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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Derek Humphry Has Another Teenage Suicide to Put as a Notch on His Book Final Exit



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This has happened before and it will happen again. A teenager has apparently committed suicide using the death information contained in Derek Humphry's book Final Exit

Who is Derek Humphry? He founded the Hemlock Society--now Compassion and Choices--with his second wife Ann Wickett, after becoming famous for a book he wrote about assisting the suicide of his first wife, called Jean's Way. Humphry abandoned Wickett when she was diagnosed with breast cancer (as did the rest of the "right to die" community), and she was ultimately befriended by Rita Marker, the hated enemy of "the ultimate civil liberty." Wickett eventually committed suicide, telling Marker in a note that Humphry's first wife Jean had actually died "by suffocation," rather than from the drug coctail Humphry said he gave her to drink. Wickett also told Marker that she and Humphry did a double assisted suicide of her parents, in which her mother was coerced into dying by her father. Read all about it in Marker's Deadly Compassion.)

But I digress. From the story:
A book called "Final Exit" is being blamed for deaths in the metro area and across the country.Suzanne Torregrossa said she found the book lying next to her son's body after he committed suicide back in January.

The book, "Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying," is a how-to guide on various pain-free ways to kill yourself. Torregrossa said her son even referenced the book in his suicide letter. He explained how he would replace the air in his lungs with helium, using a technique he learned in the book.
Don't worry SHSers: Humphry won't miss a wink of sleep. This has happened before and he never does.

Post Obama Health Care Power Grab America: Fantasy Land Advice About Being a Good Medical Consumer



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In "Help for Navigating Health Care," San Francisco Chronicle reporter Victoria Colliver interviews a woman named Adrianna Boden, who had a difficult medical experience, and offers tips on being a good medical consumer. From the story:
The Empowered Healthcare Community, formed by a Google employee and a San Francisco dentist, offers these tips to navigating the health care system:

-- Have a health advocate. Make sure someone helps you through your medical crisis, especially if you are hospitalized.

-- No news is not necessarily good news. Check on your test results if you don't hear from the doctor.

-- A second - or third or fourth - opinion is appropriate at any time during your treatment, not just in the early stages of diagnosis. A doctor who does not appreciate other opinions might not be your best choice for a provider.

-- Be aware that federal law guarantees patients access to their medical records. All patients have a right to copies of their records, and they should make it a practice to ask for a copy of everything.

-- Always check your medications for drug interactions. A good tool can be found through the Physicians' Desk Reference at pdrhealth.com.

-- If you need surgery, find out information about your hospital at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services site at hospitalcompare.hhs.gov.

-- If you are having surgery, ask your hospital to use the World Health Organization surgical checklist.
What a fantasy. I am not saying this isn't good advice. (Indeed, I wrote many of the same things back in 1989 in my The Doctor Book: A Nuts and Bolts Guide to Patient Power. But back then, pharmacists had the time to actually ask you questions about medications and act as a fail safe against adverse drug interactions, and people had ready access to specialists as well as second and third opinions without having to maneuver through bureaucratic roadblocks.) I am saying that with the Obama health care power grab we are about to have imposed upon us undemocratically, that wise actions like second and third opinions and telling the hospital to use the World Health Organization Checklist will be near pipe dreams. We are heading into a system where patients have little control--except, of course to "choose" to die--in which utilitarian bioethicists and faceless bureaucrats make all the big decisions for us.

Further proving my theory that the Left is about power and not freedom, the American Journal of Bioethics blog thinks that the Obama power grab via a procedural maneuver around democratic debate is just peachy keen. You see to the Left, democracy doesn't really matter. Getting what they want is almost all that matters. Unprincipled, but totally expected.
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Power Grab: Shoving Health Care “Reform” Down Our Throats Without Democratic Debate



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President Obama and the Democrats in Congress intend to completely change the health care system of the United States without permitting any meaningful democratic debate. Rather than hold extensive hearings, allow a full airing of one of the most extensive and expensive changes in law in recent times, and risk having to compromise or lose, our overlords have decided they are going to shove what they want down our throats via a budget reconciliation bill. From the story:
Principals in the talks acknowledged that a tentative budget agreement reached Thursday night between Congressional leaders and the White House would provide for the use of an obscure procedure known as a reconciliation on a health care bill, allowing health care legislation that meets budget targets to be approved by a simple Senate majority. "It will be in there in some form," said one top official engaged in the talks who did not want to be named since the final details of the agreement were still being worked out.

But Republicans have strongly condemned the prospect of using the arcane maneuver on an issue as important as health care and have threatened to use their own procedural weapons to bog down the Senate if Democrats plunge ahead. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, warned President Obama in a White House meeting on Thursday that the use of the procedural tool was likely to cause trouble in Congress. But Mr. Obama said that he backed the reconciliation approach to move ahead on health care, one of his legislative priorities, and did not want it to fail if 59 senators were on board rather than the 60 needed to break filibusters.
No, he doesn't want the American people to have a say. We are going to have "reform" forced on us--like it or not. I don't even think there have been committee hearings on all of this.

