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Luddism At The Top
Listening to Bush speak out against cloning spurred me to sign the petition here. This is the first issue on which I think that I would have preferred Gore.Posted by Rand Simberg at April 10, 2002 10:26 AM
I find it odd that folks think that calling those of us who oppose cloning "Luddites" is the equivalent of making a reasoned argument. Opponents have been quite explicit about the reasons that cloning should be slowed or stopped while we consider its implications. Are you utterly unconcerned about them?
Try this hypothetical :
Suppose one of his kids turns out to be pretty much of a jerk, so Dad decides to discard the thousand that survived--still comfortable?
Suppose one kid turns out extraordinary and people want to buy the clones--can he sell them?
Suppose one kid dies, can Dad just have a clone replace him? Does the clone have the same rights as the original kid? Can the clone vote? Does he have to pay taxes? Can he run for president?
Is it responsible for a society that has considered none of these questions nor any others to proceed with cloning willy-nilly? I think not.
Posted by oj at April 10, 2002 11:18 AM
One can be opposed to all of those things without banning all therapeutic cloning. Is a liver (just a liver, no nerves, no brain, not even a brain stem) grown from a cell a "person"? If so then almost anything can be considered a person.
Under the law that the President proposes, such a thing would not be allowed. Except, of course, overseas...Posted by Rand Simberg at April 10, 2002 11:23 AM
It's a distinction without meaning : why is "just" growing the liver therapeutic, but growing an entire clone that you would only use as an organ farm somehow different? The process serves therapeutic purposes in both cases.Posted by oj at April 10, 2002 12:19 PM
Sigh. This is such a baseless argument, I don't know why I bother, but here goes. Obviously, there is a huge difference between "growing a liver" and an "entire clone." The "entire clone" would be a living, breathing, conscious being, that probably wouldn't appreciate you coming along and cutting its liver out! A liver in a dish, however, would have no such issues. As to the above "hypothetical", that is an argument against cloning BADLY, not cloning itself (if Bill Gates could clone one of his children, on one try, without any problems, and just to have another child, would you still object?). The rest of your arguments (suppose this, suppose that) are equally specious, and have nothing to do with the morality of cloning, but the morality of doing evil things. If you had several children, and one was bad, and you killed it, are you bad? Now insert the word "clones" for "children" and tell me how it makes any difference. Any society that permits reproductive cloning has to grant a cloned child the same rights as every other child (to do less would be saying that how you were concieved bears on your value as a human being). Can test tube babies become president? Can they vote? Do they pay taxes? Get serious.Posted by Paul Orwin at April 10, 2002 12:30 PM
A ban would allow us time to decide what is good and what is bad. We could set up the legislative framework that you seem to presuppose and which even the petition says is needed (I guess they want to use the British law as a model). Perhaps we'll decide that just growing the liver is okay. I don't have much problem with that.
But y'all are petitioning to in effect prevent such a pause while legislation is considered. (And how long might that legislation take, with different parties controlling the two houses of congress). So in the meantime, what's to stop someone from cloning in any fashion they wish?
What is the basis for your blithe assumption that a clone is legally a human in the same way a test-tube baby or a regular child is? Why mightn't we, the overwhelming majority, not simply treat clones like other minorities (say blacks up until 1860) who we have found it useful to call not human?Posted by oj at April 10, 2002 12:44 PM
What is the basis for your assumption that a cloned person isn't a human? Twins are clones.
And banning it here will not in any way prevent it. It will just occur overseas, and anyone wanting the benefits of it will buy it from European or other countries instead, taking market away from our own domestic health-care industry.Posted by Rand Simberg at April 10, 2002 12:49 PM
Wesley Smith wrote an article in The Weekly Standard about the medical limitations of therapeutic cloning. Essentially he states that given the rates of success in obtaining a viable clone even a therapeutic one, scientists would need to have access to millions of human eggs to deliver the cures they promise to paraplegics alone. Not to mention all those who suffer from other illnesses for which therapeutic cloning is touted as a "cure."
