House Approves Stem Cell Research Expansion

The House of Representatives just voted to approve the Embryonic Stem Cell Research Act of 2005. This act would lift President Bush's 2001 restrictions on the federal funding of research on human embryonic stem cells. In moral grandstanding earlier today, President Bush threatened to exercise his first veto over this legislation. President Bush is so solicitous of embryos that he is more careful of them than is Nature and (for believers) Nature's God. Meanwhile actually existing human beings who perhaps might be spared disease, disability and early death by means of embryonic stem treatments can just go hang.

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  • Stevo Darkly||

  • ||

    If it's limited to permitting federal funding of research on human embryonic stem cells, there is nothing in this vote for a person who loves liberty to cheer, even as Bush jeers with his nonsensical moral posturing. I hope he vetoes it. (Maybe he'll enjoy the experience of vetoing and try it with spending bills, something he should have done long ago-Ok back to reality)

    Bush does not cite the value of individual choice and that is the sufficient and best reason for vetoing federal funding of research on human embryonic stem cells. It's a good reason to veto all federal funding of research (not including defense research intended for defense but not elective wars such as Iraq). But with embryonic stem cells, not forcing people to support it is more critical since some have strong objections of conscience.

    On concerns of practicality and not principle, research on human embryonic stem cells holds wonderful possibilities for alleviating individual suffering. The evidence of the past indicates that market processes bring medical products to fruition much more bountifully then does federal funding.

  • Yaron||

    Libertarian site attacks a move against federal spending. Am I on the wrong blog here?

  • ||

    Thanks for the link, Stevo. Very interesting. I certainly didn't know Gary Cherone was on the right side of the debate, in both senses of the word "right."

    I particularly like his response to pro-abortion advocate Eddie Vedder's quote that "terminating a pregnancy is not an easy thing":

    "Is the life within the mother's womb a human person? If the answer is no, it is not a human person, why would one feel it 'is not an easy thing' to do?"

  • TWC||

    Steveo, as an aside, Ron Paul is anti-abortion. But you knew that already, right?

    Pardon me, but I'm not cheering about the lifting of any restriction of federal funding of anything.

    Thank you Rick Barton for making the case in a clear and concise way.

    I liked it in the old days when the LP was listed by the radical women's groups on their ANTI-CHOICE hit list (re: abortion) for opposing government funding of abortions despite having a pro-choice plank in the LP platform.

    That was the correct position to take then and is the correct and moral position to take now.

  • ||

    So, what private research institutions in are working in this area in the US, anyway? Anybody have any references?

  • ||

    JonBuck,

    Howard Hughes Medical Institute

    Don't know how much of that research is directly related to this particular aspect of the stem cell political sideshow, but the Hughes folks claim to be "...the nation's largest private source of support for biomedical research..."

  • gaius marius||

    you have to consider this, however, in conjunction with the mccain 14 in the senate. apparently, cooler heads have decided that they must prevail -- and have built real live bipartisan coalitions to defuse the pressure in congress before shooting breaks out.

  • ||

    Yaron,

    Being seen as a pro-science, secular amoralist poking a finger in the eye of those mean old conservative Christians simply trumps any consistant philosophy of limited government.

  • gaius marius||

    poking a finger in the eye of those mean old conservative Christians simply trumps any consistant philosophy of limited government.

    i think those personality cult churches of so-called "christians" (most of whom would laugh off the sermon on the mount as "pie-in-the-sky liberalism") constitute a fascist faction. seeing them exposed as the violent militant radicals they are -- forcing bush to either ignore them or be exposed himself as a political tool of them -- is good for continued representative government.

    that has to come well before a drop in the funding bucket when it comes to standing for principles.

  • ||

    Yaron and MJ,

    I'm thinking that Ron is just observing and commenting on the cross fire, and if in congress, he would vote against federal funding of research on human embryonic stem cells.

    (Hey Yaron, your screen name reminds me of "Yavon"-Too much Star Wars on my mind, I guess.)

  • ||

    Rick, I am such a dork, I am going to correct your spelling of "Yavin."

  • ||

    It is hard to take the pro-embryo research side seriously, when they come up with such absurd, logic twisting arguments such as Bailey presents in his article.

    Up first this gem of a phrase: "...actually existing human beings...". Which begs the questions: Does Bailey believe that human embryos are, in fact, synthetic, that they don't really exist, or that they are not human? If any of the above are true then what's the point, embryos are useless for medicine. But of couse they are not true, Bailey merely appeals to emotion.

    So 60 to 80% of embryos are lost before implantation due to natural causes. So what? 100% of all adult human beings will eventually succumb to natural causes (unless they are taken out by their fellow human beings first). This fact does not constitute an argument for yanking thirty year olds off the street and dissecting them for their organs. As to who I would save in a fire, I'd also save three year old or a pregnant woman over say, Ron Bailey. So I guess in his world Bailey needs to report to a rendering station forthwith. But there is a huge difference in making the best of bad choices in an emergency situation, and a deliberate, well-thought out and cold blooded act.

    So it is hard to see how any of these cases add up to a logical case for dismembering embryos for science. It is even harder to see how that is a justification for forcing people who find this practice morally repugnant to pay for it through their taxes. Yet, in the fever swamps of Bailey's mind it is The people who disagree with him who are the "bullies".

  • ||

    "i think those personality cult churches of so-called "christians"...constitute a fascist faction."-gaius marius

    Which goes to prove that you do not, in fact, "think".

