Two different scientific teams have independently discovered they can convert normal human cells into “embryonic” stem cells without destroying or cloning embryos. For those of us who realize that “embryo” is just shorthand for an embryonic person, this is great news. See the NYT and the Washington Post
Yuval Levin says that this solution to the embryo-destroying stem cell problem is a model for other ethical problems. I don’t see it. Ultrasound just shifts the terms of the abortion debate, but it doesn’t make the debate obsolete. I suppose the abortion controversy could go away if we eventually can take embryonic babies and raise them in artificial wombs just as easily as we can abort them. But that solution itself could be a problem ethically.
And some problems are just intractable. If you think there’s some kind of ethical problem with parents radically gene editing their kid to rewire his brain structure into something alien, to take an extreme example, you probably won’t be happy if scientists discover they can accomplish the same result with surgery and hormone therapies. The only way science could “solve” this problem is if it failed to make these technologies available in the first place.
The embryo-destroying stem cell controversy was always a controversy about the means to reach an end that everyone agreed on. Science could avoid the controversial means, and now it probably has. But when we disagree on ends, we disagree.
But lets not suck lemons. This is great news.