The debate has been academic for many years. Now, with the soaring rate of in vitro fertilization (100,000 in the US alone), the number of unused embryos is growing–and the space to store them is shrinking. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine earlier this year set a policy saying that it was okay to dispose of embryos after 5 years if all attempts to contact the couple who produced them have failed.
As science advances, humankind is facing ethical questions that never could have been imagined centures, even decades ago. Where do people find guidance? Strict Catholics will follow what the pope says. But many will recall the time when the pope changed the Catholic church’s mind about condemning people to hell for eating meat on Fridays. Generations feared potential eternal damnation of some family member who disobeyed that edict; my own father abandoned the church for many years because of it. His opinion: they had made fools of people.
Even now people “shop” for a priest who will condone what they want to do (such as practice birth control). Some call it situational ethics; others say it’s changing with the times. Either way, these are new and important questions that require the joint wisdom of medical, philosophical, religious and scientific minds.
The fast-growing Bahai religion posits that the will of the majority–consensus–constitutes truth. Until the majority changes its mind. This is the path we are taking to these questions–and it can only be a good one.