  • ||

    Stevo,

    Thank you. My bad. Now that you've corrected me, I remember it so clearly. ;) It's me who was the dork. You may, however, proudly claim the mantel of "geek".

  • Yaron||

    That's an actual name, by the way. Not to interrupt the geek-off. What were we talking about?

    Seriously, I think Ronald owes some sort of explanation for this bizarre-seeming pos.

  • Yaron||

    t.

  • ||

    I find it morally repugnant to pay for the war in Iraq with my taxes. If we're going to defund everyhing that someone finds morally repugnant then there's not going to be much of a federal government is there . . . hey? What are you, some sort of anarchist?

  • ||

    Rick Barton,

    I'm thinking that Ron is just observing and commenting on the cross fire, and if in congress, he would vote against federal funding of research on human embryonic stem cells.

    I'm not so sure, given the fact that Ron has written seemingly hundreds of articles on this topic, all of which paint those who oppose funding as ignorant luddites.


    MJ,

    You hit the nail right on the head regarding many libertarians' mental disconnect on this issue, but to be fair, I think it happens when people are so used to being anti-conservative on a cluster of issues (as many here are pro-choice).

    I'm not sure how long you've been reading his stuff, but Ron Bailey is one slick fella. Not a single life-saving or disease-curing treatment has been found yet in years of ESC research, but he (along with most ESCR advocates) implies that those who refuse to fund it don't value the lives of "actually existing human beings."

    At best, you're trying to balance the certain destruction of those who are possibly persons vs. possible benefits to those who are certainly persons. It's a debate where honest and intelligent people can find themselves on opposite sides, but you wouldn't get that from reading Bailey.

  • ||

    crimethink,

    I view Ron's articles as mostly attacking the arguments of those who oppose research on human embryonic stem cells, rather than the opposition to the federal funding of it. Ron can, of course, settle this matter.

  • ||

    How about this: We say "if" thier is federal funding avaliable, it could be used for Embryonic Stem Cell Research. Then allocate $0.00 to the effort.

  • ||

    crimethink,
    So should we leave those embryos in a freezer doing, quite literally, nothing? And please don't bring up embryo adoption. Those that suggest embryo adoption are ignoring living human beings for an undifferentiated ball of cells. There are plenty of born kids that need homes too.

    I'm torn on the federal funding of ESCR. I definitely think that research should be able to go on in federally funded labs (why should a university have to use entirely different premises to conduct federally approved research as ESCR, when there's tons of overlap in needs). I oppose all federal funding of research, but once you fund one thing, you create imbalance in favor of funded avenues and don't allow the market to decide. As long as the research pie doesn't get bigger (I know laughable) I don't mind some of the research money going to a promising new field. If they cut all federal research funding there wouldn't be a single teardrop in my beer.

  • ||

    So 60 to 80% of embryos are lost before implantation due to natural causes. So what? 100% of all adult human beings will eventually succumb to natural causes (unless they are taken out by their fellow human beings first). This fact does not constitute an argument for yanking thirty year olds off the street and dissecting them for their organs.

    Great analogy MJ. This was a bad argument. There are plenty of arguments for stem cell research that hold more water. I personally believe that 46 chromosomes does not make a living person. Otherwise, brain-dead patients, with all but mush that's left inside, should be given equal protection as that 3 year-old in a fire. Conciousness to me is what separates human beings from the micro-organisms, birds and fishes of the world. Brain waves start somewhere mid-way through a pregnacy I believe, and that's is where the first signs of a person begin to form, in my humble opinion.

  • ||

    Libertarians for Life was founded in 1976 to show why abortion is a wrong, not a right.

    I'm sorry to point this out, as they do make some interesting points and provide a lot of food for thought, but when this is the first line I read on a web site it makes it difficult to take the rest very seriously.

  • ||

    I'm kind of torn on this one. While I'm not particularly keen on government subsidizing any research, it's always a pleasure to see the Religious Right getting yet another pie in the face.

    I've always figured the Religious Right will end up getting steam-rolled over issues such as stem-cell research and genetic engineering issue when the average inhabitant of Beijing is 7.5 feet tall, weighs 280 lbs, all muscle, and has an average IQ of 220. Imagine a zoo in Beijing with a specimen of a bible-thumping fundamentalist in a cage labeled "Moral-American Crotch-Monkey", getting gawked at by a crowd of our hypothetical brilliant, 7.5 foot Beijingers (sp?).

  • ||

    Libertarian site attacks a move against federal spending.

    Chances are that the money will be spent on federal research of one form or another. If it's going to be spent, there's nothing unlibertarian in suggesting that it's better to keep some potentially fruitful options open than to have them sealed off by superstitious neo-Luddites. Particularly when restrictions on public-sector research could set a precedent for laws regulating private-sector activity.

  • ||

    Eric II,

    I don't think it follows that the money will be spent on federal research of one form or another. I don't think that the budgeting process works that way. Also, although restrictions on public-sector research could set a precedent for laws regulating private-sector activity, there is no reason why they are likely too. Restrictions on private-sector research should be opposed just as federal funding should be opposed, and with the same vigor and utilizing the same pro-choice arguments.

    Also, is public health really served anyway by having the far less efficient government sector do science that we hope will produce health products for individual consumption?

  • ||

    Rick-

    It depends on the details. A bill could say "X amount of dollars shall be allocated to stem cells" or it could say "Researchers who want to study stem cells can compete for the same pool of money." I have no real objection to something along the lines of the second proposal. As long as the government is funding science, why not make sure the most promising fields are the ones that get the money?

