Homunuclus and the USA religious-rightHeather Main is a young Aussie presently doing stem cell research in the USA. Heather has some interesting perspectives on the USA in general and stem cell research in the USA. Heather links shoddy 16'th century science that promoted the homunculus belief to the present-day attitude of the USA religious right towards embryonic stem cell research.
Frankly, I doubt that we can attribute present-day religious opinions about embryonic stem cell research and abortion to the 16th century revival of the idea of homunculus. Even the Catholic Church didn't take their absolutist view against abortion until 1869. Even after 1869 there was a good deal of "fuzziness" with respect to when "quickening" happened.
I think you will find that at the beginning of the 19th Century there was not a single statute in the United States regarding abortion. By the beginning of the 20'th century, abortion at any time during pregnancy had been banned throughout the USA.
There are a good many things that one could argue that might have caused such a major shift in attitudes and laws. The one that I give most credence to is grounded in human ecology.
During the 19th century the USA made a transition from being a largely agrarian nation to an urbanized industrial nation. Birth rates dropped dramatically during this transition. (The transition and the drop in birth rates had a common cause, the pressure of population pushing against finite space --- ie the end of the "frontier days".)
Commercial interests have always sought to grow population. Indeed, the conventional economic model --- which is total nonsense, of course --- is predicated upon growth, including population growth. Unsurprisingly, abortion became a target.
The medical profession was one commercial interest that had a lot to do with changing USA attitudes in the 19th century.
At the beginning of the 19th century, pretty much anyone could call themselves a medical doctor in the USA. By the mid 19th century there was a transition towards university-educated doctors. The American Medical Association was formed to protect the interests of the new profession. Job 1 was laying claim to a monopoly on abortion!
Then it got really complicated...
So, we should all be a little bit suspicious of those who push for regulations that might, just might, be motivated by someones special business interest. Arguments for/against mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) vs embryonic stem cells seem to have this characteristic... So do arguments about whether or not a MSC is a drug...
Life goes on. Stay tuned for the rest of the 21st century.