Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Lead into Gold Continued: The NRO Symposium

The NRO has published a mini-symposium containing the views of William Hurlbut, Jennifer Lahl (of the CBC), Carter Snead, and other notable commentators about the great stem cell breakthrough. They are all worth reading.

But I thought Leon Kass's perspective was most worthy of discussion here for the direction in which he would now like us to go:

Reprogramming of human somatic cells to pluripotency is an enormously significant achievement, one that boosters of medical progress and defenders of human dignity can celebrate without qualification. The evidence in the papers released Tuesday is complete and compelling: Cells as versatile and useful as embryonic stem cells, obtained without embryo creation and destruction or the need to exploit women for eggs. Best of all, these cells can be created from everyone--permitting the study of cells with different diseases and genetic makeup and, when stem-cell-based therapies eventually become available, providing rejection-proof tissues for personalized transplantation.

The ethical and political benefits may be equally great. The alleged need for so-called therapeutic cloning--cloning embryos for research--is now pas'e`. We can therefore disentangle the "life issue" of embryo-destruction from the "dignity issue" of baby manufacture, and enact a legislative ban on cloning and other degrading forms of baby-making, as recommended unanimously by the President's Council on Bioethics:
Prohibit all attempts to conceive a child by any means other the union of egg and sperm, both obtained from adults. Erecting such a barrier against the brave new world would be a great achievement, one that pro-lifers can now happily embrace without reservation. (My emphasis.)
Very interesting and I agree. What would be the bases for opposing this except that the real agenda of this area of science isn't stem cell cures but fetal farming, genetic engineering, and eugenic control.


At November 21, 2007 , Blogger said...

On the flip side, there's Robin Alta Charo's complaint that these papers will obstruct any move to over-rule the Bush Administration policy and Art Caplan's question in yesterday's MSNBC column: "Lastly, some may wonder if a reprogrammed panacea cell acts like an embryo, should it then be classified as a human embryo?"

Many are calling the iPS "embryonic stem cells," when they called the cells found in umbilical cord blood and amniotic fluid "embryonic-like" cells. I'm not sure whether it's because they don't understand or because they have an ulterior motive.

At November 21, 2007 , Blogger John Howard said...

Yeah! This should make it easier to enact the Council's Egg and Sperm law. Opposition to it will come from Transhumanists and Postgenderists and radical gay rights groups. It's the gay rights groups that might have enough stifling power to keep this law from happening, which is why I'm hoping that by tying it to a plan for federal recognition and equal protections for same-sex civil unions, we can get turn their opposition into support. By itself though, it is threatening to gay rights.

Also, how concerned should we be about trying to derive a "sperm" from a woman's stem cells, or an "egg" from a man's? While I would define any germ cell that reproduces a man's genome as a "sperm", perhaps some people would consider such an engineered gamete to be legitimate and acceptable, in spite of the unknown risk factors. Allowing such unnatural experiments might make other little tweaks to correct genetic flaws seem trivial and acceptable also. I hope that the egg and sperm law specifies "sperm of a human male and egg of a human female" like the Missouri law does.

Please don't be afraid of tackling this issue. It is not anti-gay to oppose same-sex conception, especially when it could be enacted as part of the compromise to give equal protections and federal recognition to same-sex civil unions. Marriage needs to preserve the right to conceive with the couple's own gametes though, we can't start having marraiges that are prohibited from using their own gametes. If we allow SSP, we should allow SSM, but if we don't, the Civil Unions are called for, to preserve natural conception rights.

At November 21, 2007 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

I knew you would like that, John Howard.

At November 24, 2007 , Blogger John Howard said...

Wesley, are you contractually bound from considering the ethics of attempting same-sex conception?

Leon Kass repeatedly makes reference to "two progenitors", and now, "both from adults", and seems to be going out of his way to say that as long as the gamete isn't derived from an embryo then it shouldn't be prohibited to derive opposite-sex gametes from adult stem cells. Is that fair to say?

I think that the things he says about how "we believe that such departures and inequities in human origins should not be inflicted on any child" is right on. I also think this applies to having a mother and a father. To not having been conceived by a lab with modified gametes, but naturally, the same way their mother and father were.

At November 25, 2007 , Blogger Don Nelson said...

Here's a quote about the HOPE Act S30 which would have given more money to alternative pluripotent research, that will go down in the books as not too prescient. I found it in the symposium in a link in Hurlbut's comments in the syposium.

“Sean Tipton, president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, said ...‘Sen. Coleman is looking for a political fig leaf to disguise his opposition to meaningful stem cell research.’"

It's almost as bad as Harry Reid's comments at his Give 'em Hell Harry Blog. "And just this month, we saw the President do a most un-American thing, by turning his back on science--turning his back on discovery--by vetoing the promise of stem cell research." So much for that nonsense about the Senate being the greatest deliberative body.

At November 25, 2007 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

And Reid and other 'pro science' types STILL won't pass an alternatives funding bill. If I am right, it isn't about science for them or treatments--it is about politics and culture.


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