This is an utter corruption of the democratic process. Fundamentally changing our health care system isn't a matter of the budget: It is the most profound and far reaching substantive policy change since Medicare. And we don't even know what is in the bill! And neither will our representatives most of whom will once again be voting for a bill they haven't even read.

This end run around around the legislative process confirms my fears that the Left is no longer about freedom, it is about raw power. All of their caterwauling about Bush's alleged tyranny were actually projections based on their own intentions and attitudes.

Even if the policy is the best that can ever be thought of by human beings, shoving it down our throats without our input is subversive of a free people's right to participate in their own government. And believe me, this will not be the best system that human beings can devise. Look for the beginning of rationing, the enabling of futile care, and the government establishing standards of care that apply to public and privately funded health care--and we will have no idea what is contained in the law.

So much Obama's promise of transparency and building bridges over the troubled waters that divide us. His method is divide, embitter, and conquer. I never thought I would say it, but America is no longer a democratic country. It is a descending into a bureaucratic oligarchy.

Eureka! People Can Finally Die With Dignity as First Lethal Prescriptions Issued in Washington State



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The assisted suicide movement is celebrating today as the first two lethal prescriptions have been written by death doctors in Washington State. From the story:
Two prescriptions have been filled for life-ending drugs under Washington's new assisted suicide law, state health officials said Thursday.

Health Department spokesman Tim Church said he could not provide any details about the people considering suicide, but the department has received two forms from pharmacists saying they have dispensed the drugs that people say they want to use to end their lives. The department has not received any forms certifying that a person has committed suicide under the state law that took effect in early March.
Dollars to donuts the doctors are affiliated with Compassion and Choices. Moreover, these doctors will lie on the death certificates--if the patients commit suicide.

Oh, Wesley! Stop attacking the integrity of doctors! I'm not: The law requires that the underlying disease be listed as the course of death--meaning it is impossible to really know what is going on.

But have no fear, the state bureaucrats are on the case:
Church said the Health Department will report annually on the ages, genders and illnesses of the people who filed the forms with the state, but the individual forms people turn in are exempt from state open records laws.
That will only tell us what the assisted suicide participants want us to know who filled out the forms.

This is a very sad day for American ethics and the moral practice of medicine.

Lead Into Gold: “Protein Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells” Made Without Genetic Material



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This is potentially huge: Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells, which permit tailor made, patient specific pluripotent stem cell lines to be created ethically without the use of embryos, can now be made without using genetic material. From the story, "Purely Protein Pluripotency," in The Scientist (no link):
Researchers have attained the holy grail of cellular reprogramming: inducing pluripotency without using any DNA-based materials. Using only a cocktail of purified proteins and a chemical additive, investigators have generated induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells that don't carry the potential burden of unexpected genetic modifications, according to a new study published online today (Apr. 23) in Cell Stem Cell.

"This new advancement is both exciting and startling," Huck-Hui Ng, a stem cell researcher at the Genome Institute of Singapore who was not involved in the study, said in an email. "Now, cell reprogrammers are armed with a potentially genome-safe method to make pluripotent stem cells.
And now a new name has come into the lexicon: Protein Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (PIPSC:
Although the technique was much less efficient than virus-based approaches--0.006% compared to 0.067% using Yamanaka's original method--these reprogrammed cells, dubbed "protein-induced pluripotent stem cells," or piPS cells, passed all the benchmarks of pluripotency both in vitro and in vivo. Ding's team also showed that they could do away with one of the proteins, c-Myc, although this further reduced the already poor reprogramming efficiency by about a third.

"This is the first proof of principle demonstration that [protein induction] actually works," Ding told The Scientist. Now, stem cell researchers and protein biochemists "will jump on this and substantially improve" the method. Ding also said that he has unpublished results showing that piPS cells can be generated from adult mouse and human fibroblasts.
Good science and good ethics: It is a wonder to behold.

But the New York Times still wants human cloning. After all, stem cells are not the final destination. They are just the launching pad.
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The Immoral Research That Would be Required to Make “Reproductive Cloning” Safe



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In my last SHS post, I deconstructed the "ethical" objections of "the scientists" to reproductive cloning as really being about safety, not the inherent wrongness of human cloning itself. (Reproductive cloning is actually a misnomer. The act of cloning is somatic cell nuclear transfer, which asexually creates an embryo. So what we are really talking about is the use to which the human life created through cloning would be put). Animal cloning leads to many miscarriages and birth defects, and thus there is near universal agreement that reproductive cloning should not be tried--for now.

But if those problems could be overcome, I see no reason for believing that "the scientists" would still say no. In fact, is suspect they'd be tripping over each other to do it.

