Monday, February 28, 2005

Robert Novak has Cloners' Number

Big Biotech's dishonest drive in the states to legalize human cloning by calling it something else, say, somatic cell nuclear transfer or merely stem cell research, is beginning to be exposed by the wider media. Columnist Robert Novak has it right in this column about the cloning fight in Massachusetts.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Science Without Moral Limits

I have been warning of late that science and bioethics have grown so ideological that many in these and related fields assert that there is a constitutional right to do science. (Evidence of the growing attention being paid to these issues can be found in this press release issued by Georgia Tech.) This early advocacy marks the beginning stage of a project to construct an intellectual foundation in the professional science and law journals that will later be used to support a legal challenge against the government regulation of science. (I predict the first case will seek to strike down a state law prohibiting human cloning.)

The ideas presented so far to support the right to human cloning have fallen generally along these lines: First, the United States Constitution specifically speaks of the advancement of science. This means the government may not restrict science except for truly urgent purposes. Second, women have the near-absolute right to abortion; hence, third, people also have a near-absolute right to procreate; meaning, fourth, that reproductive cloning should be permitted (once it is safe), in addition to which, prospective parents enjoy a concomitant right to genetically engineer their progeny, again assuming safety.

That's painting with an extraordinarily broad brush, but don't ever think these folk do not mean precisely what they are saying.

Is there a constitutional right to engage in human cloning if not for procreation? Again, according to a growing body of thought among science ideologues, the answer is, yes. Some claim that any and all research, not just cloning, is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution since publishing the results of experiments is a form of expression. If this idea were enacted by a legislature, or more likely, imposed by the courts, it would mean that only the most compelling state interest would permit government to prohibit any area of experimentation that researchers might devise.

Another argument, recently voiced in the Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law and Ethics, contends that the Supreme Court case of Lawrence v. Texas created, by analogy, a right to engage in therapeutic cloning. The idea is that since, according to the Supreme Court, "repugnance" served as the primary basis for Texas outlawing homosexual sodomy, and since the Court ruled that repugnance was an insufficient basis for Texas legislating in the area, then under Lawrence, therapeutic cloning similarly cannot be banned since it is only repugnance at the "unnatural" that has caused some states to outlaw human cloning for biomedical research.

These arguments reflect an arrogant attitude that only scientists have the right to decide what is moral in science. Like the breeze that becomes a full blown gale, they also presage an intense and supremely important public policy fight, the denouement of which will determine whether science continues to serve society or instead, comes to dominate it.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Hunter Thompson was no Warrior

The son and daughter-in-law of the late Hunter Thompson told the Rocky Mountain News that Thompson lived and died as "a warrior." Baloney. A warrior lives and dies in the service of others; a family, a tribe, a country. A warrior is bound by a code of honor. Thompson lived and died for himself. Thompson accepted nobody's rules but his own. Indeed, that was his appeal for many. He did what he wanted to simply because he wanted to do it, including commit suicide so as to not experience the difficulties associated with aging. Thompson may have been many things, but warrior was not one of them.

My Take on the Radical Cloning Agenda

In this article, published in the Center for Bioethics and Culture on-line weekly newsletter, I describe how radical the human cloning agenda has become in just a few short years.

Virginia Does Stem Cell Research Right

The Virginia legislature has passed legislation that will fund (assuming the governor signs the bill) adult and umbilical cord stem cell research. No cloning or embryonic research will be financed. Virginia also outlaws human cloning, although some observers contend that the wording of the law may open loopholes.

Chuck Colson Pounces on Washington Cloning Mendacity

Chuck Colson's Breakpoint exposes his millions of listeners and readers to Washington's pending "anti-cloning" legislation, a bill that pretends to outlaw human cloning, but which actually legalizes human somatic cell nuclear transfer, implantation of resulting cloned embryos, and gestation of them through the ninth month.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Oregon's Assisted Suicide Law Not Endangered by U.S. Supreme Court Case

The media is reporting that the Bush Administration is trying to overturn Oregon's assisted suicide law in the Supreme Court. I wish. What is really at stake is the power of the federal government to enforce federal law uniformly in all fifty states. I describe the case in this article published by National Review Online.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Proposition 71 Going to Court

Two lawsuits have been filed against Proposition 71. True to form, most of the media zeroed in on the religious beliefs of some of the litigants. The media has decided that the cloning controversy is one of religion versus science, and nothing is going to knock them off that approach. But it seems to me that the affiliation of the litigants isn't important. What matters is whether the filed cases have factual and legal merit. Let's hope the courts restrict their judgments to those issues and ignore the religion baiting by the media.

