Fuck Canada (Anti-Science Edition)

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Former Reason editor Virginia Postrel has a great piece up at Forbes about Canada's draconian anti-science policies when it comes to biotech. The anti-science arguments in the Great White North don't invoke religion (as they tend to down here) but trade more generally in leftist canards about egalitarianism. Snippets:

In tolerant, open-minded, diverse and creative Canada therapeutic cloning–defined as creating an in vitro embryo with the same chromosomes as any other individual–is a crime punishable by ten years in prison….

In liberal Canada… the law defines cloning expansively. Future procedures that might avoid religious objections would still be illegal. The goal is to stop certain research altogether.

That may sound strange to Americans. To many liberal Democrats reproductive choice and scientific progress are touchstone values. But they aren't the only values on the activist left. For many environmentalists, most famously Bill McKibben and Jeremy Rifkin, tampering with genetic nature is inherently wrong. How you do it is a minor detail.

Some feminists object to egg donation, paid or unpaid, for research or conception. "It presupposes an instrumental attitude toward one's own body and that of others" and begins to impose a "social obligation on the female body," notes German feminist Ingrid Schneider.

Genetic research also offends egalitarians. They fear that the rich will benefit first or that money for research will come from social programs. Social justice, argues Marcy Darnovsky of the Center for Genetics & Society in Oakland, Calif., "means not just 'no designer babies,' but also 'no designer medicine.'"

These intellectual influences are stronger in Europe (and Canada) than in the U.S. But two equally threatening ideas do crop up frequently among mainstream Democrats: that commerce taints medicine (those evil drug companies!) and that any activity that has social consequences ought to be centrally regulated.

The Center for Genetics & Society praises Canada, among other countries, for adopting a comprehensive law to "prohibit unacceptable activities, require public oversight of acceptable activities and establish socially accountable structures for revising policies or setting new ones."

No tacky appeals to religious faith here but, in the end, a far more sweeping agenda. Scientific and reproductive freedom will be reined in because they're antisocial.

Whole thing here.

More on Canada in Reason here and here.

Lest we forget: Canada's better on pot than we are. But meaner to Jacob Sullum. So fuck 'em, even if they can take a toke.

NEXT: Turkey Declared Enemy Combatant: No Presidential Pardon This Thanksgiving

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  1. OK, I may be about to open a can of worms regarding the definition of religion, but this snippet…

    “prohibit unacceptable activities, require public oversight of acceptable activities and establish socially accountable structures for revising policies or setting new ones.”

    …does remind me somewhat of the church’s functions in medieval Europe.

    Disclaimer: I am on my third cup of coffee, so I am not yet fully awake; I will not be entirely aware of reality until I’ve had a few more doses of the high-octane stuff; thus, I may not be making any sense, and my comments should be taken cum grano salis.

  2. Some feminists object to egg donation, paid or unpaid, for research or conception. “It presupposes an instrumental attitude toward one’s own body and that of others” and begins to impose a “social obligation on the female body,” notes German feminist Ingrid Schneider.

    Why is it that every time someone passes a law for the express purpose of protecting women or giving women a better time of it, said law always results in women having less freedom than they did before?

  3. Their opposition to cloning sounds like a religion.

  4. “Why is it that every time someone passes a law for the express purpose of protecting women or giving women a better time of it, said law always results in women having less freedom than they did before?”

    Because the unacknowledged logic behind such laws is that group [x] is inferior and can’t possibly make such decisions for themselves or protect themselves, and therefore, we need to have the government make these decisions and protect these inferior beings.

    That, coupled with the need to control other people’s lives…

  5. “”prohibit unacceptable activities, require public oversight of acceptable activities and establish socially accountable structures for revising policies or setting new ones.” ”

    Purely and utterly calls based on morality. And since I’m not one who believes in Objectivism, I would have to say that morality and religion are closely related, if not the same thing. Therefore, this statement and the policies that flow from it are essentially religious in nature.

