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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

“Science” Writer Wants Me Booted From NRO



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Ha! Hank Campbell, the founder of Science 2.0, wants me booted from NRO. Apparently I am “anti science” because I wrote here opposing three-parent IVF based on moral and ethical concerns. From his tirade:

But there is no reason National Review should be letting an anti-science fear monger take up this charge against science yet again. Conservatives claim to be more rational so there is no reason to embrace the irrational Discovery Institute, yet Wesley J. Smith, Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism and quasi-philosophical lawyer is being encouraged to mask his anti-science agenda under the guise of ethics. Subjective, morally relative ethics, the kind of thing National Review founder Bill Buckley criticized in his book “God and Man at Yale”.

OK. Disagree with me and explain why. That’s what public discourse is all about. But that’s apparently beyond Campbell’s capacities. Rather, it’s jeremiad time!

Basically, Smith hates all in vitro fertilization. Always has, always will, it is a tool of Lucifer or whatever the Discovery Institute thinks about all biology.

Lucifer? I don’t recall ever invoking the specter of Lucifer in my work, nor to my knowledge, have my colleagues at the Discovery Institute. 

But Campbell sure is into strawmen. I don’t oppose all IVF. I don’t want it “banned:” I want it regulated. And my reasons are abundant; the prospect of exploiting women for their eggs, the gestational serfdom of commercial surrogacy, and the moral impact of storing hundreds of thousands of “leftover” embryos on society, as well as all the homeless children out there needing adoption. Moreover, none of what I have ever written about IVF involved religion. 

And get this howler:

What’s so unethical about that? Well, nothing, but Smith is not simply against three-person IVF, it is just the latest salvo in his culture war. He is against all IVF and has been since it started, just like Discovery Institute is against all biology, it is the reason they exist.

Notice he didn’t even try to rebut what I claimed was unethical about 3-parent IVF, merely asserted that ”nothing” is. Moreover,when IVF started. I was a young trial lawyer in the San Fernando Valley working 60+ hours a week to build my practice. I didn’t have time for issue advocacy and frankly, didn’t give IVF a second thought.

But let’s look at the evidence–or better stated, the lack thereofabout Campbell’s other claims, shall we? I mean, that is what real scientists do. 

The DI is certainly not “anti biology.” Indeed, some DI fellows are biologists and engage in biological research. For example, my pal, Dr. Richard Sternberg, has–count them–not one, but two Ph.Ds–one in biology (molecular evolution) and the other in theoretical biology. Judging from this mess of a piece, I’ll bet Rich is smarter and better educated in matters biological than Campbell.

Then there is Dr. Michael Denton, another DI senior fellow, who holds an MD and a Ph.D. Denton’s genetic research led to the identification of several new retinal disease genes including the gene used in the first successful gene therapy trial at Moorfields eye hospital in London, 2009. I’ll wager that Denton is also smarter and better educated in matters biological than Campbell.

Notwithstanding my post from just this year (linked above), in which I explicitly say, “I don’t want IVF banned,” Campbell careens back erratically to my supposed repeated call to outlaw IVF:

I did a quick Google search and took one from 2006, and Smith is arguing that as long as IVF of any kind is legal, mean old unethical liberal scientists will start practicing eugenics again like progressives did 90 years ago. You should not get IVF, you should adopt, he has repeatedly cajoled parents from his sanctimonious perch while insisting government should ban a technology that has helped millions.

So, I hit the link provided above. It is a post entitled, “Ellen Goodman’s 1980 IVF Predictions.” It describes an interaction I had with now retired syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman–in the context of the embryonic stem cell research debate, not IVF. 

Here’s the background: A reader sent me an article Goodman wrote from 1980 supporting IVF, in which she assured readers that we would never treat embryos as discardable, in her words, ”as if they were no more meaningful than a dish of caviar.” And I suggested that those who smoothly promise there will be limits on controversial new technological research always say we will draw lines, but they usually don’t get drawn. From my post’s conclusion:

After I ran across this column, Goodman wrote a column in favor of ESCR. I e-mailed her pointing out that she was supporting a policy that treats embryos as if they were no more meaningful than a dish of caviar, and asked her when she would finally say no.

She wrote back, “My lines have changed.” Indeed. And thus the blithe assurances that we will know where and when to stop are just platitudes. The Establishment has no intention of ever, finally saying no.

In other words, not only did the piece not call for IVF’s legal prohibition, it wasn’t even about IVF!

From there he gets into fracking for some reason and more irrational screeching about the Discovery Institute. Better reboot Science 2.0 into a 3.0 version.

Oh well: If you can’t rebut the message, throw a tantrum and try to censor the messenger. I guess I am being more effective than I thought. 

Update: Here’s Campbell’s rejoinder. Note again, how the man is fact deficient:

Attorney Smith has responded to me and he makes his case the way you expect an attorney to make his case – redefining what “is” is and dodging the question and making tangential claims like that if Discovery Institute hasany biologists, they can’t be anti-science.  But I should clarify something he gets incorrect in his title: I want the Discovery Institute and its nonsense booted from a conservative magazine I respect – if he goes too, that is a bonus. But it will never happen. Smith is only intolerant about science – if he were on a racist rant, they would notice, but demonizing scientists and IVF parents and children is still okay.

So now I have “demonized” scientists, IVF parents, and children? Campbell forgot to mention that I also hate puppies and kittens! Forget Science 3.0, better make it 5.0. Good grief.



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