Stem cells and the people who made them taboo

Maxwell Matson, columnist In January 1950, the prolific botanist Elvin C. Stakman provided the following quote to Life Magazine: “Science cannot stop while ethics catches up…and nobody should expect scientists to do all the thinking for the country.” In an age of exponential technological advancement, the question of why we innovate is becoming increasingly less important than the question of how. Technology is increasingly global, increasingly affordable and increasingly complex, but with so much innovation surrounding us all the time, it’s easy to grow desensitized. To contextualize this assertion, consider the issue of stem cell research. First, what are stem cells? The short, non-technical answer is that stem cells are a type of multipurpose cell which can be utilized by the body (or by scientists) to form the building blocks of various tissues. Your body currently contains stem cells called somatic cells which repair your bodily tissues when they are damaged and which have the ability to transform themselves into one of several different types of tissues. But it’s another, much more complicated type of stem cell at the root of the debate over stem cell research. Embryonic stem cells are similar to adult somatic cells in that they do not correspond to a specific type of tissue and are therefore able to differentiate themselves into any of the 225 different types of cells found in the bodies of...

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You’ll enjoy hating ‘Mother!’

The Greek philosopher Epicurus wrote: “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.  Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.  Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?  Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” In Darren Aronofsky’s new film “Mother!,” this ideology is taken to its logical conclusion . . . and then some . . . and then a lot more. While the exclamation point at the end of the title seems just a touch self-indulgent, it’s a familiar kind of self-indulgence...

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The complicated nature of white identity

What makes a person “white?” For minorities, like myself, the idea of a monolithic characteristic called whiteness is all too real. Whiteness in the U.S. can be defined as a social system through which the presence of phenotypic characteristics which are characteristically European allows for an artificial or undeserved sense of superiority and elevated social standing. This definition of whiteness is of course only one of many, and as the issue has been discussed more openly in the public forum with the proliferation of identity-centered politics and the increased visibility of racist hate groups, the public consciousness has never been more divided regarding what it means to be white. Whiteness has often served as convenient shorthand for colonialist forces from Europe. Under the powerful European empires of the 15th century and onward, people of Spanish, Portuguese, French, British and Dutch heritage introduced themselves to the rest of the world through invasion and subjugation. It is this history from which the very idea of whiteness is derived. To add clarity to this point, imagine that there are two groups of European colonists who each claim ownership over the same parcel of land in Sub-Saharan Africa. One of the groups is Spanish, the other British. If both arrive at the same time, each believing that they have a right to the parcel, there will inevitably be competition over who truly has...

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