  6. Oh, good. So I wasn’t totally off base. At least one other person caught a whiff of incense from that statement.

    On cup number 7 now. Head clearing.

  7. I’d say fuck ’em, but I live here. No matter how much that pisses me off. I can’t even say fuck ’em to America, (even though I do on a daily basis) because my parents live there.

    Enjoy fucking us. At least fucking us is still legal in Canada, even if we are the same sex.

  8. Quasibill,

    Religion is a ready-made, off-the-shelf morality. It requires obedience, not thought.

  9. Heehee. There’s nothing like a good pun early in the morning!

    So fuck ’em, even if they can take a toke.
    Thanks, Nick. 🙂

  10. I once heard a panel of scientists talk about the “anti-science” culture we’re living in (and this was in the 90s). The biggest threat to science, they said, came not from the religious right, but from the liberal arts dominated universities that frown on science as elitist.

  11. This Canada “don’t call me ‘American'” reaction, combined with Jeff P’s point reminds me of the idiotic science committee in denmark. Reading their mission(ary position) statement reads like an ID convention introduction.

    BTW: the european court struck down a ban on gene manipulated crops/processing thereof in Upper Austria. Talk about a confusing ruling 🙂

    Hellbound: and don’t forget your kneepads. hockey season begins tonight, and both of you need to be able to watch.

  12. On cup number 7 now. Head clearing.

    !

    Easy, Balzac.

  13. Yeah, right on and all Nick but even though I agree with your sentiments it’s still soooo hard to get worked up about Canada. I mean half the time I forget Canada exists and the other half the time I just assume they’re part of America. Seriously, what is Canada known for? What sets them apart? Meh. Would it be news worthy if Krygztstanistan made this comment?

  14. As a sensitive, peace-loving dude, I’m wondering if there is a site based in Canada that is roughly comparable to this one? If so, could it be linked to each time we decide to do some war-mongering?
    Like Jimmy Carter, Ah jus wanna be fay-uh.

  15. http://www.fraserinstitute.ca/

    ‘eh.

    but Ruthless, people like mona might cancel their subscriptions if you’re fay’uh. remember, true libertarians believe in might making right. (viz: big friend of mine putting little sniveling conservative fuck in a submission hold, enjoying his might making right. that was robin pinning kyle from “the mainline. that’s a really wealthy part of philadelphia”). snicker.

  16. Fuck Canada? We are a democracy, of sorts. Seems a harsh response to our decisions not to allow research in an area, it don’t stop America from fucking with their genes. Perhaps we will change our minds in the future, through debate and such.

  17. Dave W,

    “…genetic research could turn out to be a big unprecedented disaster…”

    Exactly what sort of big unprecedented disaster are you envisioning, and what do you think the odds are of that happening?

  18. “Quasibill,

    Religion is a ready-made, off-the-shelf morality. It requires obedience, not thought. ”

    Well, yes and no. Some organized religions surely fit that description. Others don’t.

    However, ALL governments fit that description, and ALL laws do as well.

    Don’t believe me? Show a priest a joint. Then show one to a cop. Which one will reason with you, and which one will demand obedience?

  19. Exactly what sort of big unprecedented disaster are you envisioning, and what do you think the odds are of that happening?

    Seeing as the medical establishment still don’t know where HIV came from, I would say that uncertainty dominates and overwhelms any predictions I would make or trust in this area. We are dealing with bioactive substances that are: (1) new (or placed in new biological environments); and (2) self-replicating. While the risks are hard to quantify, they should be easy to imagine. There are secondary risks, too. One is that governments will use cloning technology in secret and bad ways. reason readers should be able to get that. Another secondary risk is erosion of respect for human life,* which I will mention without explaining because this group is a little weak in the ol’ metaphysics dep’t.**

    FOOTNOTES:

    * Actually, since we are dealing with new types of life and potential life, it might be accurate to fret that respect for human life will not keep up with changing conditions — in other words, respect for human life will effectively fall back by not countenancing sufficient respect for new potentially valuable creatures. We have already seen this when Europeans first started to encounter African blacks and Native Americans. Don’t get fooled again.