I knew that some folk were contemplating taking legal action but I was not part of any discussions toward that end. I haven't seen the suit yet and I am not familiar enough with election and administrative law to know whether these cases have merit. I do support taking any and all action consistent with law and integrity to force the California Regenerative Medical Institute to toe the letter and spirit of California law. These people have to realize they are being watched very carefully. Otherwise, given the paucity of checks and balances written into Proposition 71, the temptation to engage in cronyism, conflicts of interest, and ideological science is just too great.

Supreme Court Takes Up Assisted Suicide Case

Good news from Washington: The United States Supreme Court will rule next year on whether the Attorney General of the United States had the right to interpret the federal Controlled Substances Act as prohibiting the use of drugs regulated by the feds for use in assisted suicide on the basis that under FEDERAL LAW, assisted suicide is not a legitimate medical use of such substances.

Of course, as usual, the MSM gets the story wrong. For example, CBS claims that the ruling will determine whether the federal government can penalize doctors who participate in assisted suicide generally. But that isn't true. If the federal government wins this case, assisted suicide will still be legal in Oregon and if doctors prescribe non federally controlled substances for use in assisted suicide, there would be nothing the federal government could do.

I will write more fully on this matter soon. But the important point about this case is that it is about federalism, but not in the usual sense of "states rights." It is actually a "federal rights" case that will determine whether the Controlled Substances Act can be enforced consistently throughout the country.

CBS also juxtaposes the Oregon assisted suicide controversy with the plan of the odious Michael Schiavo to begin today the process of dehydrating Terri to death. CBS claims that both cases are about the "right to die." Actually, neither are, since there isn't such a right. In Oregon terminally ill patients have the right to ask for a lethal overdose. They don't have the right to receive it. The right is all the doctor's. Schiavo deals with the right to refuse medical treatment, which the Supreme Court already ruled was not the same as assisted suicide. Still, given that legalized assisted suicide would eventually lead to open euthanasia as a medical treatment, and given that medical decision making is allowed to be made by surrogates when a patient can't decide for themselves, the joining of the two cases may be factually wrong but is still figuratively right.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Children Need Meat

A new study shows that it is harmful to withhold meat from young children. Tell that to PETA. Never mind. They won't care.

St. Louis Business Journal Obfuscates the Language of Biotech

One would expect the St. Louis Business Journal to publish an editorial supporting Big Biotech's desire to promote human cloning as a potential gargantuan profit-making technology in the fields of science and medicine. The editors are certainly entitled to their opinion. But what is so outrageous about this editorial--typifying the contempt some proponents of human cloning apparently have for democracy--is the misuse of words and the muddying of crucial definitions and distinctions to win political points. For example, if you read this editorial, you might think that the Missouri legislation referenced by the editorial is seeking to outlaw all types of "stem cell research," which is, of course, nonsense. You might even believe that it seeks to outlaw embryonic stem cell research that uses leftover embryos from IVF treatments. That too, would be wrong. The legislation is quite explicit that it seeks to outlaw all "human cloning." That is a different kettle of fish, as I am sure the editorial writers know. They just don't want you to know it.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

UN Committee Recommends Banning Human Cloning

A UN special committee has recommended that the General Assembly of the United Nations pass a "declaration on human cloning by which Member States would be called on to prohibit all forms of human cloning inasmuch as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life." This is a first big step toward creating an international prohibition on human cloning for any purpose. Congratulations to all who worked so hard to make this happen. The final vote was 71 in favor of the ban, 35 opposed, and 43 abstentions.

