[FOUNTAIN]An apple’s value in the cycle of lifeOnce there was a tree with a lot of ripe, red apples hanging from its branches. A dog passed by, and left the sort of offering that dogs tend to leave under trees. The new arrival looked up at an apple and said, “Hi! How are you?”
The apple looked down haughtily and said nothing. It thought to itself, “How dare something as lowly as a pile of dung try to talk to me.”
But then the apple fell to the ground, and the dog ate it. As the apple was being chewed to pieces, the dung said to it, “See you soon.”
There is a lesson here about the cycle of nature. In the larger scale of things, human beings are not as far from excrement as they may think. A Korean expression refers to a lowly, alienated person as “a stick covered with dung.” Another saying, about staying away from people who are bad company, goes,“One avoids dung not because one is afraid of it, but because it’s dirty.” Such expressions suggest a closer connection than we might want to admit.
Scientifically, of course, both are part of the cycle of life. From a scientific point of view, individuals do not necessarily have the sacred value we assign to them. Conception is when masses of protein come together to form life; death is when they fall apart. Such are the limits of the scientific point of view. Religion is what we have to soothe our anxiety over life’s nihilism.
A committee of Korean Catholics and Buddhists has announced its opposition to the stem cell research of Seoul National University’s Professor Hwang Woo-seok. The committee says that because the embryos used for the research are independent life forms, it infringes upon human dignity to manipulate and destroy them for research, even to find cures for untreatable diseases.
Such discussion raises a question. When millions of Jews were being murdered by the Nazis, did the Catholic church raise the issue of bioethics? Has U.S. President George W. Bush, who also opposes stem cell research, considered the dignity of the men and women who have died in the wars he started? The dignity of embryos is important, but the dignity of living human beings is more so.
by Chung Jae-suk
The writer is a deputy culture news editor for the JoongAng Ilbo.