Embryos and Eagles: Symbolic Value in Research and Reproduction

Abstract
On both sides of the debate on the use of embryos in stem cell research, and in reproductive technologies more generally, rhetoric and symbolic images have been evoked to influence public opinion. Human embryos themselves are described as either “very small human beings” or “small clusters of cells.” The intentions behind the use of these phrases are clear. One description suggests that embryos are already members of our community and share with us a right to life or at least respectful treatment, whereas the other focuses on the differences between embryos and adult human beings with normal capacities, that is, their lack of sentience and of personal identity. The research on stem cells has been nicknamed “Frankenstein science” or presented as “research that could stop Parkinson disease.” Again, one description reminds us of scary science-fiction scenarios where the scientist is guilty of “playing God,” whereas the other description highlights the worth and potential benefits of the research outcomes.
Keywords moral status  research ethics  embryos
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    John A. Robertson (1999). Ethics and Policy in Embryonic Stem Cell Research. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 9 (2):109-136.
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