The University of Chicago News Office
Nov. 8, 2002 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
(773) 702-6421

Stem Cells & Clones: Theological perspectives on biomedical research at the University of Chicago Divinity School

Research on human stem cells may yield new treatments or even cures for many diseases, but at what cost? On Friday, November 15, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life at the University of Chicago Divinity School will host a public exchange on "Stem Cells & Clones: Theological Perspectives on Biomedical Research." Because human embryos–cloned or not–must be destroyed to obtain the stem cells that scientists consider most promising for biomedical research, supporters and opponents agree that this research raises fundamental moral and theological questions about human life: its creation and destruction, its purpose, and how to care for it.

Two distinguished ethicists whose theological and medical backgrounds offer divergent perspectives will air these issues. Gilbert Meilaender, the Phyllis and Richard Duesenberg Professor of Christian Ethics at Valparaiso University, is an expert on theological and medical ethics who serves on the President’s Council on Bioethics, led by University of Chicago Professor in the Committee on Social Thought Leon Kass. Meilaender has contributed to the Council’s recent report, "Human Cloning and Human Dignity: An Ethical Inquiry," and is the author of Body, Soul and Bioethics. Richard Miller, Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University (Bloomington), incorporates philosophy, theology, and extensive fieldwork in pediatric care to examine practical issues in medical ethics. Professor Miller, a University of Chicago Ph.D., has recently completed Children, Ethics and Modern Medicine (forthcoming from Indiana University Press).

Jean Bethke Elshtain, Pew Forum co-chair, says the exchange will probe the following questions: "How do positions for and against human cloning and stem cell research draw on theological understandings of human dignity, caring and healing? What is the moral status of a human embryo, and what treatment does this require? Does the ‘viability’ of an embryo clarify this moral status? How should religious perspectives engage with the public on these issues, and what weight should they carry in a pluralistic society such as our own?"

The exchange will be held in Swift Hall, 3rd Floor Lecture Hall, 1025 East 58th Street, on the University of Chicago campus. Extensive time will be allotted for public conversation during the event, which is free and open to the public. Advance registration, available online at, is requested. For more information, for press issues, and to request special assistance, please contact Erik Owens at or (773) 702-6943.
Last modified at 01:55 PM CST on Friday, September 12, 2003.

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