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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Stem cells, cloning, and American policy 

I will admit that I'm not very spiritual when it comes to the politics of the life sciences. I think that the theory of evolution is science and "intelligent design" is not, I have no objection to research involving human stem cells, and I do not subscribe to the principles behind the opposition to regulated therapeutic human cloning (recognizing that there may be any number of practical objections).

However, I also respect the fact that people on the other side of each of these issues make complex arguments that deserve respect. The editors of The New York Times have nothing but contempt for these people, and they proved it this morning. In an editorial about recent advances in cloning by South Korean scientists (which research was roundly condemned by President Bush yesterday), the Times seems to think that this argument is about American industrial policy:
South Korean scientists stunned their rivals around the world last week by announcing that they had produced the first human embryos that were genetic matches for diseased or injured patients, and had done so by a highly efficient method that could bring further rapid advances in cloning. It was sobering evidence that leadership in "therapeutic cloning" has shifted abroad while American scientists, hamstrung by political and religious opposition, make do with private or state funds in the absence of federal support.

In case you missed the argument that this is really a fight about trade policy, the Times repeats it for you:
In the upcoming struggles over stem cell legislation, supporters of sound science must ensure that no ban is imposed on therapeutic cloning that would further shackle American researchers while scientists in Asia and Britain forge ahead.

If you believe that opposition to therapeutic cloning and stem cell research is a moral imperative, the editors of the Times have just expressed their contempt for you. The argument embedded in this editorial is that there is no moral debate to be had if America might lose its commercial advantage in the life sciences industry. Right and wrong are not even on the table. To the Times, the fight over stem cell research simply a question of smart industrial policy versus nonsensical voodoo.

Perhaps the Times is not standing up for American industry, but is concerned about the careers of American university professors (the only meaningful group of scientists who are dependant on federal funds). If its argument is about desire of scientists for subsidies, may I respectfully suggest that their alternative is to move somewhere else. Tens of thousands of scientists come from other countries to the United States every year because this is a more hospitable environment to live and work. If a few Americans have to move elsewhere to conduct research that the American electorate deems immoral, it will be no great loss.

The advances in South Korea prove a point that I have long believed: opposition to stem cell research and therapeutic cloning in the United States will not have a meaningful long-term impact on the development of derivative treatments, because scientists elsewhere in the world will develop them. Yes, America will have given up some business in the upholding of a moral principle. Even if you disagree with the arguments that sustain that principle, how does this policy reflect poorly on the United States? How many other countries in the world make such decisions?

The secular left may, in an uncharacteristic moment of reflection, wonder why it can't win elections in this country. One reason is that it persists in expressing contempt for people of faith, as the Times has done in this editorial.

2 Comments:

By Blogger bill, at Sun May 22, 08:25:00 AM:

I am not religious either, but there is something different about mankind that does not exist in other species -- cognizance is unique to the humans, otherwise dolphins would be building water theme parks.

What always amazes me is that it is those that profess to be the keepers of the tolerance banner that are the most intolerant. I have no problem with letting people belive what they want, even Muslims. I do note that you don't hear a word from the likes of the NYTimes critical of the backwardness of Islam and the abject oppression of women from that religion. But I digress.

From my perspective, using my limited ability to reason, the super race should be left unexplored, we are far better off with the normalacy and the quirks of life than we are with the quest for purity. If you examine nature, variety is what makes it resilant. A single pure, everyone is the same, human is going be very vulnerable to large systems failure, i.e. extinction because of what we cannot predict.

Afterall, it wasn't too long ago that the accepted MSM view was an unborn human was just an inviable tissue mass -- Then along came ultrasound. I think leaving cloning science alone is best, just because we can doesn't mean we should.

I now return you to the regulary scheduled global warming debate :-)  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sun May 22, 09:02:00 AM:

On the substance, I support research into therapeutic cloning. I'm not even against germ line work, in the abstract. But I understand that many people are, and I do not think their point of view is so contemptible that it should be balanced against the commercial interests of the biotechnology industry or American universities, which is what the New York Times proposes.  

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