    Here's a close analogy: What if a state lifted laws that require public high school science and math teachers to have education degrees? What if the state allowed people with math and science degrees and professional experience to teach math and science despite not having taken "Multicultural Curriculum Theory 101"?

    Would we be upset that the state expanded the pool of people eligible to collect a salary from the public schools? Or would we be glad that publicly-funded science education at the high school level is at least trying to identify the most qualified teachers? How is that different from funding the most promising projects rather than less promising projects?

    And don't assume that this move will cause the science budget to mushroom. Science budgets can be quite volatile. Even military funding for science can be volatile. I've stopped following the big picture of science funding and narrowed my attention to sub-fields, but I know that science funding became more volatile after the Cold War ended, and that volatility has only been slightly tamed after 9/11.

    Finally, there's another issue here: No matter what the phrasing of a research grant contract might say, the fact is that academic labs are fluid places. People collaborate on multiple projects, equipment gets shared, time gets divided, etc. All this is fine as long as results are delivered.

    I would be wary of any broadly-worded ban on federal funds for stem cell research if it interferes with the operations of labs that receive a mix of private and public funds. If the postdoc doing stem cell work on a private grant can't use the confocal microscope purchased with NIH funds, well, the fact is that the bulk of science funding comes from the feds. The PI will be more likely to turn down private funds rather than public funds if the strings become too burdensome.

    Private funding is slowly picking up pace in science, and if strings are attached to public funds that interfere with privately-funded projects, I fear that private funding will lose out. Now, if private funds ever (God willing) comprise the bulk of university science funds then researchers might be willing to eschew federal grants with strings attached. But we aren't there yet. So let's not make life difficult for labs that receive mixed funding. If there must be a ban on federal funding of stem cell work, at least ensure that the wording isn't so broad that it stifles work in labs that receive funds from multiple sources.

  • ||

    Ol' Yeller wasn't a Real Existing Person either, and it wasn't easy to shoot him.

    It's not an XOR.

  • ||

    I think the Libs here who are harping on total bans of federal funding should leave a little more room for those who disagree. If I understand correctly, Libs believe in LIMITED government, not the ELIMINATION of government.

    I think work in public health, ideally as science-driven and apolitical as possible, is a legitamit government function. At least it's far more palatable then the Drug War, or many, many other programs that actually conspire against an individual's life, liberty, or property.

    Thus the stem cell issue. The people who are against stem cell research aren't making any convincing arguments. Their chief gripe is that this work apparently offends an invisible, supernatural being. There is very real suffering going on by people who actually exist in the here and now, and Bush is kissing "adopted embryo" babies on the front page of the Washington Post. Fucking insane.

  • ||

    Here's the full text of the bill. Though I could be wrong about this, it doesn't apppear as if additional funds are being tacked on to the NIH's budget for the purpose of doing research on new stem-cell lines. Rather, it appears that the bill merely authorizes the NIH to spend funds already granted to it on such research.

    On the other hand, the bill passed by the House to support research on stem cells obtained through umbilical cord blood does clearly allocate an additional $79 million in federal funding.

  • gaius marius||

    Which goes to prove that you do not, in fact, "think".

    mr mj, a lot more thought goes into that statement -- my own and many others -- than you may wish to believe.

    there is a huge difference in making the best of bad choices in an emergency situation, and a deliberate, well-thought out and cold blooded act.

    So it is hard to see how any of these cases add up to a logical case for dismembering embryos for science. It is even harder to see how that is a justification for forcing people who find this practice morally repugnant to pay for it through their taxes.

    let me say that i agree with your case. let me further say that it is not christian.

    a christian would not say that dead embryos have souls. so say that htey do is a refutation of any christian doctrine. the life has passed from them. whatever becomes of dead embryos, they are not being killed.

    to the extent that embryos would be killed to get stem cells, i'm with you 100%. that is a peril to human morality. but that isn't what's being discussed.

    your view, however, is entirely emblematic of the introspective particularist mode of the counter-enlightenment. science is objective, and for it to advance needs objects. for embryonic stem-cell research to advance, it needs stem cells from embryos. CLEARLY, that "add(s) up to a logical case for dismembering embryos for science".

    it is only in the rejection of science as an empirical process of direct observation that this case cannot be made. and yet, that is the case you would make.

    please, if you wish to condemn stem-cell research, do so on meaningful grounds -- of which there are many.

  • gaius marius||

    It is even harder to see how that is a justification for forcing people who find this practice morally repugnant to pay for it through their taxes.

    further, you exhibit here the reason why perversse "christianity" is not christian. this rejection of the society which christ told his followers to encourage and love -- the brotherhood of man -- because you personally don't agree with th edecision is as anti-christian a notion as is possible, in my humble estimation. such intolerance for community and compromise -- the heart of christ's message -- is widespread in militant protestantism in america today. as i've said elsewhere, most militant american preachers would spit upon the sermon on the mount as "liberal claptrap".

    i am a catholic, and i find american religion to be utterly vile hatred -- unguided individual introspection that has led to conceit, stupidity, immorality and an open renouncement of the real world and the people who live in it. there is nothign christian about that, sir, when "Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God."

  • gaius marius||

    Not a single life-saving or disease-curing treatment has been found yet in years of ESC research, but he (along with most ESCR advocates) implies that those who refuse to fund it don't value the lives of "actually existing human beings."

    mr crimethink, i respect your love of life, but for hundreds of years observations of the stars did not yield that the earth revolves around the sun. a lack of dramatic progress observable to the layman is not a valid reason to disengage from the real world like herder did.

