First, the good news. There is no stem cell debate. The whole thing is an exercise in barrow pushing and button pushing. This I learned recently when I was lucky enough to hear a talk by a chap named Graham Parker who is on the board of the journal ‘Stem Cell Research’ and works at a research hospital in Michigan.
*The more differentiated a stem cell is when you start messing around with it, the more effective it is. This is why we still need blood transfusions, and don’t culture haemotopoetic stem cells. Inner-cell-mass-derived (aka embryonic) stem cells are less differentiated than somatic (aka adult) stem cells and appear much more likely to turn into invasive cancers when you inject them into mice.
*Nobody has a clue how stem cells really work clinically. It does not look like they just move in and turn into the sort of cells that are around them. They do other weird things that nobody understands yet. No responsible government would license their use on a general basis.
*The chaps who first discovered inner-cell-mass-derived stem cells never claimed they had clinical uses. They still don’t. They are of fundamental importance in understanding developmental biology, which is important fundamental research and will eventually lead to all sorts of innovations- but they won’t involve injecting people with stem cells. 97+% of this fundamental research could be done with stem cells of the other mammals that we share so much of our DNA with.
So this is what I learned: Stem cells are not going to cure every known disease. ‘Adult’ stem cells are going to be better than ‘embryonic’ stem cells at curing stuff. There is never going to be any industrial scale production of inner-cell-mass-derived stem cells. There is not much point arguing about them, one way or another.
Second, the bad news. I sort of suspected this for a while, given that they adhere to the vitalist ‘ensoulment’ model that I have previously maligned, but Muslim scholars are not reliable on abortion.
Of the four main Sunni legal schools:
* The Hanbali allow abortion up to 40 days.
* The Shafi’i allow abortion up to 80 days, or sometimes 120.
* The Halafi- which are dominant in Central Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, and the former Ottoman Empire and include those pathetic liberal pansies, the Taliban- allow abortion up to 4 months after conception.
* Only the Maliki- dominant in North and West Africa, including about 25% of the world’s Muslims- show a glimmer of sense, saying that life begins at implantation.
The Shi’a of Iran, like their neighbours in Turkey and Central Asia, say ensoulment happens at 4 months – or sometimes 4 and a half. In fact, the abortion laws of Iran were ‘liberalised’ after the Islamic revolution. They were stricter under the Shah!
So there doesn’t seem to be any point in working towards a global caliphate. Depressed now.