to the court has been filed on behalf of Associate Professor Maureen L. Condic of the University of Utah. Dr. Condic argues, much the same as plaintiff in the case James Sherley, that the issue of when life begins has already been proven. Drs. Condic and Sherley assert that human life begins at conception: Dr. Sherley argues this from a religious perspective, while interestingly Dr. Condic argues that science has proven that life begins at conception.
Dr. Condic argues her case in a 32 page ‘white paper’ that you can read here (warning PDF).
But if you are looking for scientific proof that life begins at conception, then you won’t find it in these 32 pages. The article is introduced by other authors invoking self-proclaimed Christian beliefs about life, a tip off that the writing by Dr. Condic that follows has a religious agenda, not a scientific one. Dr. Condic’s writing reveals no proof of anything and is just rather a reflection of her own opinion.
As I have said before, science has not proven when life begins and most scientists do not believe that science can ever prove such a question, the reason being that such a question is inherently non-scientific. The question of when life begins is different for every person and every culture. For example, in Judaism and Islam, official teachings are that life begins around 40 days of gestation, but of course individual members of these religions probably have their own opinions. Millions of Christians also do not believe that life begins at conception, but others do believe that. I’m not arguing who is right or wrong, but rather the point is that the question of when life begins is not one of fact, but one of belief.
Dr. Condic’s article does not prove that life begins at conception. It does not even have any relevance as to whether the 5 day old embryos (produced entirely in a lab during fertility treatments) from which ES cells are derived are human beings.
Thus, one hopes the court denies the amicus brief as Condic’s article adds nothing to the case, is irrelevant, and simply reflects one scientist’s personal belief.