    ** Example: somebody asks if the human race should be continued. The Ms. Young response was that we do not discuss such questions around here. Faith-based atheism, as it were.

  20. drf – YES! Hockey season is back, finally. I can’t wait!

  21. “Now, Let’s Go Flyers!”

    Can’t wait to see Gagne/Forsberg/Carter. Unfortunately, my cable package doesn’t include OLN, so I have to wait for Friday for the first Comcast broadcast 🙁

  22. Really, quasi? I live in the 10sq blocks of West Philly that Comcast doesn’t service and even the ultra-getto Urban Cable Works has OLN. Sorry to hear that. My friend is upset that Comcast hasn’t added an OLN HD channel yet, which was one of their big promises/selling points, so hopefully things will eventually get sorted out for both of you. In the meantime, my advice to you is to start drinking heavily…someplace that will have the hockey on.

  23. Dave W,

    “…the medical establishment still don’t know where HIV came from…”

    This is true in one sense, but I think it also misses an important point. We do know that HIV came from chimpanzees and the related simian virus SIV. We just don’t know exactly how the transmission occurred (a “natural” event involving an African chimp and a native African, contamination of polio vaccines developed using monkey cell cultures, etc.). But this issue isn’t relevant for the cloning technologies discussed in the article, which don’t involve insertion of DNA from other species into humans. Regarding other types of genetic modification that do involve cross-species transfer of DNA, there’s a very active field of research dealing with associated risks – a field that didn’t even exist when human vaccines were developed using viruses cultured in monkey cells. The risks are hard to quantify in some cases, but in others they’re fairly well understood and can be mitigated. And just because risks are easy to imagine, that doesn’t mean those imagined risks bear any resemblance to reality.

    Regarding the threat of gov’t use of cloning in secret/bad ways, maybe this is just a very deep philosophical difference, but that strikes me as an absolutely terrible reason to pass laws banning a technology. I think the lesson from history is pretty clear – if a gov’t wants to develop and use a technology, it probably will whether it’s legal or not. Making its development legal, and therefore more open and transparent, provides at least some safeguard against such abuse.

  24. “The biggest threat to science, they said, came not from the religious right, but from the liberal arts dominated universities that frown on science as elitist.”

    Just read Orynx and Crake by Margaret Atwood and you know exaclty what what he is talking about…I liked the book by the way…but i liked in a Battlestar Galactica cool sci-fi way as opposed to a hands maids tale social comentary sort of way.

  25. Re: the possibility of contamination of polio vaccines developed using monkey cell cultures

    This was exactly my point when I brought up HIV. When you deal with self-replicating material, the possibility for unintended consequences quickly mushrooms, way, way beyond being analogous to risks we face in our every day lives. You need a different risk assessment hat when you are dealing with self-replicating stuff that resides in human and human-like bodies. A hat that is more cautious than the normal hat you wear. The fact that we don’t know whether or not HIV came from polio vaccines is an example of us not having the correct hat on.

  26. that strikes me as an absolutely terrible reason to pass laws banning a technology.

    What about a private citizen building a nuclear bomb? That’s a technology

    How about Iran and North Korea — should freedom ring there, too?

    may want to rethink your premises on this.

  27. “The fact that we don’t know whether or not HIV came from polio vaccines is an example of us not having the correct hat on.”

    It’s a reflection of the state of knowledge and consideration of risks at the time such activities were taking place. Something like that would be _extremely_ unlikely to happen today, both because we know so much more about the science and because we are much more cautious about risk and unintended consequences in biology and biomedicine. Of course one can always point out that there are risks involved, and that unintended consequences are possible; this is true essentially all the time, and as such it’s a fairly meaningless statement. I think you’ll probably agree that the important question is at what point risks and possible consequences have been adequately considered, and I think we disagree on where that point is with respect to cloning and genetic modification technologies. And it’s worth pointing out again that the article was talking specifically about cloning and stem cell technologies, for which the question of self-replicating material with foreign DNA is not relevant (as opposed to GMO’s; don’t know what the Canadian gov’t has to say about those).

