Buddhist and Christian views of life after conception

Monday, June 20, 2005

The July/August issue of Foreign Policy includes “The Great Stem Cell Race,” by Robert L. Paarlberg, a political scientist teaching at Wellesley. Here is an excerpt (emphasis added):

Asian scientists [do not] face as much cultural resistance to their work as their colleagues in the West. In Confucian and Buddhist societies, there are fewer religious inhibitions to the destruction of microscopic embryos. Throughout Roman Catholic Europe and in much of Christian America, religious authorities teach that a fertilized egg is already a person.

In Confucian tradition, the defining moment of life is birth, not conception, and Buddhists view life not as beginning with conception but as a cycle of reincarnations. The South Korean scientist who led the 2004 cloning team said at the time: “Cloning is a different way of thinking about the recycling of life. It’s a Buddhist way of thinking.”

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