Debating Assisted Suicide

The San Francisco Chronicle asked me to debate California Assemblywoman Patty Berg on her bill to legalize assisted suicide in this state. Here is the published version of our exchange.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Proposition 71 Goes Oink, Oink, Oink

Proposition 71 perpetrated one of the great corporate welfare scams of recent times. As a consequence, California, which is so broke its emergency rooms are closing and its senior citizen services are being cut, is going to BORROW $3 billion over ten years (not including interest) to pay fat cat biotech companies and university research centers to conduct experiments in human cloning. The bill has barely taken effect and the pork is already oinking, as this S.F. Chronicle article reports. (Too bad the media didn't do such vigorous journalism before the bill passed.)

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Minnesota Now Has Legislation to Clone and Gestate

The days when researchers "only" wanted to derive embryonic stem cells solely from embryos leftover from IVF treatments that were doomed to be discarded anyway, are long gone. Last year, New Jersey legalized human cloning, implantation of cloned embryos into wombs, and gestation through the ninth month. In the last two years, Illinois, Delaware, Maryland, and Texas, tried unsuccessfully to legalize the same thing. Current legislation in Washington would also permit cloning through the ninth month, as I reported two days ago. Now, it turns out, Minnesota also has a cloning bill pending that would explicitly legalize human cloning (somatic cell nuclear transfer), and permit implantation of cloned embryos and their gestation through the ninth month for purposes of obtaining stem cells. Specifically, Senate File No 730 states:

"The policy of the state of Minnesota is that research involving the derivation and use of human embryonic stem cells, human embryonic germ cells, and human adult stem cells from ANY SOURCE, including SOMATIC CELL NUCLEAR TRANSFER, shall be permitted and that full consideration of the ethical and medical implications of this research be given." (My emphasis.)

Notably, the bill does NOT outlaw implanting embryos--whether cloned or natural--into natural or artificial uteri for purposes of gestating late stage embryos or fetuses for use in deriving stem cells. This means implantation of human embryos for research and destruction would be legal, since, by definition, that which is not illegal is legal. It is also important to note that embryos can only be maintained in Petri dishes for up to about 10 days. Human embryonic germ cells, which are specifically referenced in S.F. 730, are derived from gestated embryos at between 6-8 weeks of development. Moreover, adult stem cells can be obtained from fetuses, infants, and children, as well as adults.

Put this altogether, and if this bill passes in its current form, Minnesota would explicitly permit human cloning, implantation of cloned or natural embryos, and their destruction for obtaining stem cells through the ninth month.

This bill marks the seventh attempt of which I am aware, to permit radical research on human life well beyond the Petri dish stage. This can't be done yet technologically, but the legal groundwork is clearly being laid today for very radical work. e.g. fetal farming, that is anticipated to be done tomorrow. Indeed, anyone who still believes that therapeutic cloning and embryonic stem cell research is intended to be restricted to leftover embryos from IVF procedures and cloned embryos in Petri dishes is simply not paying attention to the facts.

PETA is After Your Children

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) knows that most educated people will ultimately reject their radical agenda of eliminating any and all use of animals by people. For example, PETA's odious "Holocaust on Your Plate Campaign" explicitly connected eating meat with participating in the Holocaust. The key point to understanding the difference between animal rights/liberation and animal welfare, is that animal welfarists acknowledge that people may use animals for human benefit, while PETA and their ilk believe that doing so is morally equivalent to killing 6 million Jews. Literally. Understand that, and that intense misanthropy is the heart and soul of animal rights/liberation, and you can see why there is an increasing level of violence and intimidation on "behalf of the animals."

PETA knows that most adults will shun such thinking. But children have less wisdom and ability to distinguish facts from propaganda. Hence, it focuses quite a bit on recruiting children to the animal rights/liberation cause: As this story illustrates.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Ian Wilmut Slides Down Cloning's Slippery Slope

Ian Wilmut once said he had no interest in performing human cloning. Now, he's about to do it. He also once said he opposed reproductive cloning. That position is no longer operable. As I demonstrate in this column, when it comes to human cloning, it is in for an inch, in for a mile.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Stealth Cloning in Washington State

Legislators in Washington are trying to sneak a radical cloning license into the law. Read all about it here.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Missouri Takes First Step to Ban Human Cloning

A senate committee in Missourie voted 7-2 to outlaw all human cloning. This, is a big victory. There has been a full court press against the bill by university, business, media, and most especially, the Stowers Institute, which wants to begin human cloning research in Missouri in 2006.

