The fad of the moment is the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ which was originally conceived to generate awareness and financial support for the ALS Association. ALS, better known as motor neurone disease, is a terrible illness and it’s great that people are taking heed of the plight of its sufferers. It would also be a good thing if there were better treatments to alleviate or even cure the disease, requiring fundraising in order to carry out the necessary research. But sadly, I would not be able to support the ALS Association and I urge other people, especially Christians, not to support them, either, at least until they make a firm stand against embryonic stem cell research.
The ALS Association and the MNDA, the British charity affiliated with it, make it clear that they are prepared to support embryonic stem cell research:
Several studies have shown that embryonic stem cells in culture can be genetically modified. Using this technology, stem cells can be modified to deliver genes and other factors to dying motor neurons. More research is needed in this area. (ALS Association website)
The Association supports this type of [embryonic] stem cell research because at present there is no viable way of studying diseased human motor neurones in the laboratory, which is greatly inhibiting our understanding of MND and the search for much-needed effective treatments. (MNDA website)
This research inevitably requires the destruction of embryos. Because a human embryo contains 46 chromosomes, the full set, it is certainly a person in its own right. Allowed to thrive without intervention (except in the case of natural spontaneous abortion) this embryo has all the material it needs to develop into a fully grown walking and talking person. Whether or not it is viable apart from the mother is of no consequence. Life begins at conception; to destroy an embryo is to destroy human life, to commit murder.
The Bible has plenty to say about the sanctity of life, even before that life has been born:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. (Jeremiah 1:5)
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:13-14)
Therefore, I condemn the destruction of embryos for any reason whatsoever, whether it be for stem cell research, abortion or IVF. There is no cause so great that it justifies murder. I would be very pleased if all medical research charities would clarify their position on the matter and any which refuse to fund embryonic stem cell research are the charities which deserve our support.