What would it take to make reproductive cloning "safe?" Scientists would have to repeatedly clone and destroy thousands and thousands of embryos and fetuses. I asked Dr. David Prentice for my book Consumer's Guide to a Brave New World, what the process would likely be. From my book:

He [Prentice] described for me the intense research trial-and-error approach that would be required to learn how to safely engage in cloning-to-produce-children: "Scientists would have to clone thousands of embryos and grow them to the blastocyst stage to ensure that part of the process leading up to transfer into a uterus could be "safe,” monitoring and analyzing each embryo, destroying each one in the process. Next, cloned embryos would have to be transferred into the uteruses of women volunteers. The initial purpose would be analysis of development, not bringing the pregnancy to a live birth. Each of these clonal pregnancies would be terminated at various points of development, each fetus destroyed for scientific analysis. The surrogate mothers would also have to be closely monitored and tested, not only during the pregnancies but also for a substantial length of time after the abortions.

Finally, if these experiments demonstrated that it was probably safe to proceed, a few clonal pregnancies would be allowed to go to full term. Yet even then, the born cloned babies would have to be constantly monitored to determine whether any health problems develop. Each would have to be followed (and undergo a battery of tests both physical and psychological) for their entire lives, since there is no way to predict if problems [associated with gene expression] might arise later in childhood, adolescence, adulthood, or even into the senior years."


The absurdity, not to mention the immorality, of treating human life as mere detritus to be experimented upon and tossed aside if it doesn't have the proper (gene) consistency, should be self-evident. It would permit us to transform cloned human beings into life-long medical experiments. No wonder the President's Council [on Bioethics] report was so unequivocal in its condemnation of attempting cloning-to-produce children!

Much of this work would probably be done in artificial wombs. But that wouldn't change the nature of the sheer immorality of the experiments.

And consider this: If we reject human exceptionalism this becomes doable. For example, if purported "personhood" rather than "humanhood" comes to matter morally, scientist would be empowered to experiment on human fetuses--perhaps even infants--as much as they wanted and it wouldn't matter.

Much is at stake in how we harness--and control--the awesome power of biotechnology. The principles we apply to determine what is ethical and what is not make all the difference in the world about the kind of society we will become.

Sound and “Ethical” Fury Against Human Cloning Signifying Nothing



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I reported on the media falling for the latest, "I can clone a baby," publicity stunt yesterday. Now "the scientists" are weighing in an sputtering outrage. As usual, their "ethical" opposition to human cloning is much less than it seems.

First, it was the cry to "peer review." From the story:
Alastair Kent, director of the Genetic Interest Group, a charity dedicated to helping families affected with inherited disorders, said that Dr Zavos claimed to have mastered a technology that other scientists had been struggling with for years. "Once again he claims to have used it for purposes widely condemned as unsafe and dangerous. And he has done this in secret, using the hopes of couples desperate to create or to recreate a child as a springboard for his vaulting ambition," he said.
But the real objection is safety:
"For his claims to have credibility, and to prevent the unethical exploitation of grieving or desperate couples Dr Zavos must throw open his work to peer review. He must demonstrate openness and allow scrutiny by experts, not just by the media. If he is as good as he claims then he has nothing to fear. If he is not, then vulnerable women and couples need protection from his activities," Dr Kent said.
Note that this is not the same thing as stating that cloning is wrong. This next quote is more of the same:

Professor Azim Surani of the University of Cambridge said that Dr Zavos had breached the taboo on creating human clones with the intention of transferring them into the wombs of women in order to achieve a pregnancy – a procedure that is a criminal offence in Britain.

"This affair shows a complete lack of responsibility. If true, Zavos has again failed to observe the universally-accepted ban on human cloning, which was agreed because most of the resulting embryos from such animal experiments are abnormal," Professor Surani said.

"This is yet another episode designed to gain maximum publicity without performing rigorous animal experiments or presenting it for peer review in a scientific journal. He has the opportunity to do this for his claim on making animal-human hybrid embryos in culture," he said.
And once again:

"The interesting thing here is that for the first time these cloning attempts appear to have been documented," said Professor Wolf Reik, an expert in reproductive biology at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, yesterday.

"We have no reason to think that human cloning will not work--it works in primates--but it may take many, many attempts.

"But to say it is substantially safer now, with new technical developments, is nonsense; the available techniques are still very inefficient, and the great majority of embryos die in utero, or are born with abnormalities. This is why, in my opinion, it remains problematical for it to be carried out on humans," Professor Reik added.
Here's the thing: From what I can tell, most scientists and bioethicists don't think reproductive cloning is inherently wrong at all. Heck, Ian Wilmut the administrator of the team that cloned Dolly has said it should be done in some circumstances. Thus, when we hear supposed outrage from "the scientists" about reproductive cloning, it is a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

In the next post, I will share from my book Consumer's Guide to a Brave New World, what it would take to make human reproductive cloning "safe." You guessed it, lots and lots of human cloning!

SHS Funnies



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Even the comics are becoming anti human:


Final Exit Network is a Death Cult



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CBS has a story from the Final Exit Network training manual and it validates my every suspicion that the group is a death cult. From the story:
The training manual provides a detailed, behind-the-scenes look at how the network operated. It was written for what the network called "first responders," or the first to speak to those seeking help committing suicide.

"You, as the first responder, are a special person," the manual says. "You all were attracted to this program because of a compassionate interest ... Sometimes that means to 'hear' a desperation that the member does not know how to communicate and softly voice it for them."