There They Go Again: Cloning Through the Ninth Month

I have been pounding on my drum lately about how the cloners have no intention of limiting their research to early embryos in Petri dishes. More proof that I am right can be found in new legislation introduced recently in Washington state. Senate Bill 5594, while purporting to outlaw the "cloning of a human being," actually would explicitly legalize the creation of cloned human life and its gestation through the ninth month. The only act that would be actually prohibited is the implantation of cloned embryos for the purpose of bringing a cloned baby into the world, which is what the legislation means by "cloning a human being." I have written about this disengenuous bit of legislating and will post the column on my WEB site as soon as it is published.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Patent for Human/Chimpanzee Hybrid Denied

The United States Patent Office has denied a patent for the creation of a human/chimpanzee hydbrid animal. This is depicted as something of a defeat for Stuart Newman, the "inventor" of this still unmade chimera. But it is really a victory. Newman is engaged in a very creative effort at public policy advocacy to prevent the creation of hybrid humans. He will most likely now sue the patent office for denying the patent. As I understand his approach, in the end he hopes to obtain a ruling that no patents over human life can ever be issued. That would doom "therapeutic cloning." Moreover, Newman's advocacy should stimulate an important conversation to determined how much human DNA can be put into animals (transgenic animals) to obtain useful information or substances for making medicines (called "pharming), before it becomes too much humans in animals.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Testimony Against Physician-Assisted Suicide

On Feb. 4, I testified before a joint Assembly Committee as to why physician-assisted suicide should remain illegal in California. Here is that testimony.

PETA Tries to Destroy the Australian Wool Industry

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' (PETA) purpose for existing is to obliterate any human enterprise that uses animals--no matter how humane the animals are treated, the harm to humans that would be caused, or the economic cost. Toward this end, PETA is currently organizing an unjust worldwide boycott of the Australian wool industry because of the allegedly cruel animal husbandry practice of "mulesing," in which skin is taken off the rumps of lambs. But what PETA claims to be true quite often is not the full story--as I found out and reported in this piece.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells Restore Sight and Speech

Here is some potentially good news. Umbilical cord blood stem cells have apparently restored sight and speech to a child with cerebral palsy. Keep in mind this report is a press release and not a peer reviewed journal, and thus caution is the watchword of the day. But this apparent success is a heck of a lot better than the Petri dish or mouse embryonic stem cell "successes" so often touted in the media as somehow being major breakthroughs.

Cloned Embryo in UK not an Embryo in US

The lack of candor and honesty by some cloning proponents in the U.S. demeans democracy. When it was announced that Ian Wilmut, the creator of Dolly the sheep, intends to create cloned embryos for use in research, the British press and some U.S. stories acknowledged that the "product" of somatic cell nuclear transfer cloning is a human embryo. Perhaps that is because in the UK, there is less concern that cloning for research purposes creates and then destroys human life.

But here, where the creation of human life for purposes of destruction is of great moral concern, many proponents refuse to admit that the same procedure--SCNT--actually creates a human organism. I recently testified in Missouri, and witnessed the most ludicrous display of biological post modernism I have ever seen. Proponents of therapeutic cloning insisted that cloned embryos aren't really embryos, they merely are cell lines. When asked if that was so, why the need to ban implantation, since mere cell lines implanted in wombs can never become a baby, the response by one witness was that these cells could become "sentient" in 40 days in a womb and that THEN, they would be human life. This is utter nonsense. But that is their story and they are sticking to it.

This would all be laughable--except that it often works. Governor Matt Blunt of Missouri, for example, is an ardent pro life advocate. He claims he would support the proposed cloning ban if he thought cloning created a new human life. Given the scientific facts, his support should be a given. But he has indicated instead that he might veto the proposed ban on cloning because he doesn't believe cloning makes life since sperm and egg do not meet. Talk about willfull ignorance!