  • ||

    While I can appreciate the disagreement with "harvesting" embryos, I cannot think of any justifiable objection to using umbilical cord blood for research. Of course, I can think of a million reasons to object with spending tens of millions of stolen taxpayer dollars on it. However, given how many hundreds of billions of dollars we're tossing down the fucking drain in various shitholes around the world, funding possibly lifesaving research is pretty low on my list of priorities.

  • ranger||

    Would we be upset that the state expanded the pool of people eligible to collect a salary from the public schools? Or would we be glad that publicly-funded science education at the high school level is at least trying to identify the most qualified teachers? How is that different from funding the most promising projects rather than less promising projects?

    Well, if you *really* want a libertarian answer, I think you'd come down on the side of no public schools in the first place. Unless you mean to argue for the acceptance of the lesser of two evils. Assuming that's the case, I agree that I'd rather support better teachers. Applying that to the case at hand, I'd also err on the side of this statement competing for the same pool of money.

    Private funding is slowly picking up pace in science, and if strings are attached to public funds that interfere with privately-funded projects, I fear that private funding will lose out.

    A scientist (and very leftist) ex-girlfriend tried to explain to me, poorly, why government coffers always seemed to be the first to be raided for research. My theory was that some research was being done simply for the researcher's sake. So the private market lacked a driving profit motive, thus no real interest. Her theory was that profit motives were inherently evil and all research was to be commended. To be honest, some of her research (she worked at the USDA) made very little sense to me. However, I'm not a scientist, so it's entirely plausible that she was studying something of great interest to the private sector.

    Regardless, it does seem that private funding is lagging behind. Could this be a symptom of conditioning, where all science feels entitled to government funding and ignores the private sector? Why have the benefits of competition seemed to bypass this industry?

  • ||

    Is Bailey a libertarian? Yep. Is he a thorough-going dogmatist? Nope. I am still open (but not yet convinced) to the argument that basic scientific research is a public good that would be underfunded by the market. (See URL: http://www.house.gov/science/barfield_04-22.htm). On the scale of possible outrages to liberty, funding scientific research seems rather small potatoes. However, if I had my druthers, I probably favor eventually eliminating all federal funding for scientific research (except some that is perhaps necessary for national defense), but I confess that that is way way way down my list of federal programs that I would defund.

    With regard to the stem cell vote in the House (and one hopes soon the Senate), I know that many of H&R regulars consider me an cruel babykiller, but I have wrestled with the question of the moral status of embryos for years and I just don't see how embryos can be considered the moral equivalent of a 30 year mother of three. I won't bore you all with my arguments in this area since I've made them many times elsewhere.

    Finally, MJ, you passionately write: "So 60 to 80% of embryos are lost before implantation due to natural causes. So what? 100% of all adult human beings will eventually succumb to natural causes (unless they are taken out by their fellow human beings first)." Of course, that's true and generally we feel a moral duty to rescue adult human beings from sickness and death if possible. So I take it that you favor monitoring the menstrual flow of all fertile women in order to rescue the vast majority of embryos that fail to implant so that we can reinstall them so that they can grow into infants?

  • gaius marius||

    if you *really* want a libertarian answer

    lol -- mr ranger, if you really want the libertarian answer, it's back to the caves and clubs and lives of perfect solitude. :)

    So the private market lacked a driving profit motive, thus no real interest. Her theory was that profit motives were inherently evil and all research was to be commended.

    she's obviously wrong (if you represent her fully) -- but so are you, i think. to assume that all useful research is immediately and obviously profitable at an acceptable margin of risk is not true.

    as an example, back to tycho brahe and kepler -- what profit motivation lay there? and yet, where would we be without their observations and deductions, which underlie a great deal of other science?

    history is replete with accidental discoveries (penecillin, famously) and unintended/unimagined consequences of otherwise innocuous research. the public funding of science, fwiw, seems like largesse to the efficiency-mad, but increases the probability on the long-term of technological advancement in unexpected and unforseen directions, based on groundwork that no profitable concern could have taken the time and risk to develop. stem-cell research is just another of a long line of such research programs, and it may come to nothing. but the game is of probability.

  • gaius marius||

    pardon me -- "penicillin". more spellchecking forthwith.

  • ||

    "...it's always a pleasure to see the Religious Right getting yet another pie in the face."

    That seems to be the most honest summary of "libertarian" thought on the subject I've heard yet. ;)Mr. Bailey's arguments being, in general, an exception.


    "So I take it that you favor monitoring the menstrual flow..."

    Why do you say that? Did anyone suggest monitoring fully grown humans to see if they get sick or hurt? Last I checked, one had to call an ambulance, they didn't monitor you until something happened. I think your analogy is poor.

    If one were to accept that fed. funding was being used ,anyway, for research and the issue is merely re-allocation, I would suggest the libertarian view might be that that allocation not include something a large mass of the population find abominable. Surely a pure libertarian would reject any federal redistribution of wealth, but being that libertarian values are apparently so easily comprimised, perhaps we can at least agree to spend the money in such a way that is acceptable to those people from whom the money is taken.

  • ||

    Ooooh, pardon my spelling, please, I was in a terrible rush!

  • ranger||

    lol -- mr ranger, if you really want the libertarian answer, it's back to the caves and clubs and lives of perfect solitude. :)

    And that is truly an option that I've not quite ruled out. :)

    she's obviously wrong (if you represent her fully) -- but so are you, i think. to assume that all useful research is immediately and obviously profitable at an acceptable margin of risk is not true.