The manual tells guides that if they've planned carefully, they can "anticipate this special day with a sense of peace and celebration."

"If this is your first case, you no doubt will be nervous from the responsibility, but you can try to keep a sense of celebration about the proceedings to come," the manual says.After a member has killed him or herself in the presence of two exit guides, the guides "usually go to a restaurant to quietly celebrate."
There's a word for this: S.I.C.K.

WJS: Skunk at the Earth Day Party



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As usual, I find myself the skunk at the party. As the world celebrates Earth Day, that term has become a bit ominous. Environmentalism is devolving into an increasingly anti-human movement that could end up costing the human race dearly. I have a piece on the matter in today's NRO called "Homo Sapiens, Get Lost." Here are a few excerpts:
Over the last few hundred years in the West, the moral foundations of society were profoundly pro-human. Judeo-Christian moral philosophy and secular humanism both promoted human flourishing and the protection of individual rights as primary purposes of society. But in recent years we have witnessed a rebellion against "human exceptionalism"--the view that ultimate moral value comes with being a member of the human species...Here and abroad, environmentalism itself seems to be evolving from a movement dedicated to conserving resources, preserving pristine areas, and protecting endangered species into an anti-humanistic ideology that increasingly disdains humankind as a scourge that literally threatens the existence of "the planet."

I point out that this "subversion' of a healthy environmentalism was "conceived and gestated" in the Deep Ecology Movement. I then briefly describe Deep Ecology's ideology, its desire to reduce our population to under a billion, and its profound anti-humanism, with quotes about humans as the AIDS virus:

It is tempting to roll one's eyes and dismiss Deep Ecology’s anti-humanism as merely the kook fringe being the kook fringe. Alas, as in a Michael Crichton novel, the values of Deep Ecology have escaped the hothouse where they were expected to remain confined and invaded the popular culture, to the point where Hollywood has promoted the movement's anti-human beliefs in major motion pictures.
I discuss the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, in which the alien is not sent here, as in the original to save humankind from itself, but to obliterate us to "save the planet":
At the last possible moment, Klaatu prevents the holocaust, but as he departs for home, his space sphere emits a pulse causing all machinery and electricity on earth to cease functioning--the clear implication being that in order to co-exist peacefully with the planet, humans must become utterly non-technological. Unmentioned in this happy ending is that such a sudden collapse in technology would result in billions of human deaths from starvation and disease.
Earth is not the only anti-human A-List Hollywood movie released recently:
In The Happening, starring Mark Wahlberg, filmmaker and writer M. Night Shyamalan, best known for the supernatural thriller The Sixth Sense, offers an apocalyptic tale of a rebellion against the oppressive human hegemony--by plants.

In the Flora Rebellion, plants release "pheromones" that cause human beings to commit mass suicide. Shyamalan depicts this catastrophe as it unfolds through the eyes of Wahlberg's character, his wife, and the small daughter of a friend--protagonists who get steadily pushed into ever tighter corners as the mass-suicide epidemic spreads through the Northeast. At one point, they take refuge in a model home in a new housing development. Realizing that the pheromones are released when a critical mass of human beings is present, they flee as a larger group of refugees approach. As the members of the larger group begin to kill themselves en masse, Wahlberg's nuclear family runs past a huge advertising sign for the housing development that carries the unsubtle message of the film, "Because you deserve it."
These are just movies, one might say. But our motion pictures often depict the values, if not of the general population, then certainly of the liberal elite who control the power institutions of our society.

Radical environmentalism that rejects human exceptionalism won't save the planet, but it could cause a great deal of harm to humankind. It is being force fed to your children, in part, by the movies coming soon to a theater near you.

Media Fall for “Cloning” Hype--Again!



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How many times are the media going to act as Charlie Brown to would-be cloners' Lucy Van Pelt promising to hold the football? First it was the Raelians making utter and complete fools out of media all over the world by claiming that the first cloned baby named "Eve" had been born. When no proof was forthcoming, the media concluded it was a hoax and Rael and Brigitte Boisselier laughed their heads off at the free publicity they garnered for their little science cult.

From time to time two IVF doctors claim that they have brought a cloned baby to birth. A little while ago, Severino Antinori claimed speciously to have brought cloned babies to birth, as reported here at SHS. No proof, of course, has been provided.

Now, the third stooge, naturalized American doctor Panayiotis Zavos, has weighed in with similar cloning claims. From the story:
A controversial fertility doctor claimed yesterday to have cloned 14 human embryos and transferred 11 of them into the wombs of four women who had been prepared to give birth to cloned babies.
Oh, wait: It didn't work:
None of the embryo transfers led to a viable pregnancy but Dr Zavos said yesterday that this was just the "first chapter" in his ongoing and serious attempts at producing a baby cloned from the skin cells of its "parent. There is absolutely no doubt about it, and I may not be the one that does it, but the cloned child is coming. There is absolutely no way that it will not happen," Dr Zavos said in an interview yesterday with The Independent.
That may be because so far cloned human embryos don't develop.