Beyond the practical limitations to therapeutic cloning lets stop and consider what therapeutic cloning claims to be aiming at. The goal is to take stem cells from the clone and to jump start them to form specific organs for the donor/recipient. This raises a question. Is it easier to grow individual organs in a petri dish (with "on demand" production of parts as needed) or to grow a body of organs? My guess is that it is easier to grow functionable organs as part of a holistic system rather than piecemeal. Would it then be more efficient to design a clone with far subhuman brain functions (so terminating its life/using it for its body parts could be more easily justified)but intact organs than to grow organs in a petri dish? I'm not sure.
Clones serve a potentially incredibly lucrative purpose. How much could you sell their organs for? How much are organs that would not be rejected worth to each of us? When economic interests collide with human rights issues, the economic interests have a long history of winning.
A twin who is born is human, but a doctor can pullhim part way out of the womb, collapse his skull and discard him. Why not allow clones to be treated the same. Cut off brain function so that they don't become conscious and in what sense are they human?
The argument that it will just happen overseas is a non sequitir. The fact that suicide bombings are happening overseas doesn't mean that we should give them a try. A lot of evil things happen overseas; let them stay there.Posted by oj at April 10, 2002 12:59 PM
This whole debate is really just a surrogate for the abortion debate. If you believe that a fertilized egg is a human being, then you're going to think that any research that requires the use of such eggs, the results of which are destroyed, is murder. I don't take this view. I would never deliberately abort a child myself, but I do think that there's a grey area during gestation in which an egg becomes a full-fledged human, and it certainly doesn't occur prior to the formation of some kind of central nervous system.
As to whether or not organs can be grown without the rest of the body, or creating such organs with the use of eggs, there will be no way to find out if we outlaw all forms of human cloning research.
And even if we outlaw, it, as I said, it will not prevent it. It will just put American researchers at a competitive disadvantage with their counterparts in Europe, India, etc.Posted by Rand Simberg at April 10, 2002 01:01 PM
"So in the meantime, what's to stop someone from cloning in any fashion they wish?"
Going from Paul's rather obvious point that a human clone would be just that, a human, why do you suppose that some new law is required? Your somewhat preposterous Bill Gates Nazi scenerio is already amply covered by statute, not to mention a thousand years of Anglo-Saxon common law tradition. One of the beauties of that system is that every new contigency that comes along does not require being carefully and finally circumscribed by the law. Murder is murder.
"What is the basis for your blithe assumption that a clone is legally a human in the same way a test-tube baby or a regular child is?"
What is the basis of your blithe assumption that it wouldn't be? Would you ask the question of any other child born? A clone is simply a twin temporally displaced a little (or a lot). Why is that cloning opponents insist on envisaging them as mindless zombies? It's "clone," not "drone."Posted by Evan McElravy at April 10, 2002 01:05 PM
It's not "just" a surrogate, though the discussions do overlap in places.
I think we can assume that--with the possible exception of Olympic athletes if those rumors were true--no one gets pregnant for the express purpose of killing the fetus. But therapeutic cloning might very well involve growing the clone for the express purpose of killing it and harvesting its organs.
You might never abort a child yourself, but the system you contemplate may well allow millions of "abortions" of the lives of clones.
Surely there's some moral question here that's worth mulling before we allow the cloning to proceed unfettered, isn't there?Posted by oj at April 10, 2002 01:09 PM
What statute? Human is a legal term. The Court determined fetuses not to be human despite thousands of years of tradition and law. Why wouldn't 9 aging justices who could benefit from such research simply decide clones aren't human either?Posted by oj at April 10, 2002 01:12 PM
I'm not necessarily proposing letting *all* research proceed unfettered--that's a strawman. But the proponents of this bill are proposing stopping *all* research. Come up with some reasonable fetters, and I'll consider them.Posted by Rand Simberg at April 10, 2002 01:19 PM
For most who oppose human cloning, there really is no difference between so-called therapeutic cloning ("growing a liver") and reproductive cloning (growing "an entire clone"). Both require the ersatz creation of embryonic human life. Whatever qualms opponents may have about cloning and what it portends, they believe that in both cases that embryonic life is entitled to respect. Therapeutic cloning therefore represents an assault on the dignity of human life because embryonic human life is created only to be destroyed and is accorded value only as a commodity, as "a liver." One may disagree with this view, but labeling it "luddism" is not an argument.Posted by Ed Graham at April 10, 2002 01:20 PM
The ban will allow time for the American people and Congress to come up with the legislative framework, which, as even your reservations indicate, is necessary. But this will likely take years.
