James Q. Wilson Resigns from President's Bioethics Council


Political scientist James Q. Wilson, who has been a voice of relative moderation on the President's Council on Bioethics, has resigned from the council. Two of the seven members of the Council who voted in favor of proceeding immediately with therapeutic cloning to produce human embryonic stem cells are already gone–Wilson's departure makes it a third.

Council Chairman Leon Kass replaced the two earlier dissenters with three tractable bioconservative intellectuals whose views on bioethics Kass finds less challenging. The question is will Wilson's replacement be yet another bioconservative clone?

NEXT: Hack's Crusade

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “Bioconservative” — what ethnicity is that a euphemism for?

  2. They’re basically preachers who got lost in the lab.

  3. Bioconservatives–those who conform science to ideology. You know, just like Joe Stalin used to do.

  4. Wow… first we have a Berry College reference (and timely too… given the earlier thread about Georgia farm bestiality… talk about your cow colleges).

    Then we find that James Q. is just too liberal for the Bushies.

    I’m surprised they’ve actually replaced them with people who have real PhD’s. Seeing as how they work at “universities” and whut not.

  5. I call em, bioauthoritarians.

  6. The question is will Wilson’s replacement be yet another bioconservative clone?

    Does a bear defecate in the woods?

  7. gee, calm down. Embryo cloning may not be necessary anyway, Australian scientists had already succeeded in using adult nasal cells to grow liver, kidney, skin and heart tissue, for example.
    Non-intrusive, zero rejection problems, sero ethical problems – everyone’s a winner.
    So don’t react so negatively to Kass, he might be on the right side of history, and you would surely feel bad to have not only been on the wrong side but have been petulantly so!
    (especially since as libertarians you are probably used to being on the right side of history yourselves)

  8. Patrick Fitzgerald-

    “Wrong side of history” how? Its not like Wilson and others were pushing to allow violations of, say the Convention Against Torture and the Nuremberg Code.

  9. Glad he is gone. We do not need to be the breeding ground for human body parts. That program is best left to another.

  10. So don’t react so negatively to Kass, he might be on the right side of history,

    It’s not what side of history he’s on that’s important. It’s on which side of science I care about.

  11. Even if nothing ever comes of embryonic stem cell research, and even if adult nasal cells can be used to develop a universal cure-all, those who opposed the government’s efforts to shut down fields of research because of superstitious “ethical” concerns will have been on the right side of history.

    Science good. Dogma bad.

  12. Good thinkin’, Jeff! I’m with you– first organ transplants, then test-tube babies– this has all gotten way out of hand! Let’s steer clear of all this “science and medicine” stuff. If the US can ban it, it won’t exist. Or, foreigners will have to degraded themselves by “advancing science.” Either way, our purity is preserved, thanks to those who are in a position to know better than “scientists” what to do– and have the power to ban it!

  13. I’m having a little cognitive dissonance of my own here.

    On the one hand, “superstitious ‘ethical’ concerns” should not influence science policy, but on the other hand I suspect that most of those yeehawing about unfettered science would probably have problems with, say, the vivisectionists of an earlier day (whose researches were shut down by, if I am not mistaken, superstitious ethical concerns).

    I suspect those pishing at the ethical concerns of the embryo fetishists have a few ethical boundaries of their own that they would not like to see crossed by scientists engaged in research. So lets not pretend that anything labelled as “science” by someone claiming to be a “scientist” is immune from ethical challenge or inquiry.

  14. Science good. Dogma bad.

    A good one to remember next time there’s a “global warming” discussion.

  15. Dissolve the entire council. Why does it even exist, except to serve as a bully pulpit for holier-than-thous under the guise of establishing ethical guidelines? Please. These people probably think “Frankenstein” is based on a true story.

  16. Does the search for ethical guidelines make one holier-than-thou? Is someone who gives up on the search for ethical guidelines more rational than one who continues the search? Is there any truth at all to the Frankenstein story?

  17. Science good. Dogma bad.

    It’s funny how the shoe seemed to end up on the other foot when it came to the Manhattan Project.

    So, how does this square peg fit in your amorphous hole ?

    Science running ahead of humanity.

  18. skeptical bob, it would indeed be good to include in global warming debates. “Those gasses are capitalist gasses, and can’t possibly be harming the planet” vs. the NSF and NAS – easy pick for me.

    RC Dean, recognizing that animals feel pain is not superstitious, it is scientific. Believing that zygotes have souls, on the other hand…I’m not opposed to ethical opposition to certain procedures as a whole, just to opposition that is unsupportable.

    Neo, the destructive potential of atomic weapons has been scientifically proven. The ensoulment of blostocysts…not so much.

  19. Mike: Science doesn’t have a side.

  20. Quin,

    I happen to concur with the dilemma posed by this excerpt from Mr. Bailey’s article:

    Asking citizens to decide an issue while they are still ignorant of its practicalities, benefits, and costs will not “clarify the matter”; only the additional knowledge gained from research can do that.

    But then how can the research proceed if legal impediments have been set up to prevent it? Is this exercising caution on behalf of the unwashed (and unborn) masses, or simply moral and political grandstanding?

  21. joe, so, like everyone else, you are opposed to science that you think is unethical, and in favor of science that you think is ethical.

    Fine, so am I. You just have a way of dismissing other people’s viewpoints (your ethics are rational, theirs are “superstitious” and “unsupportable”) that really gets up my nose.

    I also happen to think that the whole bioethics panel is a dreadful idea, and it should be dissolved.

  22. But, R C, joe’s values are superior. He’s told us many times.

  23. Has there been ANY productive research using human embryonic stem cells?

    My understanding of the SCIENCE is that we don’t know what the hell we’re doing. Which means we need to do a lot of experimenting on animals where we can figure that out, and THEN worry about transfering the results to human beings.

    I’ve been following this topic with greater or lesser interest since the late 1990s, and I’ve yet to read about even one use of human embryonic stem cells that gave us benefits we would not have received by doing the same experiment with animals. Anyone want to “cure” my “ignorance” by pointing me to the great successes I’ve missed?


    Then I’ll have to stick with my current belief, which is that the real religious zealots are the ones pushing human embryonic stem cell research despite lacking any scientific justification for the push.

  24. “Non-intrusive, zero rejection problems, sero ethical problems – everyone’s a winner.
    So don’t react so negatively to Kass, he might be on the right side of history”

    Kass is on record as opposing any significant increase in human lifespan, even if no “unethical” techniques are used. If he’s on the right side, I’m thrilled to be wrong.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.