    Well, she is an ex-girlfriend, so there's a chance I'm missrepresenting. ;-)

    All kidding aside, I think I should clarify my poor choice of words. My argument is that research with no real goal or gain, research for research sake, holds little to no investment incentive to the private sector. "Profit" need not be monetary. (Google "Norman Borlaug" for an example.)

    I agree that many of the discoveries of the past were, sometimes accidental, results of "I wonder what happens if...?" types of studies. However, I think those discoveries would be more likely in the private sector if they piggy-backed on some sort of "profit" or "gain" from another product on the market. To just throw tax dollars at that kind of research with nothing more than circumstantial "well, it happened once!" logic is wasteful.

    Of course, I'm obviously squarely in the "efficiency-mad" camp.

  • ||

    this rejection of the society which christ told his followers to encourage and love -- the brotherhood of man -- because you personally don't agree with th edecision is as anti-christian a notion as is possible, in my humble estimation. such intolerance for community and compromise -- the heart of christ's message -- is widespread in militant protestantism in america today.

    You do realize that traditional Christian values played a major role in accelerating the demise of the Roman Empire, right? And that the brands of Christianity found during much of the West's medieval and post-medieval history represent an intermingling of Roman-era Christian values with the more warlike attitudes of the barbarian tribes that conquered Rome.

    Nonetheless, I'd be the first to admit that the cultural ethos of present-day America is less traditionally Christian than that of culturally secular Europe. I've long contended that the true spiritual ancestors for the religious right aren't the New Testament Christians, but the Old Testament Hebrews. Of the various political factions out there today, I suspect that the early Roman-era Christians have the most in common with the anti-globalist left.

  • ||

    Hi wellfellow:

    You write: "I would suggest the libertarian view might be that that allocation not include something a large mass of the population find abominable."

    How large a "mass" is required? After all a Harris poll last year found that three-quarters of Americans are in favor of using donated spare embryos for stem cell research.

    Furthermore, isn't part of the point of libertarianism to allow the flourishing of a pluralism of individual values? If Roman Catholics and some Evangelicals object to treatments devised using stem cell research, they are free not to avail themselves of it and to argue righteously that the rest of us are condemned to hell for daring to do so. Why should the rest of us allow our friends and families to suffer because of the religious arguments with which we do not agree?

  • ||

    for hundreds of years observations of the stars did not yield that the earth revolves around the sun. a lack of dramatic progress observable to the layman is not a valid reason to disengage from the real world like herder did.

    No one in 1500 could have been certain that observations of the stars would one day result in a deep knowledge of the inner workings of the universe, including Earth. Likewise, no one at that time could have been certain that searching for a Northwest Passage was a dead end. Basically, no one can predict the future of any pursuit with certainty.

    And yet, ESCR supporters presume to accuse their opponents of not caring about the sick and dying, based on a future that is quite uncertain.

  • ||

    Dad To The Clone

    (Sung to the tune of "Bad To The Bone," by George Thorogood and the Destroyers)

    On the day he was born
    The nurses all gathered 'round
    He just looked too familiar
    Couldn't help but astound
    The head nurse looked at me
    Saw the child fully grown
    She could tell right away
    That I was Dad to the clone
    Dad to the clone
    Dad to the clone
    D-D-D-D-Dad
    D-D-D-D-Dad
    D-D-D-D-Dad
    Dad to the clone

    I've tried so many times
    Replicate my DNA
    But each time I succeeded
    It was only halfway
    Your genes are all mine pretty baby
    Mine and mine alone
    I'm here to tell everyone
    That I'm Dad to the clone
    Dad to the clone
    D-D-D-D-Dad
    D-D-D-D-Dad
    D-D-D-D-Dad
    Dad to the clone

    You're a true reproduction
    My own Mini-Me
    You're my clean carbon copy
    You're my facsimile
    My genes are all yours pretty baby
    To the last chromosome
    I'm here to tell ya baby
    That I'm Dad to the clone
    Dad to the clone
    D-D-D-D-Dad
    D-D-D-D-Dad
    D-D-D-D-Dad
    Dad to the clone

    And when I walk the streets
    Eyes will be opened wide
    I will be so complete
    With Little Me by my side
    I wanna tell ya pretty baby
    Your genetics aint your own
    I'm here to tell ya honey
    That I'm Dad to the clone
    Dad to the clone
    D-D-D-D-Dad
    D-D-D-D-Dad
    D-D-D-D-Dad
    Dad to the clone

    parody by a friend known as Rat on the Fray.

  • ||

    Crimethink:

    Maximum uncertainty is before research is done. Ignorance is rarely bliss. The point is to find out what all different types of stem cells can and cannot do.

  • ||

    Ron Bailey,

    I won't bore you all with my arguments in this area since I've made them many times elsewhere.

    The only argument I've ever seen you produce is along the lines of "come on, it only has 8 cells!" Please, bore me.

    Of course, that's true and generally we feel a moral duty to rescue adult human beings from sickness and death if possible. So I take it that you favor monitoring the menstrual flow of all fertile women in order to rescue the vast majority of embryos that fail to implant so that we can reinstall them so that they can grow into infants?

    We don't monitor potentially sick or dying already-born people, Ron. Plenty of people die in their sleep unbeknownst to anyone else till the morning (at the earliest).

    In any case, to borrow a page from GG, you're making the perfect the enemy of the good here. The fact that it would be impractical and invasive to rescue all embryos, does not imply that it must be OK to actively destroy them.

