Creating human life only to experiment on it used to be the stuff of science fiction.
Now, it's the stuff of science. And a frighteningly large lot of folks don't seem to mind.
Pushed on by altruistic notions of curing inhumane diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, well-meaning activists and lawmakers have urged the country to experiment with embryonic stem cells.
The truth, of course, is that such research tinkers with the very beginnings of human life; and, therefore, it's arguable that researchers are picking apart some human beings to save others.
Even if there's only a risk of that happening, erring on the side of caution is mandatory when it comes to life.
That's President George W. Bush's stance on the matter, and it's ours as well.
Besides, if you're considering stepping over into ethically dangerous territory, it had better be a last resort - and, in this case, we're not certain it is. No one has convinced us that research using embryonic stem cells is necessarily all that more promising than that which uses other stem cells, such as from umbilical cords.
Sadly, such concerns were swept away in often trivial ways during the debate leading up to the U.S. House's approval of spending federal funds on stem cell research Tuesday. At one point, Majority Leader Tom DeLay - the subject of ethical concerns over lobbyist-paid travel - worried aloud that the bill forced taxpayers to pay for the cost of "the dismemberment of living, distinct human beings." In response, California Democrat Pete Stark sneered that "I don't need a lecture from the majority leader on moral and ethical leadership" - as if there were some moral equivalence between political junkets and the destruction of human embryos.
Thankfully, the House's vote of 238-194 is not enough to overcome a near-certain veto from the president.
It's trendy, certainly, to support stem cell research. You've seen some compelling testimony for stem cell research from stricken celebrities.
But we, like the president and majority leader, are more concerned about the very real possibility that embryonic stem cell research is, indeed, tinkering with "living, distinct human beings."
It's nothing to sneer at.
It's something to be avoided.