Well, here's one for scientists to ponder. A US court has put a restraint on the use of stem cells for research, on the grounds that it kills human embryos. Of course, commercial and research interests who would stand to be limited in what they do, naturally don't like that, and will complain. They'll raise all sorts of sanctimonious arguments about the importance of this research for human health.
Naturally, the religious right will feel triumphant. They'll offer sanctimonious arguments about the importance of sacred human life. If you were in that camp, you would, too.
Of course this is not just about human embryos. From the instant of fertilization, a zygote is a human (for that matter, a sperm or egg cell is 'human' in important ways). The abortion and stem cell research debates are off-base when the side that wants these to be legal tries to pretend otherwise.
As we well know, the other side typically takes a religious posture about this and says we can't harm human life -- unless it has some other color or religion, or could be targeted by a drone, or lives inexcusably in the Holy Land, or deserves capital punishment. (Hopefully, they won't extend their religious thinking, as some 'religions' do, to stoning such offenders!)
The sanctimonious humanitarian argument about what should be allowed is often self-serving. Even humanitarian scientists, and the religious, barely extend protection to mice, despite a lot of institutional committees established to protect against unnecessary cruelty. Unfortunately for the mouse, cruelty is in the eye of the investigator, even though mice are clearly our close relatives (do they have 'souls'?). And animal protection rules don't extend to insects and basically not to fish either. So scientists, even those who know life is all connected by the threads of evolution, rationalize what being 'humane' is, for their own interests. (Stoning mice for research purposes is, fortunately, probably prohibited.)
These are culture wars, in which ideas of what constitutes a killable or manipulable life are the symbolic grain of sand over which the combat takes place. From carnivore to Jayne, we each have to draw the line where, for us, killing the innocent is acceptable.
So, what do you think?
Fortunately, it has become increasingly possible to redifferentiate or dedifferentiate somatic (body) cells from adults for therapeutic use on the same person, and most people, scientists and lay public alike, will applaud such efforts.
That won't, however, entirely deal with the issues, such as the use of those cells for research rather than direct therapy. After all, if one of your skin cells can be grown into something more impressive, like a kidney or new embryo, how is that different from manipulating embryos as it's done today? Is it splitting a soul into multiple parts? What about transplanting a somatically cloned kidney into a donor's twin?
It's too bad we can't deal with these issues for what they are, cultural decisions, but instead have courts and others debating as if this is about science, what any biologist knows to be true. A zygote, a somatic cell, an embryo: all are 'human' in some sense of the term. Even insects show fear. The religious can argue that their sacred texts tell them one thing; scientists can argue for the material practicalities of what they believe would be worthwhile research. In a democracy, what counts as what kind of life is, to a great extent, decided by vote.
But our society shouldn't muddle such decisions or understanding of science by placing cultural debates within an arena of cultural combat.