In the meantime would you really rather have the cloners proceed without our having any say in what they're doing? Why not pause while our society determines just what it is willing to allow and what not?
The ban can always be lifted once the framework is adopted. But we can never reverse the pain, suffering, and murder that the cloners will perpetrate if there are no limits.Posted by oj at April 10, 2002 01:25 PM
Actually, the moral question here has absolutely nothing to do with cloning. Human is not a legal term; it is a term we use to describe our fellow members of the species Homo sapiens (sapiens), and that we endow members of that species (in the words of T.J.) with inalienable rights. This is not subject to debate, although at times in our history (most of it), this has been ignored for evil purposes. The fetus argument is specious, and also has nothing to do with cloning. If you can't see the difference then this argument is pointless. A fetus, by definition, is attached and dependent on the pregnant woman. A clone, once born, is an independent being. You are obviously trying to use the same anti-abortion arguments against cloning, but they are not the same.
1. Nobody has told me where we are going to get the eggs to conduct all this therapeutic cloning.
It's not subject to debate but has been ignored? Yet you assume it won't be ignored now?
The West faces a steady aging of its population thanks to our declining birthrates. Old people have health problems and they have money. Can you fail to see the pressure that this combination will bring to bear on the question of whether clones should have full rights or should be considered mere organ banks?
When white people were in the majority and wanted cheap black labor we simply declared them nonhuman. Why will clones, which truly are nonhuman (at least in the traditional sense--since they are not born of woman) be treated any better?Posted by oj at April 10, 2002 01:32 PM
What do you mean clones "aren't born of woman"? Do you think they'll be birthed by elephants?
I'm sorry, but just because there may be some circumstances in which ethically troublesome things occur with cloning, doesn't make cloning ethically problematic per se. A total ban is overkill, and counterproductive.Posted by Rand Simberg at April 10, 2002 01:36 PM
A ban might bar some procedures we'll later determine are ethical.
No ban will allow procedures we already mostly agree are immoral, even evil.
What I'm asking is doesn't your petition effectively allow the known evil in order to allow the theoretically ethical?Posted by oj at April 10, 2002 02:20 PM
I challenge any pro-cloners or pro-ESCR folks to lay out a time when declaring a class of people "non-human" led to good. It invariably leads to great evil -- slavery, sexism, ethnic cleansing, etc.
This isn't science fiction -- this is what history has taught us.Posted by John McGuinness at April 10, 2002 02:25 PM
The petition simply opposes this legislation, which is extreme overreach. It simply states opposition to the blanket banning of therapeutic cloning research. It doesn't say that every conceivable type of research should get a green light. What constitutes "therapeutic cloning research" is something that can be subject to debate and definition, but the current proposed legislation goes way overboard.
And no one is proposing declaring a class of people non-human, unless you believe that a heart, or a kidney, is a person. I don't know how to argue with anyone who believes that. There is nothing about cloning research that changes the current legal status of embryos.Posted by Rand Simberg at April 10, 2002 02:35 PM
"Therapeutic cloning therefore represents an assault on the dignity of human life because embryonic human life is created only to be destroyed and is accorded value only as a commodity, as 'a liver.'"
You make it sound like we're talking about sweet crude, anthracite coal, or black velvet Elvises. This is technology that could save human life. How does that attack human dignity? Dying of liver failure attacks human dignity, if you ask me.Posted by Evan McElravy at April 10, 2002 02:53 PM
The reason I'm opposed to therapeutic cloning is that the simplest way to create organs using therapeutic cloning would be to create partial humans, such as now occur naturally with certain birth defects like hydrocephaly. Once we figure out which genes are responsible for early brain development, give the embryo a drug that supresses that function, and you can grow a spare body full of transplantable organs.
This to me is morally repugnant. The alternative scenario, coming up with a box which can generate the myriad chemical gradients necessary to grow a complex organ in vitro, is a problem that I'm willing to bet is "nanotech complete" (that is, you have to have working nanotechnology in order to build such a device). We're a lot closer to the former scenario than the latter, and if you already had nanotechnology, why would you bother with cloning?