    “may want to rethink your premises on this.”

    And you may want to have another read of my post. I didn’t say there’s never a reason to make a technology illegal. I said your reason (that if legal a gov’t might do something secret/bad with it) is a lousy one.

  28. I said your reason (that if legal a gov’t might do something secret/bad with it) is a lousy one.

    It was the primary reason for the Iraq War given between Oct 2002 and the time we invaded. People didn’t think it was so lousy then.

  29. man I am dog shit tired of reading the left opinion on everything here…I mean you don’t see many comments here about how we should stop cloning becouse Jesus said so…and the country has more people with that opinion then say the left’s opinion that we shouldn’t becouse there will be unintended consiquinses.

    Why the hell is this placed filled with the left? Are they somehow threatened by libertarian arguments?

    Or do they secretly want to be cool like us? 🙂

    Anyway I am a libertarian and you can say what you want bla bla ba and a pony.

  30. “People didn’t think it was so lousy then.”

    Actually, you may recall that a whole lot of people (myself included) thought our reasons for going to war were lousy ones. We just didn’t happen to have the ear of our illustrious president.

    But it wouldn’t really be a good comparison even if it were true. No one was talking about whether it was legal for private citizens to have nuclear/biological weapons, they were talking about whether certain gov’ts should have them.

  31. Dave W.: North Korea has private citizens. So does Iran.

    Peanut Gallery In Dave W.’s Head: Yes, but these private citizens can’t be trusted to forbear from sharing their work with their nosy respective gov’ts.

    Dave W.: *taps nose w/ forefinger*

  32. On a simpler, less mind-blowing level, your objection to my nuke weapons analogy is incorrect because private citizens of the US can’t build nuclear bombs and that is not about to change.

    Maybe you want US citizens to obtain recognition of their Creator-imbued right to build nuclear weapons. If so, then I am comfortable with our differences.

  33. “Maybe you want US citizens to obtain recognition of their Creator-imbued right to build nuclear weapons. If so, then I am comfortable with our differences.”

    I am comfortable with US citizens using cloning for medical reasons…i am not so comfortable with them useing it to develope WMD.

    I am comfortable with US citizens using nuclear power for other reasons other then making nukes. I see no reason why X-ray machines and nuclear power plants and other aplications should be punishible by 10 years in prison.

    I am comfortable with US citizens using bolt cutters to cut bolts…but not with using them for brakeing and entering.

    i am comfortable with US citizens using P2p to copy non-copy righted material to other people…i am also comfortable with them copying copyright material…but that is neither here nor there.

    I am comfortable with US citizens using drano to clean thier water pipes…i am not comfotable with them using it to throw on thier cheating girl freinds face..

    see a trend here Dave W.

  34. “Dave W.: *taps nose w/ forefinger*”

    I have to confess I didn’t understand this, but I may just be missing an obvious joke. I also don’t understand your comment about my objection to your nuclear weapons analogy. “Private citizens of the US can’t build nuclear bombs and that is not about to change” was kind of my whole point (or at least very closely related to it). No one was using your argument about keeping nukes illegal for citizens because gov’t might abuse them, because no one was talking at all about keeping nukes illegal for private citizens. That’s never been an issue except for a very few fringy types. Hence the comparison wasn’t really relevant.

    And I don’t in fact think US citizens (or any others) need to be owning nukes; I can think of a lot of reasons why, and none of them involve your argument.

    Well, I’m off for an evening on the town. Have a nice night.

  35. Joshua:

    Your criticism of my nuke weapons analogy is well taken, but would have been better if truncated after the first four lines. I disagree with you about private nuclear power plants, and I think the idea of private nuclear power plants is an excellent example for me to make my point here.