This is a non story, but the question of opposition to reproductive cloning isn't really a firm taboo. Science societies opposed it--"for now"--because of safety issues illustrated by many birth defects in cloned animals. But I don't know of any major science society that has stated it should never be allowed based on moral concerns. Moreover, many in bioethics support reproductive cloning as an aspect of the putative fundamental right to procreate, in any way a woman desires. Besides, we celebrate our social outlaws. The first cloner and mother of a cloned baby know they will own a gold mine: They will sell their stories for millions, the ever terminally nonjudgmental Oprah will fete them on her show, and they will have more fun in the tabloids than the woman who gave birth to eight IVF babies or the first "man" to give birth. And then we will be onto the next unthinkable thing, and the next. Can anyone say, "Fall of Rome?"

In the meantime, the media are nothing but a bunch of suckers.

Politicizing Science: How the UK Became Brave New Britain



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Please pardon this lengthy post, but in light of our recent conversations about the organismic status of the early embryo as biological human life, I thought it was worth discussing how and why the term came to be redefined to exclude early embryos from membership in the human race.

The story is recounted in a paper called, "The Triumph of the Pre-Embryo: Interpretations of the Human Embryo in Parliamentary Debate Over Embryo Research," published in Social Studies of Science, Vol. 24, No. 4 (Nov., 1994, 611-639). It takes place in the UK, and it explains how the the country devolved between 1984 and 1990 into Brave New Britain. More to the point, this sad saga illustrates vividly the power of inaccurate words to change moral perceptions--or at least provide a political rationalization for doing so. In fact, the ongoing and accelerating collapse in scientific and medical ethics in the UK (and elsewhere) came about by the adoption of simple rhetorical pretense--that a human embryo isn't really an embryo.

We begin in 1982, when, in the wake of the birth of the first "test tube baby," the UK government set up the "Warnock Committee" to explore the ethical implications of this new technology. Choosing the crass utilitarian Baroness Mary Warnock to head the committee resulted in a predictable recommendation. From the paper (here's the link to the abstract):

[T]he Committee [in a divided vote] recommended that permission should be given for embryos to be reduced for, and to be used for, research up to the end of the first 14 days after fertilization.
Me: This was a deeply cynical tactic that has become a standard practice of the politicized science sector: Agree to prohibit only that which cannot now be done. Embryos can't be maintained out of a gestational environment beyond 14 days. Thus, the Committee's proposed ethical line in the ethical sand was utterly meaningless. It wasn't designed to actually protect any embryo, just give the appearance of restraint and control.

Back to the history: Warnock made one mistake: Her committee called an embryo, an embryo. Thus, when the issue was debated in Parliament in 1984, a political firestorm developed. Back then, it was undisputed that an embryo was a nascent human being. The principle of human exceptionalism and the sanctity/equality of human life still had heft. The public did not believe that human beings, even at the nascent stage, should be treated so crassly. The outcome was a route, with 51% of Labour and 88% of Conservative MPs voting for a total prohibition of embryo research.

Alas, that did not end the matter. As we have experienced in the ESCR/human cloning research debates of this era, the scientific establishment organized politically to push for embryo experimentation. Only six years later it obtained all that it wanted; a license to conduct embryo experimentation. Ever since, the UK never says no to "the scientists."

How did this happen? By creating the myth that nascent human beings are not human life at all:
Almost two years after the Warnock Report, Anne McLaren, the single embryologist on the Warnock Committee, wrote to Nature [arguing] "the embryo doesn't exist for the first two weeks after fertilization." What exists during this period is not an embryo, she claims, but "a mass of cells generated by the fertilized egg. Only after the first 14 days, she states elsewhere, "can individual embryonic development be said to begin."
This is biological nonsense, of course. But the point wasn't to provide the politicians and the public with accurate science from which to engage in rational analysis. It was to skew the politics and stack the deck in order to achieve a desired outcome. A pseudo scientific term was coined to carry the weight of this junk biology--and the "pre embryo" entered the lexicon.

That gave parliamentarians who wanted to authorize the research an excuse to do so. Human embryos were, suddenly, no longer human:
The spread of the term "pre-embryo" helped to resolve the moral problem of embryo research by convincing people and/or by enabling them to express their conviction that this was not, after all, research on human beings, but experimental use of an unformed, albeit human, bio mass.
This junk biology continues to dominate our ethics to this day--now justifying ESCR, therapeutic cloning, and eugenic manipulations on early embryos before implantation.

The Orwellian invention of the non scientific term "pre embryo" was a triumph of propagandist politics over scientific integrity. Worse, it introduced a cancer into the science sector that has subverted it ever since. Today, science often isn't science at all: It is ideological advocacy, with definitions changed almost at will to promote desired policy agendas and political outcomes. As the cancer spreads, broader areas of societal integrity have been undermined and rational democratic debate has been subverted. Indeed, anyone who trusts what "the scientists" tell us today just because they are scientists, hasn't been paying attention.

