The problem with the stem cell debate has been the false dichotomy between either "stem-cell research or protect[ing] embryos." The problem is, "It's not about stem cells. It's about embryonic stem cells," CT wrote in an editorial. Adult stem cells work wonderfully in therapy and don't require the destruction of embryos, says C. Christopher Hook, director of ethics education for the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine.

But Science doesn't like to be told no, and in much of the reporting on the issue, the debate is framed as if its no stem cell research vs. unlimited stem cell research. And concern for nascent human life—in the form of the embryo—is increasingly disparaged.

So William B. Hurlbut has come up with a third way.

According to The Boston Globe Hurlbut, "a Stanford bioethicist and staunch opponent of research on human embryos," is trying to gain support for a plan to use embryos that could never become embryos, in order to harvest stem cells. It would actually be what journalists typically describe an embryo to be, a "cluster of cells."

It works like this, according to The Globe:

Before implanting the DNA from a skin cell into an egg, scientists would turn off a gene that helps direct the formation of the trophectoderm, an outer layer of cells that is crucial in the first stages of development and which eventually forms the placenta. With this gene silenced, the trophectoderm does not form properly.

And therefore, the cells can't become an embryo. So why wouldn't it be an embryo? Well, the cells never individualize.

Despite ethical and technical difficulties, the idea has the support of leading pro-life bio-ethicists. "Three critics of current methods for creating embryonic stem cells—Archbishop William J. Levada of San Francisco, Robert George, a member of the president's bioethics council, and Nigel M. de S. Cameron, a leading intellectual in the evangelical movement—have seen Hurlbut's proposal and said they believe it could offer a way around their moral objections. Hurlbut will present his idea to the bioethics council early next month."

But creating life, even life incapable of developing, only to destroy it could still be considered unethical. "At one extreme you have the case of the headless frog," Cameron said. "It is still a frog."

Still, Hurlbut's credentials as a pro-life scientist could overcome skepticism. "Hurlbut, 59, is a firm opponent of destroying embryos for human embryonic stem-cell research, but calls himself a passionate advocate for science and its possibilities. He graduated with a degree in biology from Stanford University and from the medical school there. A Christian who said he does not identify with any particular denomination, Hurlbut did three years of post-doctoral study in theology and medical ethics at Stanford. He said he has long been interested in "life's deeper questions,' writes The Globe."

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"Though other biologists and ethicists have suggested that human embryonic stem cells could be created without destroying an embryo, Hurlbut's proposal is the most comprehensive and politically potent. It weaves together a specific scientific approach and a sophisticated ethical argument developed with conservative ethicists and Christian leaders. In a highly politicized environment, many said Hurlbut's public record as an opponent of embryo research could be key to bridging the gap between the two sides."

In fact, one scientist who supports Hurlbut's idea is applying for money made available from California's Prop. 71, in which amended the state constitution in order to provide $259 million every year for 10 years to conduct stem-cell research. But, though it works on mice, the idea has yet to be tried on humans.

More articles:

Stem cells & science:

  • New technique eyed in stem-cell debate | With the nation deadlocked over the morality of using human embryos for research, a member of the President's Council on Bioethics is quietly promoting a proposal that might allow scientists to create the equivalent of embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos, offering a potential path out of the controversy. (Boston Globe)
  • California stem cell project energizes other states to act | To keep researchers from being lured away, other funding efforts are in the works (Los Angeles Times)
  • Technically speaking, is it a `fetus' or is it an `unborn child'? | What phrase to use in the Scott Peterson case? (Don Wycliff, Chicago Tribune)
  • U.S. withdraws effort to prohibit human cloning worldwide | The Bush administration has dropped its bid this year for a global ban on human cloning, avoiding what promised to be an acrimonious battle at the United Nations over the right of countries to clone human embryos in pursuit of cures for life-threatening diseases, U.S. and U.N. officials said Friday (The Washington Post)

Creation & evolution:

  • Cosmic conundrum | The universe seems uncannily well suited to the existence of life. Could that really be an accident? (Time)
  • Genesis through the back door | Trying to disguise creationism with the label of "intelligent design" (which sounds like an IKEA marketing pitch) doesn't pass the smell test — or any valid science test (Editorial, Los Angeles Times)
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  • Pennsylvania school district retreats from evolution | A Pennsylvania school district on Friday defended its decision to discount Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and take a lead in teaching what critics say is a version of creationism (Reuters)


  • Friends remember Mont. college benefactor | When Genesio Morlacci left $2.3 million the University of Great Falls, a small Catholic school, many people were astonished at the wealth amassed by a man who operated a dry-cleaning shop and later worked as a part-time janitor in retirement (Associated Press)
  • William Tyndale College closing Dec. 31 | Administrators of the private Christian college told faculty, staff and students yesterday that the school doesn't have money to operate past the end of the year (Associated Press)
  • William Tyndale College closing Dec. 31 | William Tyndale College, a 313-student nondenominational Christian school founded in 1945, is closing Dec. 31 after the collapse of a deal to shore up its finances. (Detroit Free Press)
  • Revision marches to social agenda | Conservative state Board of Education leans on publishers to tweak marriage and sexuality references in public school health textbooks (Los Angeles Times)

Jerry Falwell's law school:

  • Falwell's school joins others in teaching law to their flocks | The legal program at the reverend's university represents the latest effort by the religious right to change American society (Los Angeles Times)
  • Giving the law a religious perspective | The Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University is part of a movement around the nation that brings a religious perspective to the law (The New York Times)
  • Ashcroft, Falwell are bad for America | Two enemies of American freedom, Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Rev. Jerry Falwell, were back in the news this week. (Marc R. Masferrer, Palm Beach Post, Fla.)