    Furthermore, isn't part of the point of libertarianism to allow the flourishing of a pluralism of individual values? If Roman Catholics and some Evangelicals object to treatments devised using stem cell research, they are free not to avail themselves of it and to argue righteously that the rest of us are condemned to hell for daring to do so. Why should the rest of us allow our friends and families to suffer because of the religious arguments with which we do not agree?

    No, the point of libertarianism is, my property and my person are mine, and you can't force me to do anything with them without my permission. So if indeed 75% of the population want this research carried out, they can fund it their goshdarned selves without any help from those who don't.

  • ||

    Ron Bailey,

    Again, I know that ESC research could potentially produce progress, but as you implicitly agree, there is significant uncertainty. Surely you see that your claim that those who oppose ESCR are getting in the way of a cure for all sorts of diseases and conditions, is more than a bit exaggerated.

  • gaius marius||

    the Old Testament Hebrews

    as long as we qualify that by saying the mystical hebrews whose worldview eventually went extinct for rabbinical, scholastic theology, then maybe yes.

    You do realize that traditional Christian values played a major role in accelerating the demise of the Roman Empire, right? And that the brands of Christianity found during much of the West's medieval and post-medieval history represent an intermingling of Roman-era Christian values with the more warlike attitudes of the barbarian tribes that conquered Rome.

    there's more than one school of thought on this topic. i rather think of christianity as having been radically transformed by constantine, a process which took it from a mystery cult to the recognized voice of society and collectivism. the church after constantine selected the writings of the testament and the organization and creed of the church to promote social harmony -- an attempt that ended in failure in the death of rome in the chaos of unchecked individualism (which pervaded the doctinral battles of the early church, to be sure), but shaped the church over time into a particularly effective institution of community.

    i understand the role of catholicism in europe after rome was usually one of social cohesion and the repression -- not justification -- of internecine wars in christian europe.

    always an interesting discussion, mr eric. :)

  • gaius marius||

    Basically, no one can predict the future of any pursuit with certainty.

    And yet, ESCR supporters presume to accuse their opponents of not caring about the sick and dying, based on a future that is quite uncertain.

    to appropriate a phrase, i think that is because they view their opponents as not being open to the possibility of life.

    i will not question your love of life -- you've attested to it many times. but i do not see how life is destroyed in this case -- as a practical matter, these "spare" embryos are dead. they aren't going to be implanted in female prisoners or something, forcibly born. they are part of the wonderful genesis of life, but a byproduct nonetheless.

    if there is an argument to be made against making these embryos, then make it -- if you can find a way to call in vitro fertilization an inherently immoral process because several embryos must be made and then not used, go ahead. i find that, if it results in the potential expansion of life, it is moral and good. (and i'm sure you do too.)

    but to claim that these dead embryos have sanctity of life and souls is, to my mind, a perversion of the doctrine of life.

  • gaius marius||

    the point of libertarianism is, my property and my person are mine, and you can't force me to do anything with them without my permission.

    wadr, mr crimethink, this is as succinct a statement of the selfish antisocial impulse as one could hope for. this is what there is to abhor in libertarianism, not celebrate.

  • gaius marius||

    having said that, however:

    �They dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children. Under the moral aspect procreation is deprived of its proper perfection when it is not willed as the fruit of the conjugal act, that is to say, of the specific act of the spouses� union.�

    there is obviously a moral question. it's just rather more obscure than killing embryos.

  • ||

    It's too bad that it takes direct and personal tragedies for Nancy Reagan and the 50-some house Republicans to wake them up.

    Hmmmmmm.. let's see.. what is more important? A glop of microscopic cells, or a real, living, breathing, self-aware person who is suffering in the here and now?

    And all these arguments about stem cell research being "junk science". That's just complete and utter bullshit. Period.

  • ||

    gaius,

    First off, yes I do oppose in vitro fertilization for precisely those reasons, that most embryos so produced are left to an absurd fate after their creation. They are not dead, however; death is a permanent state, and these embryos can be revived.

    In addition, a Christian believes that dead people still have souls, since the soul is eternal. Of course, the soul is no longer attached to the body, but it does not cease to exist.

  • ||

    wadr, mr crimethink, this is as succinct a statement of the selfish antisocial impulse as one could hope for. this is what there is to abhor in libertarianism, not celebrate.

    It's hardly antisocial, gaius. Anyone who wishes to share or give away their property and their person is still free to do so, and the overwhelming majority of people would indeed do so even if not forced by the govt.

    I could just as easily say that your opposition to this is as succinct a statement of the statist impulse as a totalitarian could hope for. But I won't. ;-)

  • ||

    Crimethink:

    I hope you don't find it boring, but try the following URLs:

    http://www.reason.com/rb/rb122204.shtml

    http://reason.com/rb/rb071101.shtml

    and most especially my exchange with Robert George and Patrick Lee archived at the Culture of Life Foundation:

    http://www.christianity.com/CC/CDA/Content_Blocks/CC_Printer_Friendly_Version_Utility/1,,PTID4211%7CCHID278062%7CCIID843932%7CCPATHL3BhcnRuZXIvQXJ0aWNsZV9EaXNwbGF5X1BhZ2UvMCwsUFRJRDQyMTF8Q0hJRDI3ODA2MnxDSUlEODQzOTMyLDAwLmh0bWw=,00.html

  • ||

    Mr Nice Guy, aka the only poster here that gaius (probably) won't prepend a mr to,

    Gee, personal tragedy didn't seem to change JP2's mind about it, despite the fact that his condition was one of those that stem cell research had the potential to alleviate. Believe it or not, there are those who cling to their principles even when they suffer from them. Of course, you're talking about politicians here, so you're probably right in your cynicism...