The proponents of therapeutic cloning (at least for organ culture) will likely find out the hard way that building a organ apart from embryonic development is much more difficult than they conjecture. But creating hydocephalic shells of human life is probably much easier, since it already happens in nature. The research focus then becomes growing them to an adult size, and this is the technology that will likely be more cost effective than organs-in-a-box.Posted by Ken Barnes at April 10, 2002 03:22 PM
1. I still want to know where we are going to get the eggs to create the clones from. This is not a small obstacle, but a major one with regard to the potential long term applications of therapeutic cloning.
Throughout history, whenver people have used the argument "they're not really human" to justify some practice, it has without exception proven to be a morally repugnant and costly practice that future generations pay dearly for.Posted by John McGuinness at April 10, 2002 03:35 PM
1)Al Gore is an Idiot.
2)There is a lot of hype about cloning most of it to get public funding because private investors want more science than fiction.Posted by Dr. Clausewitz at April 10, 2002 03:41 PM
"Throughout history, whenver people have used the argument 'they're not really human' to justify some practice, it has without exception proven to be a morally repugnant and costly practice that future generations pay dearly for."
What a bogus argument.
You mean like eating meat? Or building zoos? I would defend this by saying (among other things) animals aren't really human. So here is where your theory falls to the ground...
Sorry, but sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes (in fact, always) a kidney is not really human. In fact, I'd be prepared to argue that an anencephalic body is not human. Humanity is a lot more (and less) than DNA.Posted by Rand Simberg at April 10, 2002 04:15 PM
Isn't banning cloning at this point kind of like locking the barn door before they've even finished building the barn?Posted by Andrea Harris at April 10, 2002 04:26 PM
Rand Simberg writes:
So would it be moral to induce anencephaly in a fetus, if for instance, there was no adequate way to culture organs outside of a uterus?
Personally, I think artificial wombs are probably easier to construct than organ-growing boxes, so you might not be confronted with the necessity of women renting out their reproductive organs for organ culture, but just suppose...Posted by Ken Barnes at April 10, 2002 05:00 PM
"So would it be moral to induce anencephaly in a fetus, if for instance, there was no adequate way to culture organs outside of a uterus?"
That's not how I'd look at it, though I suppose you can view it that way if you want to frame the question in such a way as to make it sound immoral.
You could also simply (and equivalently) say that you are creating something from a human cell that will grow into all organs except a brain. Just what is it, exactly, that would be immoral about that? How does it differ (qualitatively, not quantitatively) from growing a cell into a liver only? Or a kidney only? Or skin for burn transplants?
If those things are moral, how does it become immoral to grow a complex of organs, without a brain?Posted by Rand Simberg at April 10, 2002 05:26 PM
"The reason I'm opposed to therapeutic cloning is that the simplest way to create organs using therapeutic cloning would be to create partial humans, such as now occur naturally with certain birth defects like hydrocephaly. Once we figure out which genes are responsible for early brain development, give the embryo a drug that supresses that function, and you can grow a spare body full of transplantable organs."
A delicious image, to be sure, but not what therepeutic cloning is really about. More likely than growing spare bodies without brains is using stem cells in embryos to syntheize bone marrow or insulin or nerve tissue or some such. No "people" in any demonstrable sense would be involved.Posted by Evan McElravy at April 10, 2002 05:56 PM
Rand Simberg writes:
Ah, but if I'd wanted to do that, I could've dispensed with the clinical language, and made an analogy with so-called "partial birth abortion". After all, if the "something" (see below) we're creating here is born without a functioning brain, then it wasn't "really" human to begin with, was it? I'd just as soon keep the cloning and abortion arguments distinct, as I'm on your side on that issue. But why should what I wrote above sound immoral to you? I didn't use any emotionally loaded terms. I just posed the question.
"You could also simply (and equivalently) say that you are creating something from a human cell that will grow into all organs except a brain. Just what is it, exactly, that would be immoral about that?"
Well, to be accurate, the "something" you're growing is a form of human life, though I'd agree with you that since it lacks a brain, it's not a very viable form of human life. It's what might be called a "persistent vegetative state," analogous to a brain dead person on life support. Clearly this is a form of human life that is living only at our technological discretion, and if we remove the artificial support, it will die. But why should we presume to grow a brain dead body to quasi-adulthood in order to harvest the organs? Wouldn't it be simpler to pass a law compelling organ donation by people who end up in a "persistent vegetative state"?
