Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Stem Cell Madness

See the article: Anti-Life, Anti-Science "Now some are actively attacking any way to do pluripotent-stem-cell research that does not destroy embryos, as though creating this moral problem were an end in itself." Redefining legal "personhood" is a major goal of the socialist and environmentalist factions, and is a potent source of cost-savings for corporations and governments who have to pay for medical care. The fact that both the Left and Right would greatly benefit from redefining "personhood" gives this issue tremendous momentum.

The U.S. Congress has passed three stem-cell bills, but the President is set to veto the one bill that explicitly allows the killing of human embryos: Bush set to veto stem cell bill. This should not make us completely happy, since these bills are complex and open to interpretation. U.S. Senators are famous for having their true intentions implemented via plausibly "unintended consequences" of law, obscure clauses in the bill, and via complex interactions between separate laws. Bills are carefully crafted by Congress in consultation with the President so that the final vote and certainty of veto is known far in advance; a vetoed bill exists only to solidify the perception of a politician's position. The to-be-vetoed bill is just a gimmick for the President and supporting Senators to display a position: the bill was explicitly crafted to be vetoed. The real, intended stem-cell research bills are those which will be signed into law. So what will be the "unintended consequences" of these laws?

One of the acts to be passed is the Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act; it is interesting to see the parts of the bill that have teeth, which includes promotion of research with reporting requirements. Some parts are toothless, for example it does not require researchers to follow ethical guidelines of the President's Council on Bioethics, but instead just "take into account" its recommendations. There even is an ethical escape clause: allowing "any other appropriate techniques and research." The definition of "human embryo" is left undefined here, and will instead be a part of the appropriation bill, which means that life can be redefined at every budget cycle.

Some strongly oppose this bill because of large loopholes that will promote variant cloning techniques, including most disturbingly, the creation of purposefully-disabled humans for cell harvesting.

The debate is framed in terms of the old religion vs. science debate: see Stem Cell Debate Wedges Bush Between a Rock and a Hard Place. "Thus did Bush find Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, on the Senate floor yesterday comparing the president's position to those who opposed Columbus, locked up Galileo, and rejected anesthesia, electricity, vaccines and rail travel. Such attitudes "in retrospect look foolish, look absolutely ridiculous," said Specter, daring Bush to join them." The Columbus mention is false: the sphericity and size of the earth has been known since antiquity, and the Galileo claim is also misrepresented. Opposition to a technology is quite appropriate if the technology is immoral, dangerous or has bad side-effects.

Some friends testified before the Missouri Senate about the forthcoming Missouri embryonic stem-cell ballot proposition. One Senator, initially supporting a ban on embryonic stem-cell research, reversed his position and verbally abused the ban supporters. He later got large donations from the companies who would benefit from this kind of research. All too often, bills are proposed merely as a way of shaking-down wealthy donors for campaign contributions.

Finally, we have visionary transhumanist gurus who propose changing human nature via cloning and selective breeding, to create a new master-race; others propose creating clones who will not be considered "persons" but would still be able to do menial work as slave labor. Since both political conservatives and liberals believe in the theory of inevitable progress—so anything new has to be good—I don't see any political opposition to these terrible ideas.




Hilary White is writing a book on stem cell research and is requesting comments. Take a look.

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