Animal Rights Activist Named to FBI “Most Wanted Terrorist List”



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There is only one domestic suspected terrorist on the FBI's "most wanted terrorist." His name is Daniel Andreas San Diego, who hails from my neck of the woods in Berkeley, CA. San Diego has been on the run for years after allegedly bombing a local company that refused to promise to never do business with Huntingdon Life Sciences. From the story:
For the first time, an accused domestic terrorist is being added to the FBI's list of "Most Wanted" terror suspects. Daniel Andreas San Diego, a 31-year-old computer specialist from Berkeley, Calif., is wanted for the 2003 bombings of two corporate offices in California. Authorities describe San Diego as an animal rights activist who turned to bomb attacks and say he has tattoo that proclaims, "It only takes a spark."...

An arrest warrant was issued for San Diego after the 2003 bombings in northern California of the corporate offices of Chiron Corp., a biotechnology firm, and at Shaklee Corp., a nutrition and cosmetics company. The explosions caused minor damages and no injuries. A group calling itself "Revolutionary Cells" took responsibility for the blasts, telling followers in a series of e-mails that Chiron and Shaklee had been targeted for their ties to a research company that conducted drug and chemical experiments on animals...

In February, the FBI announced San Diego may be living in Costa Rica, possibly working with Americans or people who speak English in the Central American country. Law enforcement officials describe San Diego as a strict vegan who possesses a 9mm handgun. On his abdomen, he has images of burning and collapsing buildings. The FBI's "Most Wanted" terrorist list is distinct from the much longer-running "Ten Most Wanted" list. Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden is on both.
San Diego's nihilistic tattoos confirms a theory of mine: Some--certainly not all--animal rights and radical eco activists are akin to the anarchists of the early 20th Century. They are not interested at all in building up; only in tearing down.

Too Much Sex Causes Global Warming! “Take Cold Showers,” Scientist Advises



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A famous global warming scientist issued an alarming study today finding that too much sex is a major cause of global warming. "All that heavy breathing releases tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere," Dr, Raymond Sunburn, the head of the Aspen/Davos Collective's think tank, Keep Earth Cool, said today. Sunburn, who earned the world's first Ph.D. in biospheric computer modeling studies, added, "Our computer models show that if people don't reduce their rate of intercourse and heavy petting to, at most, once a month, the polar bears will become extinct by 2050."

When asked what people should do who get "pent up," the ironically named Dr. Sunburn said, "Take a cold shower. In that way, you both avoid using more than your fair share of exhales and you save the earth by heating less water. There's no question about it. Adopting a monastic lifestyle is good for the planet."

That yarn could get me an anti-global warming government study grant. Besides, it is about as sensible as the real scientists who claim that fat people are endangering the planet. From the story:
Scientists warned that the increase in big-eaters means more food production--a major cause of CO2 gas emissions warming the planet. Overweight people are also more likely to drive, adding to environmental damage. Dr Phil Edwards, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: "Moving about in a heavy body is like driving in a gas guzzler." Each fat person is said to be responsible for emitting a tonne more of climate-warming carbon dioxide per year than a thin one.
Look at the damage people like actor John Goodman might cause!
Australian Professor Paul Zimmet predicted a disastrous obesity pandemic back in 2006. And Oxfam warned yesterday that the number of people hit by climate-related disasters will soar by more than half in the next six years to 375 million. The impact of more storms, floods and droughts could overwhelm aid organisations.
Just imagine the impact of fat people having too much sex! Randy Newman should write a song.

A Human Embryo is to the Baby He or She Becomes, That a Caterpillar is to the Butterfly It Becomes



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It is an intentional tactic on the part of some who push for the instrumental use of nascent human life to make the sophistical argument that human embryos are not really organisms until they implant in a uterus. Ironically, these advocates make this bogus claim in the name of boosting science. But this is anti-science because it is utterly inaccurate from a biological perspective. But the point is to tie opponents down with endless and circular debates about what constitutes a living human organism so that the real discussion about whether and when it is appropriate to use human life instrumentally can be avoided.

I am really tired of dealing with this over and over again, but will make this one last foray into the issue: Let's look at the caterpillar that becomes a butterfly. It is the same animal when it is a worm-like creature with many legs that it is later after it has metamorphosed into a beautiful butterfly that can fly. The butterfly isn't a different individual member of that species. It is the same member of that species--it is just in a different stage of development with different capacities. When it is a caterpillar, it can eat leaves but it has no wings. Still, it has the developmental potential to fly. It isn't any less a member of its species of butterfly when it is a caterpillar than after it leaves the cocoon.

Similarly, when it comes to being an individual member of the human species, an embryo, is a fetus, is a neonate, is a pre-pubescent, is a pubescent, is an old man like me. During my nearly sixty years, I have never ceased being the same individual member of the species Homo sapiens I was when my life began upon completion of the fertilization process. My voice is deeper than it was when I was five. I had more hair and it was dark brown when I was 20, I had more neural cells when I was 30. My genes were expressing differently when I was seven than they are today. But I did not become a different organism. I have, since I was at the one-cell stage, been the same organism. Nor did my implantation in my mother's womb make me a different organism than in the week or so when I was in her fallopian tube.

That is basic science that is beyond dispute from a purely scientific perspective.