    And, as I've said before, those suffering in the here and now probably won't be helped by ESCR, since, even if it were vigorously pursued, its promise may not be realized for decades, if ever.

  • ||

    ...I do oppose in vitro fertilization for precisely those reasons, that most embryos so produced are left to an absurd fate after their creation. They are not dead, however; death is a permanent state, and these embryos can be revived.

    But the reality is, crimethink, that they're *not* going to be revived or used.

    I can understand how a religious believer might object to the ab initio creation of viable embryos to be used for ESCR.

    But I can't see how their objecting to using fertility-clinic embryos that are going to be flushed down a sink anyway, or unviable embryos (as mentioned in Ron Bailey's article), which in no way can be conceived to be human, is anything less than simple malice.

  • ||

    crimethink:

    Speaking as a lapsed Catholic, I would think it would be extremely profound if a Pope, even dying, would switch gears on many millions of followers. Even if he would to mutter "Hmmmmm.. maybe we need to re-think our obsession with pinhead-sized masses of cells" I doubt his handlers would allow him near a microphone.

    And to question the science behind stem cell research.. with all due respect, I think this is the exact same smokescreen religious conservatives are throwing about the evolution "debate". They have no logic to support their position, so they seek to confuse the issue by stealing "objective" language from the opposing side.

    "Stem cell research is a dead end". Well, why don't we let the doctors and scientists figure that out, and not the mullahs? Despite my chronic cynicism, I do believe today's medical technology is miraculous, and much can be achieved very quickly as long as calmer heads prevail.

    Oh, and to support one of your arguments, I have read of one Congressman who maintains his ethical stance, even though he is stricken (I believe it's Parkinson's disease.). I'm too lazy to look up the specifics.

  • gaius marius||

    I could just as easily say that your opposition to this is as succinct a statement of the statist impulse as a totalitarian could hope for. But I won't. ;-)

    thanks for that, mr crimethink. :) but now we're talking about a world of absolutes -- lawless freedom, and anything less is tyranny? what of law? is any law tyranny? is any compromise that does not satisfy the urge of the moment tyranny? is any contract that becomes inconvenient to be shirked?

    if one is going to live socially, one must *submit* to law. to the extent that we reject any law we do not agree with, we are antisocial! the idea that one can choose one's level of interaction is fundamentally antisocial -- choice and will must be compromised on some level to ensure anything but chaos. all societies are coercive, should be and must be. my acceptance of that is probably why i have a lesser aversion to lawful aristocracies of history than most here -- law is the key, not will.

    it's the libertarian fallacy, imo, that the primacy of individual will can be the basis for a society -- one that conveniently cannot be tested. :) the alternative offered is to forsake all civility, which is in the end only productive coercion, for the savage existence.

    anyway, i don't see you running around breaking the law. i complain about taxes too. but we should call it by its right name -- selfish.

  • gaius marius||

    And, as I've said before, those suffering in the here and now probably won't be helped by ESCR, since, even if it were vigorously pursued, its promise may not be realized for decades, if ever.

    i sure am glad, though, that someone saw fit to start working on a polio vaccine, regardless of how insurmountable the job must have appeared, mr crimethink.

    i know it's aside the moral discussion -- but ms hunting has an important point. we live in a real, material world. campaign against in vitro, please -- to your hearts content. i could even be persuaded to join you.

    but, while it is legal and allowable and real, let us interact with the material world instead of the ideal as morally as we know. life can be furthered by the sacrifice these unfortunate embryos make -- so further it!

  • gaius marius||

    as sad evidence of my earlier statement: i think those personality cult churches of so-called "christians" (most of whom would laugh off the sermon on the mount as "pie-in-the-sky liberalism") constitute a fascist faction.

  • ||

    As far as I can tell, gaius marius seems to be arguing in favor of stem cell research, more or less.

    I'll bet I could get him to argue against stem cells if I said that I want cures for diseases and I don't care how many other people get hurt or taxed in the process.

    The key seems to be that gaius argues against whatever viewpoint he thinks he can link to the rampant individualism that is destroying the west. If I link the other side of the argument to that evil individualism, I wonder if I can get gaius to switch sides.

    This could be fun.

  • ||

    i sure am glad, though, that someone saw fit to start working on a polio vaccine, regardless of how insurmountable the job must have appeared, mr crimethink.

    Working on a polio vaccine sounds an awful lot like the act of a presumptuous individualist to me:)

  • gaius marius||

    This could be fun.

    open fire! :) first salvo didn't work, though.

  • ||

    Ron broke the margins! Ron broke the margins! (When he pasted in a huge URL instead of HREFing.)

    Tim "You breaka my margins, I breaka you face" is so going to pound him!

    (Might have a more substantial comment later. Or maybe not.)

  • ||

    should be:

    Tim "You breaka my margins, I breaka you face" Cavanaugh is so going to pound him!

  • ||

    So far I've been more solicitous of Mr. Bailey than Nature or Nature's God will be (they'll kill him eventually, like it or not).

    But at this point I'm at the end of my rope. Somebody cut the guy up so he can do some good for science. I think we should study his brain to figure out what would make a libertarian support government funding for science research. Heck, we should confiscate his assets to pay for the dissection.

  • ||

    "a christian would not say that dead embryos have souls"-gaius marius

    What dead embryos? Dead embryos are not at issue here, since dead embryos are useless to embryonic stem cell researchers. They are looking to use living embryos, as the research requires living stem cells.