(Not that I would agree with such a law.)
If the reason we don't do so is because of the wishes of the relatives of the deceased, don't these vegetative organ banks have parents, too? (Probably more than two...)Posted by Ken Barnes at April 10, 2002 06:15 PM
"Wouldn't it be simpler to pass a law compelling organ donation by people who end up in a "persistent vegetative state"?"
Perhaps, but few of them have organs that are useful in the same way that cloned organs are (in that they either may be unhealthy, or would have a high risk of rejection).
But if the persistent vegatative state was due to the fact that they literally had no brain, I wouldn't have a problem with such a law, except for the issues of parental or guardian rights (which would be sufficient for me to oppose it).
"If the reason we don't do so is because of the wishes of the relatives of the deceased, don't these vegetative organ banks have parents, too? (Probably more than two...)"
Yes, but they've presumably granted permission, or the organ banks wouldn't have been created in the first place.
If I were to authorize the creation of such a thing, I wouldn't consider it a "child." I would consider it (correctly, in my opinion) as a source of spare parts, just as I would if I contributed some skin to grow for later grafting, or blood for later transfusion. A body without a brain is not a human, in my estimation.Posted by Rand Simberg at April 10, 2002 06:27 PM
Ewan McElravy writes:
Then what we need is not so much a ban on therepeutic cloning per se, but a ban on growing ancephalic human life for medical or research purposes. If you think you can grow a disembodied organ, I'm fine with it. If you just want to use stem cells, that's O.K. too.
Admittedly, my dire scenarios are not an immediate prospect, but the law should be considering such issues now (before the barn gets built, to use another writer's analogy), rather than just trusting to the discretion of human subjects research review committees. Part of the function of law, IMO, is to codify the moral values of a civilization, so the debate we see going on about these profound issues is a healthy one. Best to debate it now, since the future may be sooner than you think.Posted by Ken Barnes at April 10, 2002 06:35 PM
And so we are arrived at the inevitable point : so long as we create beings but prevent their brains from functioning, they are fair game for our organ harvesting. We create them in order to destroy them, so that we may live a few more months or years.Posted by oj at April 10, 2002 06:39 PM
Just one more comment.
This discussion of Anencephalo-Americans (sorry) reminds me of a good and disturbing SF novel by Norman Spinrad (http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/normanspinrad/) called "Bug Jack Barron".
Those who've read it will know what I mean.
"Bugged? Then bug Jack Barron!"Posted by Ken Barnes at April 10, 2002 06:50 PM
As far as I can see there are two camps. People who do not understand cloning and therefore come up with ridiculous reasons to ban it and those of us who understand it and eagerly await it. I see only two arguments 1) "people can be hurt by it so we need to ban it", and "people can use it for evil deeds" so we need to ban it. Anyone who is objevtive, sees how silly they are, but I will provide an example for the rest of you. Every year 50,000 americans die in cars. Therefore cars should be banned. Every year 4,000 people drown in bathtubs, so bathtubs should be banned. Every year 400,000 people die of heart disease, so heart disease should be banned. Hmmmmmm seems like genetic research will do just that! In fact, if you die in a car crash 500 years from now, you could be cloned from whatever splatter they could find that was left of you, and your brain's thought patterns recovered from a backup (thats the extra 450 years of tech) and voila, car crashing is effectively banned! We have plenty of laws on the books that cover what happens when you kill people and clones are clearly people, so get over it. By the way, we were all "cloned". What I am more interested in seeing come to fruition, and what is much more likely is that we will be refreshed by geneticly engineer virusus that restore our dna, and some of the same processes that happen to fetusus as they develop. Also, don't be so sure the cloned liver will grow in a dish. I am pretty certain it will grow in your body and absorb the old liver as it grows. Banning genetic research will doom billions of people to immediate (birth defects) or early deaths (we could live to be hundreds of years old with this technology), and move the technology that will drive the upcomming economy to other countries. Banning will not stop cloning, you will just be too poor to use it if you live in america!
Sheeeesh!Posted by John at April 10, 2002 07:59 PM
"And so we are arrived at the inevitable point : so long as we create beings but prevent their brains from functioning, they are fair game for our organ harvesting. We create them in order to destroy them, so that we may live a few more months or years."