Nature Decries Attempts to Redefine “Embryo”



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Considering the discussions we have had here as to what constitutes a human embryo, I thought it worth revisiting an old Nature editorial that decries the sophistic attempt within bioethics and the life sciences to pretend that an embryo before implantation in a uterus isn't really an embryo. Nature supports ESCR, but its editorial notes that the redefinition of the term "embryo" is being pursued for political purpose rather than scientific accuracy. From the editorial, "Playing the Name Game," Nature Vol 4367 July 2005 (No link, my emphasis):
Last month's meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research in San Francisco witnessed a bizarre semantic debate. Delegates discussed a proposal to refrain from using the term 'embryo' when referring to the blastocysts from which human embryonic stem cells are harvested. The scientists involved reject the accusation that they are creating and destroying human lives, and fear that the word 'embryo' is a lightning rod that attracts negative scrutiny.

It is true that embryo is an emotive term, but there is little scientific justification for redefining it. Whether taken from a fertility clinic or made through cloning, a blastocyst embryo has the potential to become a fully functional organism.
[Me: But it is a "fully functional human organism" for that stage of human life, but never mind that for now.] And appearing to deny that fact will not fool die-hard opponents of this research. If anything, it will simply open up scientists to the accusation that they are trying to distance themselves from difficult moral issues by changing the terms of the debate.
Indeed, that is precisely the game that is afoot. This sophistic effort is a corruption of science--ironically, in the name of boosting it--precisely because it seeks to avoid rational ethical analysis and critical thinking in order to win a political debate.

Alas, Nature is a minority voice within the Brave New World Complex. Too many proponents of ESCR prefer obfuscation to accuracy in discussing these important public issues.

Look Before We Leap: If We Are Not Careful, We Could All End Up WIth Rationed Health Care



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The Oregon Department of Health is reporting that the recession will push more Oregonians than ever onto the Oregon Health Department's system of rationed care. From the press release:
The forecast laid out in stark detail how economic factors affect the work we do. Our analysts calculated that the global recession will continue to drive even more Oregonians to seek state benefits in the coming years...The number of Oregonians eligible for health care through the Oregon Health Plan is expected to increase 23 percent to a high of 565,500.
Adding insult to injury will be the tough rationing these aid recipients will face under the only explicit health care rationing regimen in the country.

Oregon lists a total of 680 "lines," the euphemism for medical conditions. Of these, only the first 503 are now covered. If you have a condition from 504 to 698, you are out of luck. (Here is the "Condition Index" with the prioritized list.) Among those conditions are HIV: That comes in at number 15--meaning HIV patients will never be rationed out (and I don't want AIDS patients refused treatment just like I don't want anyone else refused treatment). Why? The AIDS lobby is very powerful politically, and so people with the disease don't have to worry about being pushed into the 600s.

However, if you are traumatized causing adult "hysterical blindness," you won't be covered, since that condition comes in at number 511. Yet, "cancer phobia," in which minor symptoms are perceived by the patient as cancer, causing high anxiety, is covered at number 475.

Why not cover hysterical blindness but cover cancer phobia?

And of course, assisted suicide is covered under "comfort care" at number 71. But treatment for recurrent cancer unlikely to result in survival for five years is not covered. This led to the compassionate DHS refusing life-extending chemotherapy for Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup, but offering to pay for their assisted suicides. Yes, assisted suicide is number 71 on the DHS rationed list. (Wagner received free chemo eventually from the drug company. She died last year. Stroup's denial was reversed on appeal after the big public stink. As far as I know, he remains with us--but might not have been but for the adverse publicity his going public aroused.)

If we continue toward universal health care, this is the very kind of rationing policy likely to be put in place for all of us. Such a plan would increase the pressures to legalize assisted suicide as a resource saving measure. And since President Obama seems to be pursuing a government controlled, but private system, it would permit HMOs to make such decisions--backed by a national board that would set the standards of care under the rationed system.

We had better look before we leap.

Is the Governor of Virginia “Anti Science” Too?



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This escaped my notice until it was brought to my attention by a regular SHS reader. Last month, Tim Kaine the Governor of Virginia, signed into law a bill that prohibits the state from funding embryonic stem cell research. From the story:

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has signed a bill into law banning the use of some state funds for embryonic stem cell research. The move puts the DNC chairman at odds with President Obama, who signed an executive order earlier this month reversing the Bush administration's ban on federal funding for research on embryonic stem cells. [Me: They just can't get it right, can they? Bush restricted federal funding, he did not ban it. But loyal SHSers know that.]...

The governor signed another piece of legislation Monday aimed at promoting "science and technology-based" research and development in Virginia. It contains language inserted by the General Assembly that would prevent a state fund from providing dollars to organizations or businesses that undertake "research in Virginia on human cells or tissue derived from induced abortions or from stem cells obtained from human embryos."

Kaine's support for the legislation is not surprising: He is a staunch Catholic who has long opposed using taxpayer money for embryonic stem cell research. But the platform of the Democratic Party, now headed by Kaine at Obama's behest, describes embryonic stem cell research as "research that could save lives."...

