The Great Debate

I was catching up on some news this evening, reading about stem cells here in Missouri, with iTunes on shuffle, as usual. About half way through the article, Dream Theater‘s song The Great Debate (from Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence) came on. I had to stop and listen.

If you know the song, you know that it is a discussion about then-President Bush’s decision concerning stem cells back in 2001. Here’s what wikipedia has to say about the song:

The Great Debate” is an innovative song by the progressive metal band Dream Theater dealing with the topic of stem cell research. It opens with various sound bytes of individuals’ beliefs and opinions concerning this contentious topic. Both sides of this debate are represented lyrically, and the band challenges the listener repeatedly with the chorus phrase- “Are you justified in taking life to save life?” and “Do we look to our Unearthly Guide?…or to white coat heroes, searching for a cure?”

What really struck me is how little seems to have changed in the last 7 1/2 years.  Consider these verses from the song:

What if someone said
Promise lies ahead
Hopes are high in certain scientific circles
Life won’t have to end
You could walk again

What if someone said
Problems lie ahead
They’ve uncovered something highly controversial
The right to life is strong
Can’t you see it’s wrong

Or, as they say toward the end of the song, miracle potential vs. the sanctity of life. Much the same as what is being said this week.

The stem cell debate reminds me quite a bit of another great debate:  vaccines and autism.  Though the substance of the two debates is different, they are qualitatively very similar: no matter what evidence or arguments are presented, it is very unlikely that you will ever change the opinion of someone who actually has an opinion.

5 thoughts on “The Great Debate

  1. Thanks for pointing me to the article, Harold. It sounds like this new approach holds promise. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that it will take a while – a long while – before this has any effect on the debate over embryonic stem cells. Those who oppose the use of embryonic cells will, I’m sure, add this to their arguments against the use of those cells, but I imagine it will be a long time before those who have invested so much time, energy, and other resources on embryonic cells abandon that line of thinking. And I don’t think that they will ever be completely abandoned, at least not until they are completely understood. (Such is the nature of science.)

    Though I typically try to have a bit more optimistic view of things, my experiences in that other debate I mention – autism and vaccines – has left me very pessimistic in the ability of two groups who come at the problem from such different approaches, backgrounds, and ultimate goals to come to anything approaching even compromise, much less agreement.

    But I haven’t given up hope.


  2. “has left me very pessimistic in the ability of two groups who come at the problem from such different approaches, backgrounds, and ultimate goals to come to anything approaching even compromise, much less agreement.”

    I’m right there with you on this one Brett. However, I think in many ways, its the same side of the coin we’re looking at. Both sides seem to think they have the luxury to spend so much time on so little of a consequence to affect positive change. I’m not sure if that will make sense to you or not.


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  4. If Embryonic stem cell research showed enough promise, it would be privately funded.

    The reason that embryonic stem cell research “needs” to be federally funded is that it is but one piece of “the culture of death”. This culture comprises such things as abortion on demand, right to assisted suicide, and genetic experimentation on humans to “improve the germline”. By cheapening the value of life, it makes it easier to eliminate those lives that don’t “measure up”, such as the developmentally and physically disabled.



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