It's not "prevent their brains from functioning." They *never develop brains in the first place,* any more than does a slab of ribs.
Yes, we create them in order to destroy them, just as we create cattle in order to eat steak. It's likely to grant us not months or years of life, but decades. But even if it's months, you haven't made a case that there is *anything* morally reprehensible about it. If you think you have, then you seem to be taking the same position as a Jehovah's Witness, who won't take a blood transfusion, or skin graft.
What it seems to come down to is Leon Kass' "yuck factor." You don't like the idea of something that *looks* like a human being utilized for spare parts. But if we're going to base what's human on "looks," then we're in for a rough ride as our robotics and androidology gets more refined in the future.
What this says to me is that we need to have a serious discussion about what constitutes a human, and what doesn't--a subject to which few people give serious thought, preferring to emote instead. I'll probably put together a post in the near future.Posted by Rand Simberg at April 10, 2002 09:24 PM
I find myself in the comfortable, if rare, position of agreeing with Rand on this one. The ancephaly argument is bogus, because the "sack of organs" never had a brain, so no individual was ever there (unless you invoke an extracorporeal "soul", which causes all sorts of problems all around). This is, at heart, a religious, rather than scientific argument.
I, of course, meant "anencephalic", not "ancephalic". I am writing a bit more on this, in a bit more depth, on my blog, if anyone'
I thought I was done with this debate, but Rand's latest post brings up another telling point.
"Yes, we create them in order to destroy them, just as we create cattle in order to eat steak...
Part of what the "yuck factor" is, I suspect, is a common instinctual aversion to cannibalism. For at least most human civilizations, consuming other humans in order to sustain one's life is a strong taboo, which can generally only be overcome in extremis (think the Donner party). Indeed it's so rare, that incidents of cannibalism make the history books. Combine this instinct with cultural opposition to abortion, infanticide, and corpse desecration, and there you have the "yuck factor" which makes my earlier scenario "sound" immoral.
It may not be rational, but I suspect it's a political reality, and that's one reason why I used the anencephalic argument against therapeutic cloning.
The question is, is there a moral distinction to be drawn between using organs from humans who no longer need them, and who have volunteered them to you upon brain death, and creating new (albeit nonsentient) human lives for the purpose of consuming them (although they're not eaten, per se) like we breed slaughter animals?
As a political conservative, I would say that there is such a distinction, and argue that we should treat human life with greater respect than this, and be wary of "transgressing" the "yuck factor" due to the possible unintended effects on our culture from "farming humans".
As you say, Rand, what we really need is to come to terms with what makes a human being, and just as there is a distinction between an organ and a human being, there needs to be a political solution to the question of when human life begins to be protected by law. Perhaps the prospect of Anencephalo-Americans will shock everyone sufficiently to make the effort.Posted by Ken Barnes at April 11, 2002 04:57 AM
Paul Orwin writes;
I hope you're correct, but I think that at this point it's scientific hubris to assume that organoculture (by which I mean creating arbitrary organs-in-a-box identical to those in an adult human) is possible using current technology, or even technology that's on the near-term horizon. Fortunately, as you point out, it seems possible to create artificial organs which use biological tissue in some sort of artificial extracellular matrix to create usable synthetic organs. After all, humans didn't have to learn to flap their wings in order to fly like the birds, so artificial organs don't necessarily have to be identical to the natural ones in order to carry out the same functions.
But as to the viability of the worst-case scenario I posed, yes, you're right, it would be extraordinarily difficult to "grow" an anencephalic body to maturity for transplants. Perhaps it would be easier to remove the organs at an earlier stage (perhaps at whatever corrersponds to "birth" for the anencephalic clone) and culture the organs seperately. I note that technology to keep transplantable organs alive for transportation already exists.
Then, once we have harvested its organs, we can recycle the rest of the clone into soylent green.
I find it interesting that pro-cloners dismiss the "yuck factor" or initial revulsion to cloning, but then make the argument that embryos aren't really human because of their aesthetic characteristics, and we wouldn't really recognize them as human.