The bill signed Monday allows funding for non-embryonic types of research

Where's Madam House Speaker howling about how the Governor of Virginia is anti science, because it is:
"a situation where it's faith or science--take your pick. We're saying science is an answer to our prayers."
Oh, that's right: Kaine is a Democrat. I forgot: Only Republicans can be anti science.

Opposing the Political Game, “Spin the Lexicon:” Nature Once Understood the Accurate Meaning of the Word “Embryo”



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The science journal Nature pushes the brave new world agendas of cloning and embryonic stem cell research with gusto and zealotry. That is why I find the below quote from a 1987 editorial that decried the use of the phony term "pre-embryo" so interesting. From the editorial, "IVF remains in legal limbo," Nature 387 (1987): 87 (no link, my emphasis):

Another [action of British government] might be to ban the use of the word 'pre-embryo', used by the voluntary authority as a synonym for a fertilized human ovum not yet implanted in a uterus. Put simply, this usage is a cop-out, a way of pretending that the public conflict about IVF and other innovations in human embryology can be made to go away by means of an appropriate nomenclature. The fact is that a fertilized human egg is as much deserving of being called an embryo as is a fertilized frog's egg.

The essence of the controversy over the new human embryology centres rests on the question when, in the course of development, an embryo commands the legal respect to which free-living people are entitled. The issue turns on the necessity of implantation for development, on analogies (necessarily less persuasive) with the randomness of what happens in real-life procreation and on arguments about the realtiy of the soul (which to many is a figment of the human imagination). Even those who share the British self styled voluntary authority's eagerness that IVF should be more widely and efficiently practiced, will acknowledge that, on the issue of nomenclature, the Vatican is philosophically the more consistent."

In other words, an embryo is a human life, a living human organism, and an honest ethical debate would acknowledge that fact and then analyze it from there.

Nature was right then, and that opinion remains correct today. Alas, more scientists and bioethicists then ever are playing the sophistic and political game, "Spin the Lexicon" to obtain the public policy outcomes they want. That tactic--and that is what it is, it isn't "science"--may win them the day. But in the long run, such crass politicization will harm science by reducing it in the public's eye to just another special interest. Indeed, I believe that devolution has already begun.

British Scientists Tout Future Cure for Blindness with ESCs: What Would You Do If It Really Works?



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The headline of this story from the Times of London--"Blind to be Cure with Stem Cells"--is really putting the cart before the horse--it hasn't even been tried yet, after all. But such hype is par for the course. From the story:
British scientists have developed the world's first stem cell therapy to cure the most common cause of blindness. Surgeons predict it will become a routine, one-hour procedure that will be generally available in six or seven years' time.

The treatment involves replacing a layer of degenerated cells with new ones created from embryonic stem cells...This week Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceutical research company, will announce its financial backing to bring the therapy to patients. The treatment will tackle age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness.
We have seen such stories planted in media before. But I think this one is notable because private money is being put into the development of the treatment--venture capital has been, heretofore, notably scarce in ESCR. Thus, I think it is fair to say that when a very big drug company puts money into a potential therapy, there is at least a decent chance it will work.

And that brings up an important question for those who oppose ESCR. What if it works and bending our ethical views could lead to our seeing again, but staying true to our beliefs would mean continuing vision impairment? Being forced to choose between better health and proper ethics is a foreseeable consequence of opposing ESCR, fetal farming, therapeutic cloning, and the like.

Some people have already grappled seriously with this question. Mark Pickup is an extremely close friend. He suffers--literally--from advanced and progressing MS, and so this issue is not merely an interesting intellectual exercise to him. Mark has written very clearly that he would refuse to receive ESC therapy, even if it meant foregoing a total cure, because to do otherwise would violate his Catholic faith and implicate him in the termination of a human life. From his column:
Here's the problem for someone like me: I do operate with moral constraints and conscience. My Christianity demands it. I cannot participate in, or take advantage of, therapies developed using embryonic stem cells. It is unacceptable for my life to get better at the expense of another.

Non-embryonic stem cell sources are fine. If, however, the therapy involves the killing of another human being in the form of an embryo then I must forego treatment, accept life in a wheelchair, and whatever lies in store for me with an aggressive, degenerative disease...

Is the allure of an embryonic stem cell therapy tempting? Absolutely! But I must resist and, with God's help, I will resist. It is better to lose the use of my body than to lose my humanity.
I strongly believe that using human life--even at the most nascent stages--as a mere natural resource is profoundly wrong, not only because of what it does but what it will lead to once society accepts using living human beings as mere instrumentalities. I hope if I am ever faced with this dilemma that I would have Mark's courage and ethical integrity to refuse to be complicit in such wrongdoing--but one never knows until the crisis comes.

This is why it is far easier to simply go along with the utilitarian flow. People who do never find themselves in such a pickle.

No one said that living an ethical life was easy. But as these issues play out, now is the time to think very deeply about the many "what ifs" that may confront us in the years to come: Because pondering these matters well before the time of testing offers the best chance to develop the courage and fortitude to make the right choice.

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