Religion & politics:

  • GOP constituencies split on tax change | President Bush faces key Republican groups that are divided about how or even whether to proceed with an overhaul of the tax code (The New York Times)
  • A firebrand on drug safety | Prolife Catholic David J. Graham says the Food and Drug Administration is "incapable of protecting America." And he runs it. (The New York Times)
  • Accord is near on $388 billion federal spending bill | Domestic programs would grow little; provision bars discrimination against prolife institutions (The Washington Post)
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  • President's faith viewed as zealotry | Most presidents have spoken of religion (Times Picayune, New Orleans)
  • Prophet motive | When extremists scream, the world is forced to listen. Soon, religious moderates will speak their piece too (Cynthia Banham, The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia)
  • Blessed are the lawmakers | Conservative Christianity roared back into political fashion at last month's federal election. The Liberals' Louise Markus, a prominent member of the Hillsong Church, was elected to the Sydney seat of Greenway, while Steve Fielding, a member of the Christian right Family First Party, was elected to the Senate in Victoria. (The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia)
  • Conservatives celebrate election triumphs | The winners are claiming their postelection trophies quickly in Congress. Emboldened conservatives are working to box in an abortion-rights Republican who will chair a key committee chairmanship, while a grateful House GOP decides that not even an indictment should automatically strip Majority Leader Tom DeLay of his power. (Associated Press)
  • Americans show clear concerns on Bush agenda | After enduring a brutally fought election campaign, Americans are optimistic about the next four years under President Bush, but have reservations about central elements of the second-term agenda he presented in defeating Senator John Kerry, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll. (The New York Times)

Opinion on religion & public life:

  • Secularism is simply respecting differences | Enough of all this religious carping about the evils of the liberal consensus (Chris McGillion, The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia)
  • Unreason and excess on all sides | In the post-election climate, reason needs to be defended from the right-wing "moral values" zealots; but it also needs to be defended from the left-wing fearmongers who act as if we were one executive order away from a Taliban-like theocracy (Cathy Young, The Boston Globe)
  • For the faithful, fighting back isn't an option | If the gospel of Christ has been hijacked, abused and buried by the moralists on the Christian right, Donald Miller has bittersweet counsel for those on the Christian left: To be faithful to your God, fighting back isn't an option. (Steve Duin, The Oregonian)
  • Bigotry in disguise | I am struggling to understand the "don't impose your values" argument. According to this popular belief, it is wrong, and perhaps dangerous, to vote your moral convictions unless everybody else already shares them. Of course, if everybody already shares them, no imposition would be necessary. (John Leo, Dallas Morning News)
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  • When hatred is necessary | Jewish tradition holds, with Ecclesiastes, that there is a time to love and a time to hate (Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe)
  • The Protocols of Evangelicals | There's a new bigotry in town. It comes equipped with an epithet or two — "religious right" is the favorite term now — and will no doubt soon produce something equivalent to the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" (Jay Ambrose, The Washington Times)
  • Values voters and the left | Over the last eight days I have been interviewed at least 50 times by reporters seeking an answer to the apparently difficult question: "Who are these values voters?" Many of the interviewers have been condescending at best and outright hostile at worst (Gary Bauer, The Washington Times)

Arlen Specter:

  • The muzzling of Arlen Specter | Threatened with the loss of a chairmanship that tradition dictated would be his with little question, U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., had to trade any semblance of independence for assurance from GOP conservatives that they wouldn't derail his ascent to head the Senate Judiciary Committee. (St. Petersburg Times, Fla.)
  • Religious Right lays claim to big role in GOP agenda | Just elected to a fifth term, Arlen Specter is Pennsylvania's senior senator and one of the Senate's most senior Republicans. He is also now the No. 1 enemy of religious conservatives nationwide, and it may yet cost him something that otherwise would be his by right: chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee (Congressional Quarterly)

Church & state:

  • Ruling limiting prayers at public meetings causes stir in Bible Belt | 4th Circuit's decision has snuffed traditional prayers in some towns, ushered in nondenominational prayers or moments of silence in others, and left many officials confused over what is allowed (Associated Press)
  • Christian-Republican alliance: Faustian bargain? | When religion, politics mix too thoroughly, religion may find itself compromised (Charles C. Haynes, First Amendment Center)