Tell you what -- you can scoff at Leon Kass's moral revulsion when you stop calling embyos a "tiny cluster of cells."Posted by John McGuinness at April 11, 2002 07:58 AM
1. I have never really engaged in one of these discussions before so I must say I am impressed by the relative civility under which it has been conducted.
"What this says to me is that we need to have a serious discussion about what constitutes a human, and what doesn't--a subject to which few people give serious thought, preferring to emote instead."
Your comment is precisely the point that we ban supporters are making. Until we have such a conversation it is irresponsible to allow experimentation to go forward. If we decide that clones aren't human then there need be no rules, we can enslave them or feed them to the lions for our entertainment or whatever. If they are human then treating them like "meat" is immoral.Posted by oj at April 11, 2002 11:40 AM
And delaying potentially life-saving treatments of people who are indisputably human because because some can't distinguish between a person and a thyroid gland is also immoral. Neither side can claim a moral high ground here, and I resent attempts to do so.
But the other consideration is that not all that is immoral should necessarily be illegal.Posted by Rand Simberg at April 11, 2002 12:06 PM
Mere death is not immoral, we're all going to die (at least for the forseeable future), nor is the failure to sacrifice many potential lives to try and temporarily prolong one actual life.
And what's the rush? We've gotten by just fine without any of this technology for thousands of years, a few more years won't make a big difference. It's not as if cures are right around the corner just waiting to be tested. We face what will in all likelihood be a significant period of testing, trial and error, and many failures before any of this stuff is helpful.
You are right that not all that is immoral should be illegal, but a society that stops trying to limit immorality will be too unpleasant to contemplate. That may well be our future, a world with no traditions, no taboos, no one willing to judge right and wrong, no evil, no standards whatsoever--all the more reason to pause and figure out what we're doing rather than rushing headlong into such an epoch.Posted by oj at April 11, 2002 04:12 PM
Death is not immoral, but needlessly allowing it, or a life of pain, is. By your argument, we should not bother with any medical advances at all. I mean, we're all going to die, right?
It's specious to talk about potential lives destroyed, when those "lives" (which aren't lives) would never even occur if we weren't doing this in the first place. Go back and read your argument again.
I think that the people who this might help (like Parkinson's patients) won't find your argument compelling. But they might find it heartless. I hope you don't end up being one of them.Posted by Rand Simberg at April 11, 2002 04:40 PM
If killing every aniimal on this planet would cure one person's terminal disease, I'd say let the slaughter begin. Medical advances that do not require the intentional creation and destruction of human life are fine by me. Animal testing? Fine! Radiation, even if disposing of it destroys the environment? Go for it! Deforesting the Amazon cause it might yiield some medicines? Crank up the bulldozers!
But humans are different. We are not like animals, plants, etc. We matter. Every one of us. But, tragically, as we increasingly treat ourselves like "meat"--aborting the unwanted, killing the old and infirm, now manufacturing clones in order to harvest body organs--we will cease to see ourselves as so. And once we no longer apprehend ourselves as containing a spark of the divine then what won't we do to each other?
Of course people with these diseases support the research--when death beckons people are capable of horrific actions. They might even support using your tissues for research if they thought they could be cured. But our mortality is part of what makes us human. Who knows what we might be like if we were immortal? All I know is that at that point we'd no longer be human. We'd be some other kind of creature, not necessarily one that we'd like, nor one that would like us.Posted by oj at April 11, 2002 04:55 PM
"If killing every animal on this planet would cure one person's terminal disease, I'd say let the slaughter begin."
Are you sure you don't want to reconsider that statement? We really do live on different ethical planets. Or at least, one of us has thought through implications of such a course more than the other (like the immediate massive starvation that would ensue, if nothing else...)
"aborting the unwanted, killing the old and infirm, now manufacturing clones in order to harvest body organs"
As the old SAT question goes, which of these items don't fit the pattern?
I do not accept that creating non-sentient tissue is in the same class as either (especially!)euthanasia of living, thinking humans or destruction of a viable human embryo. What is the criteria by which you would so misplace it?
Until you can demonstrate how it is, you'll make zero progress in convincing me of your position. Such arguments as the above, in fact, *lessen* my interest in even hearing any further arguments.Posted by Rand Simberg at April 11, 2002 05:49 PM
Paul Orwin exacted the arguements against cloning by saying:
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