    Nuclear power plants are heavily regulated by the government, even though private comapanies do (I am assuming) have a huge role in administering, runing and profitting from them. However, when I say “heavy regulation,” I ain’t whistlin’ Dixie. In some new places, the regulations are so heavy that new plants can’t be built for the time being. Every new waste site is a fight in US Congress. That is some heavy regulation! In fact, you might say that governments run nuclear power (in conjunction with select private companies, I am assuming).

    Now, let me be clear that I am not criticizing the above scheme for nuclear power. Rather, I like it. I think it the best way to accommodate both the extraordinary safety concerns of nuclear power and still get, to some extent, the fiscally disciplining hand of the market at work. Also, I am not criticizing the fact that some governments allow “private” nuclear power and some don’t. I think nuclear power is a difficult to decide issue and different nations have different circumstances and therefore, I would expect and hope that reasonable governments would differ and they do and everything is great in the world of “private” nuclear power.

    Now here’s the payoff: I fell this genetic stuff should follow the same model. It is early in the game — maybe Fermi times — it would be expected that government regulations would begin to excercise a tight grip on who plays around with nuclear power, just as the gov’t grip is now tightening on genetic research. As with nuclear power, different nations come to differet levels of support/opposition with genetic research. As with nuclear power, a lot of what a nation does will depend on its unique economic interests, which is why I say Canada is doing with the right thing on genetic research, regardless of what level of genetic research may be optimal for the US. In conclusion, I’ve heard that the Canadian experience with nukes was not good — maybe caution is a painful sense memory here(?).

  36. “Canadian experience with nukes” should read –Candian experience with nuclear power–

    As far as I know, nuclear weapons are one government program that Canada has not seen fit to fund. Maybe they are just waiting to see what kinds of goodies N. Korea gets before they make their play.

  37. “Now here’s the payoff: I feel this genetic stuff should follow the same model”

    Yes becouse as with nuclear power we can expect cost effective and estonishing break through with cloning if we have a similarly restrictive government regulations regime.

    (hey i like the sound of that; “restrictive government regulations regime”)

    I am going to have to default back to my original point…which is why the hell does the left come here? I mean what do you expect us to suddenly think…”oh shit Dave is right heavy government control and regulation of medical research is a fucking great idea.”

    And then i contrasted this with the religious right…who don’t come here and try to convince us that we shouldn’t tamper with genes becouse god said so.

    As a side note, your argument is the same as the Judao/Christian fable of the tower of bable..ie if we mess with nature bad things will happen…as opposed to if you mess with god’s creation bad things will happen.

    of course we have been messing with god’s creation/nature for a long time, and as a result we have substantialy longer lives, lower child mortality rates, greater wealth, greater freedom, high literacy rates, cheaper transportion, faster transportion, cheaper food, a wider veriaty of food, and on and on and on.

  38. So if the devil’s dictionary defines Calvinism as “the overwhelming fear that someone, somewhere, may be having a good time”, is the definition of leftist egalitarianism “the overwhelming fear that someone, somewhere, may have something you don’t”?

  39. Dave,

    “is the definition of leftist egalitarianism “the overwhelming fear that someone, somewhere, may have something you don’t”?”

    well yes but i would quilify it as an “irrational fear”…ie there is absolutly no evidence that genetic research or cloning would result in overly expensive, non-enclusive, treatments and medical breakthroughs. The idea that gene theropy would be suddenly more expensive then say heart surgary has yet to be proved.

    Anyway that is not the agrument of Dave W…he is scared of accidently engeneered super viruses…of course if he knew anything about microbiology he would know the tools used to manipulate viruses (and DNA for that matter) come from nature. Ie virus enters host…virus makes booboo and gains trait of host, passes it on to offspring…wamo bamo you got a new super virus all without the help of one overzelouse mega-corp.
    I guess he thinks it is the judicious government regulation of evolution in the wild that prevents such senerios from happening…but in a human controlled lab such preccesses are somehow far more apt to go ary and must be stopped with a fed standing over every shoulder of every biochemist.

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