So, in the UK, cloning indisputably creates new human life. But in the US, many pretend that it does not. Same procedure. Same life created. Different politics. Different story. Pathetic.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Some Truth on Intelligent Design

As a proud senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, I am often attacked by my debating opponents as being part of a "creationist" think tank, the idea being that my secular-based advocacy about bioethics is really religion in disguise. This canard is a reference to Discovery's work in "intelligent design," which uses science to investigate whether the philosophy of evolution, e.g., that all life is a result of random processes, is supported by the evidence.

When this point is raised, I patiently reply that ID is not "creationism," which accepts a "Biblical" account of the emergence of life, it is science, and that in any event, I am not part of the ID work at Discovery. Moreover, the attempts by the Science and Bioethics Establishments to avoid a debate on the merits of ID by portraying the theory as religious rather than scientific is fast losing steam.

Deomontrating this last point, witness the op/ed article written by Discovery Institute senior fellow Michael Behe in today's New York Times, which introduces ID theory in terms anyone can understand. The key sentence: "...[I]t is the profound appearance of design in life that everyone is laboring to explain, not the appearance of natural selection or the appearance of self organization."

Again, this isn't my field of expertise. But the issue of ID is worthy of respectful debate and should be accepted or rejected on the merits of the arguments proponents present, not dismissed out of hand as religion. To do otherwise is intellectual laziness and/or the expression of fear at confronting an explanation for biological life that may be as plausible as the idea that the whole kit and kabootle is a mere accident of physical interactions.

(Warning: The link to the New York Times may require registration.)

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Assisted Suicide Setback in Hawaii

To the best of my knowledge, there are four states threatened with legalized assisted suicide this year: Hawaii, California, Arizona, and Vermont. Good news from the Aloha State: A committee has turned thumbs down on legalization. It isn't over yet, but it seems highly unlikely at this point that the bill will be able to move forward. Now, if we can get the same result in California...Speaking of which: Here is a fair story about yesterday's committee hearing on the pending California legislation.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Euthanasia Ideologues Facilitate Most Oregon Assisted Suicides

I will be testifying today in Sacramento against legalizing assisted suicide in California. As I was preparing for my appearance, I found some interesting information about how assisted suicide in Oregon is actually conducted.

Oregon voters were assured during the campaign to legalize assisted suicide, that the matter would be between patients and family doctors. In actuality, Compassion in Dying of Oregon, a euthanasia advocacy group, is involved in the vast majority of these deaths. According to a signed statement by George Eighmey, executive director, attached to the tax returns of the group, in 2004, CID participated in 29 out of 35 assisted suicides in Oregon. This not only demonstrates that assisted suicide ideologues are running the show in Oregon but it is deeply involved with the state government since the official statistics have not actually been published yet.

According to CID, pain or fear of pain was not apparently a major issue in any assisted suicide. Rather, it was "fear of loss of control" fear of "dependence on others," and "concern over loss of autonomy." These are important issues. But people can be helped to adjust to these wrenching changes without facilitating their suicides. Indeed, hospice does it all the time.

So this is the bottom line: legalized assisted suicide in Oregon is not a compassionate last resort for unbearable suffering: It licenses sheer Kevorkianism.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The cloning crowd's ability to denigrate adult stem cell research is quickly losing steam. Check out this report that bone marrow stem cells may be pluripotent and can grow heart cells. It's not over yet, but all very encouraging. Indeed, I believe this cultural struggle will be won if and when the evidence of the efficicacy of adult stem cells in regenerative medicine becomes so convincing that even the New York Times will acknowledge it.

Do Bio Scientists Know Any Limits?

I have an article in today's Daily Standard about the "anything goes" ideology that now permeates biotechnology. Check it out in the "What's New" department of my WEB site.

I testified alongside Dr. David Prentice in Missouri yesterday urging support of legislation that would outlaw all human cloning in the "Show Me" state. Here is a pretty fair newspaper description of the event. The text of my presentation is available on my WEB site under "What's New."