    "this rejection of the society which christ told his followers to encourage and love -- the brotherhood of man -- because you personally don't agree with th edecision is as anti-christian a notion as is possible, in my humble estimation."

    Really, now. So, in your opinion, the christian thing to do, when confronted by your community's doing an action that you consider unjust, is not only to not object but submissively participate in the injustice? I have difficulty believing you actually accept such a bizarre ethical construction, but I can find no other way to interpret your meaning here.

    FYI, gaius, I am also a catholic. Largely lapsed, to be truthful, but a catholic raised and educated for what it's worth.

  • ||

    MJ,

    I think gaius considers frozen embryos to be dead, since no one intends to revive them. Not that I agree, of course.

  • ||

    "So I take it that you favor monitoring the menstrual flow of all fertile women in order to rescue the vast majority of embryos that fail to implant so that we can reinstall them so that they can grow into infants?"-Ron Bailey

    No, just as I don't think not using heroic measures to save every adult human close to death is an argument for supporting euthanasia. A negative action that results in death is simply not morally the same as a positive action which results in death. My answer will be the same no matter how many times you rephrase this silly conundrum.

    "Furthermore, isn't part of the point of libertarianism to allow the flourishing of a pluralism of individual values?"-Ron Bailey

    Up to a point I would agree with you, beyond that point that line of thinking devolves into an argument against all law, including the ones intending to protect basic human rights and liberties. To say that if you object to theft, don't steal, if you object to fraud then don't commit fraud, if you object to slavery then don't own slaves, but you must not prevent others from doing these things else you impose your values on them is as obtuse a notion as I can think of. What is objectionable about using embryos for research is the inherent assumption that some classifications of human life are properly considered mere objects, chattel. To assert that such an objection is beyond the pale of political debate because it smacks of religion is dishonest intellectual bullying.

    That being said, I do have some sympathy with the argument that these "leftover" embryos could be used with little moral compunction as most will never get the opportunity to grow up (though I have some problem with the irresponsible "shotgun" fertility techniques which led to their ambivalent status in first place). My sympathy is tempered by the understanding, that if embryonic research works as well as its proponents think it will, that this source will be inadequate for actual therapies. There simply are not enough of these frozen embryos availble for donation to satisfy the potential demand. In order to meet that demand, medicine will have to create human embryos specifically for use, through either common in vitro techniques or cloning.

  • ||

    thoreau at 03:33 AM:

    A bill could say "X amount of dollars shall be allocated to stem cells" or it could say "Researchers who want to study stem cells can compete for the same pool of money." I have no real objection to something along the lines of the second proposal. As long as the government is funding science, why not make sure the most promising fields are the ones that get the money?

    Your second proposal is certainly less objectionable, but I still find two reasons why government should not fund research on human embryonic stem cells:

    It's not fair to those who believe this research is immoral to force them to fund it. Also, we're not talking basic research here. This is research with an end in mind to produce consumer health products. Market mechanisms have a much better record in fostering research with consumer goods at the end of the process. And note the Human Genome Project, in which a private lab dramatically out paced the government labs.


    Would we be upset that the state expanded the pool of people eligible to collect a salary from the public schools? Or would we be glad that publicly-funded science education at the high school level is at least trying to identify the most qualified teachers? How is that different from funding the most promising projects rather than less promising projects?

    This is your second, less objectionable, proposal again. But it is different because the number of students determines the number of teachers. With a new place to put federal research dollars, to keep it with in the bounds of the second proposal, we would have to stipulate that for every expansion of funds for research on human embryonic stem cells in the future, other funding would have to be cut.

    If the postdoc doing stem cell work on a private grant can't use the confocal microscope purchased with NIH funds, well, the fact is that the bulk of science funding comes from the feds. The PI will be more likely to turn down private funds rather than public funds if the strings become too burdensome.

    I certainly would not support that strict of a ban, and I don't think that anything that draconian is, or ever has been, in the offing.

    If there must be a ban on federal funding of stem cell work, at least ensure that the wording isn't so broad that it stifles work in labs that receive funds from multiple sources.

    Good point. I agree. The wording of the ban should not be stiflingly broad. Also, I just want to say that this issue has really tested my fealty to libertarian principle since scientific research has got to be pretty close to being my favorite, and most admired, human endeavor.

  • ||

    ...when I said: "we're not talking basic research here." Maybe I should have said: "we're not talking *fundamental* research here."

  • ||

    Rick-

    I doubt that the ban explicitly says that a postdoc doing stem cell research on a privately-funded salary can't use a microscope bought for another project on an NIH grants.

    BUT.... let's say that a lab receiving funding from private as well as public sources makes a breakthrough in embryonic stem cell research. Let's say that the researcher in question achieves some celebrity. I think it's safe to assume that some of the more zealous opponents of stem cells in our government would seek to retaliate by having his NIH grant terminated, and having him investigated to see if he can be charged with some sort of crime relating to misuse of research funds.

    Now, it's tempting to shrug off his loss of federal research funds. Fair enough. But when you look at the long-term prospects for private funding of research, the last thing you want to do is create disincentives that dissuade researchers from dipping their toes in the pond of private funding.

    So I oppose attaching strings to federal research funds if those strings make people reluctant to pursue sensitive areas of research with private funds.

  • Paul||

    Why would anyone who is interested in Liberty want the federal government spending money on any medical research?

    If you want them to spend money on this, why stop here - just socialize medicine and be done with it.

    There might be a reason you don't know of many privately funded stem cell researchers.

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