Boy Scouts:

  • Boy Scouts reassured on military links | U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson sought to reassure Boy Scout leaders that they will continue to get some help from the military in the wake of a court ruling outlawing direct Pentagon sponsorship. (Associated Press)
  • A law club for (straight) members only | In a series of lawsuits that rely on the legal precedent set by the Boy Scouts of America in 2000, a Christian law group is battling university officials across the country to be allowed to bar gay members (Time)
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  • House condemns criticism of Boy Scouts | The House on Saturday commended the Boy Scouts and condemned legal efforts to limit government ties to the group because of its requirement that members believe in God (Associated Press)

Religion & spirituality:

  • Give them some of that free-market religion | A growing group of sociologists says Americans are fervently religious because there are so many churches competing for their devotion (The New York Times)
  • Giving God a place at the head of the table | The election battles over same-sex marriage behind them, some conservative Christians have returned their attention to a longstanding struggle over the singularly American holiday of Thanksgiving (The New York Times)
  • Bound by belief and womanhood | Md. conference participants welcome inspirational stories, advice on everyday life (The Washington Post)

Billy Graham:

  • 10 questions for Billy Graham | How he's feeling, how many crusader he has left in him, what he thinks of politics, and other issues (Time)
  • Billy Graham wraps up historic crusade | The Rev. Billy Graham delivered a 45-minute sermon at the Rose Bowl to wrap up a crusade marking the 55th anniversary of the Los Angeles revival that propelled him to national fame (Associated Press)
  • For Graham, a journey continues | Despite health problems, the preacher still attracts thousands with message (Baltimore Sun)
  • By heaven, Mr Graham, you very nearly had me converted there | Then Graham himself appeared. I had to admit it: with his mad, white hair and black cloak, he rocked. In fact, that he looked like Johnny Cash's bad, older brother. And from the moment he started to talk about "the crawz" (the Cross), I was completely transfixed. (Chris Ayres, Times, London)
  • In time of turmoil, Graham offers soothing words | Much of his message seemed focused on personal responsibility (The New York Times)

Missions & ministry:

  • Who will get caught in the IRS's sights? | It's the audit heard 'round the nonprofit world (Jeffrey M. Berry, The Washington Post)
  • Homelessness trends | The nation's rescue missions have seen an increase in female clients and are finding that older people need their services more, according to a survey by the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (Religion News Service)
  • Living one's faith among the poor | An Azusa Pacific program places interns in service to the community in L.A. Student Brendan Alley helps the homeless (Los Angeles Times)
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  • Brewing a robust blend of church, commerce | In a startling mix of religion and chain-store culture, Starbucks has become a prime attraction at Grace Capital Church (The Boston Globe)
  • Another church steps up to serve | Busy food pantry finds a new location after closing of St. Joseph's in Salem (The Boston Globe)

World Vision pulls out of Iraq:

  • World Vision pulls relief workers out of Iraq | Relief organization deems country too dangerous to stay (The News Tribune, Tacoma, Wa.)
  • Relief group pulls workers from Iraq (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
  • Earlier: U.S. aid workers return to Iraq, encouraged by achievements (Seattle Times, November 8)


  • Burning cross left at home of interracial couple on Long Island | "Vengeance is the Lord's," said wife. "God will repay. That's what the Bible says" (The New York Times)
  • After attacks on homeless, students turn to charity | When the police arrested five high school students last month in four assaults on homeless people, something referred to in the school as "bum hunting," the beach community of Toms River, New Jersey, was shocked (The New York Times)
  • Arrests made at military school protest | At least 20 people were arrested Sunday while protesting a U.S.-run military school for Latin Americans, some of whose graduates they claim later committed civil rights abuses including murder (Associated Press)
  • Justice versus mercy in the jury room | Should conversion matter? Religious leaders respond (Daily Pilot, Newport Beach, Ca.)

Kinsey film:

  • Conservative Christians launch protest against Kinsey film | Conservative Christian groups nationwide are protesting a film about sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, calling it a Hollywood whitewash of the man they hold largely responsible for the sexual revolution and a panoply of related ills, from high divorce rates to AIDS and child abuse. (The State, S.C.)
  • Conservative Christians protest movie on Kinsey | Conservative Christian groups across the country are protesting a film about the life of sex researcher Alfred C. Kinsey, calling it a Hollywood whitewash of the man they hold largely responsible for the sexual revolution and a panoply of related ills, from high divorce rates to AIDS and child abuse (The Washington Post)
  • Naked contradictions | 'Kinsey' creator analyzes the famed sex researcher (The Washington Post)


  • Mahony to testify in sex abuse cases | At a deposition this week, the cardinal will answer questions about priests he dealt with years ago as bishop of Stockton (Los Angeles Times)
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  • Church organist charged in sex case | State police accused a church organist last week of sexually abusing several underage girls he met at his job. (Waterbury Republican American, Conn.)

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Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
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Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's executive editor. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
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