Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Adult Stem Cell Heart Disease Breakthrough


It is growing increasingly hard for those who insist that therapeutic cloning is the ticket to treat human maladies to continue with that claim with a straight face. Here is an apparent successful treatment of heart disease using the patient's own bone marrow stem cells. Imagine, one's own body becoming a source of fantastic medicine. And no human cloning, no destroying embryos, no treating nascent human life like a harvestable crop, and no slippery slope.

New Animal Liberationist Terrorist Threats


The Edinburgh Zoo has a new enclosure to house polar bears. But the Animal Liberation Front (AFL) has promised to attack the zoo and shut it down in the same fashion with which liberationists attacked a UK guinea pig farm and coerced its closing. That included threats of violence, repeated vandalism, threats against friends of the farmers, threats against business associates, and finally, the coup de gras that finished the job, grave robbing.

Every time these tactics succeed, it energizes the movement like warm ocean water does a hurricane. I have repeatedly called on animal liberationists to condemn such criminality. With one or two exceptions of responding posts to this blog, the overall silence has been deafening. In private e-mails, I am accused of caricaturing the movement. Don't judge us by the whackos, they say. But when I respond asking for an explicit condemnation, all I usually get are evasions or non responses. Much more notably, when PETA explicitly refuses to condemn violence, when Steven Best, the U.S. professor who is at the forefront of the movement explicitly condones grave robbing and other tactics, and is banned from the UK for being a terrorist sympathizer, it is hard but to conclude that most of the people who support animal liberation are pleased that the thuggery works. Animal liberation isn't about protecting animal welfare. It is about imposing its radical ideology upon the rest of us "by any means necessary."

And don't think it is just the UK. The animal liberation movement is international. The most extreme actions are often taken in the UK first, and then they spread like a cancer here and elsewhere (but never to places like the Mideast where animals are treated far less humanely then in the West, but where the response to liberation lawlessness would be far less measured).

Jeffrey Rosen Predicts That Science, Technology, and Bioethics Will be Future Supreme Court Fodder


This extended piece from the New York Times Magazine is well worth the time it takes to read it. Jeffrey Rosen is not only fair (a real change of pace for the NYT), but he is right about some of the issues likely to be the source of bitter litigation in the future, ranging from the right to genetically engineer progeny, do reproductive cloning, and what life forms are patentable. But he misses a few micro and macro issues. The biggest issue he misses is the coming battle over whether there is a constitutional right to conduct scientific research, as some scientists and bioethicists claim. If so, the ability of society to regulate research will be all but destroyed. A second area of litigation, that he hints at, is the status of animals as alleged persons and, indeed, whether animals can be litigants. There are public interest law firms being created to push this very agenda, most notably by Rutgers School of Law animal liberationist professor, Gary Francione.

One of the Human Zoo “Animals” Is Not Having a Good Time


One of the people hired to be exhibited in the London Zoo posted a note on Secondhand Smoke. She is not having fun and thinks putting people in zoos is a stupid idea. Yes, that's a polite way to put it. She can use e-mail so perhaps we could say that she isn't "just an animal," after all.

Futile Care Case out of the UK


This case is what the Leslie Burke verdict has wrought. Burke more or less won the right to life-sustaining care for the conscious and communicative in the UK. But the unconscious and uncommunicative were left high and dry by the decision, allowing doctors to decide whether they live or die.

The patient in this case is a devout Muslim and the family states he would want his life sustained based on deeply held religious beliefs. But doctors have decided that their idea of what is dignified and in his best interests trump what were his own and are his family's. So, while he will receive tube-supplied food and water, he will be denied dialysis and has had a DNR imposed on his chart by court order.

The idea behind the decision is that the man is not going to get better. But this is a dangerous standard. It states that maintaining or extending life when that is what the patient wants is no longer an end purpose of medicine. A new standard is being imposed by bioethicists and courts.

This is also beginning to happen here and will occur with increasing frequency as more and more hospitals impose futile care protocols on their sickest patients.

A Good Column on Adult Stem Cells and Alternative Sources of Pluripotent Cells


Nigel Cameron is a friend of mine. He is erudite, intelligent, and has a great sense of humor. He is also right in this column.

Adler/Smith: The Entire Debate


The entire debate between myself and Professor Adler is available. I thank Prof. Adler for a good and forthright exchange. Whatever side you may take on Gonzales v. Ashcroft, there is much in this extended discussion for thought.

“Humans are Just Primates”


The London Zoo homo sapien exhibit, about which I blogged yesterday, is explicitly designed to induce our children to reject human exceptionalism. From this linked story:

"Caged and barely clothed, eight men and women monkeyed around for the crowds Friday in an exhibit labeled "Humans" at the London Zoo.

"Warning: Humans in their Natural Environment" read the sign at the entrance to the exhibit, where the captives could be seen on a rock ledge in a bear enclosure, clad in bathing suits and pinned-on fig leaves. Some played with hula hoops, some waved.

Visitors stopped to point and laugh, and several children could be heard asking, "Why are there people in there?"

London Zoo spokeswoman Polly Wills says that's exactly the question the zoo wants to answer.

"Seeing people in a different environment, among other animals ... teaches members of the public that the human is just another primate," Wills said."

This is not benign. This is not funny. This is misanthropic.

Most people take human exceptionalism for granted. They can no longer afford to do so. The great philosophical question of the 21st Century is going to be whether we will knock humans off the pedestal of moral distinctiveness and instead define ourselves as just another animal in the forest. The stakes of the coming debate couldn't be more important: It is our exalted moral status that both bestow special rights upon us, while also imposing unique and solemn moral responsibilities--including the human duty not to abuse animals.

Humans Are Being Exhibited Like Animals in the London Zoo


The London Zoo has opened a new exhibit. It is a herd of homo sapiens. The point of putting people in the zoo is allegedly to "demonstrate the basic nature of man as an animal and examine the impact that Homo sapiens have on the rest of the animal kingdom."

This is what children are now being taught: That we are just animals. This is true biologically, but that is not the point of the message being sent. And it ignores the truth that we have stepped beyond nature to become conscious, moral beings, the only ones in the known universe. The increasing attempts to knock us off the pedestal of "exceptionalism," are terribly misguided. If we perceive ourselves as mere animals, that is indeed how we will act.

London Times Editorial Against Grave Robbing Animal Liberationist Fanatics


There is great harm being done to human welfare by the the animal rights extremists, as the London Times points out.

Alder/Smith Part 3


The assisted suicide debate continues.

Betrayal of the Voters! Proposition 71 Bait and Switch


It will pay for itself, supporters of Proposition 71 told voters. State residents will pay less for health care. Day after day it was one pie-in-the-sky promise after another. But now, the California Council on Science and Technology, has recommended that the state receive zero dollars in royalties from the billions it will borrow to fund this corporate welfare boondoggle. It might chill private investments, don't you know. Not coincidentally, the Council is a state-funded body made up of private university and private sector firms--the very interests that will be lining up at the pork barrel once Proposition 71 grant money begins to flow!

What is chilling private investments is the low likelihood of success of turning cloned human embryos into efficacious medical treatments any time soon. What is chilling private investments is that embryonic stem cells cause tumors and can't be used in humans. What is chilling private investments is the roaring success of adult stem cell research, which is already treating 65 human maladies. Indeed, the lack of private investments is why Big Biotech and their allies at "patents R us" university research centers sold this swamp land of a law to California voters with a $25 million war chest in the first place.

The arrogance of it all! The question is whether the people will put up with this too as Proposition 71 backers keep yelling, CURES! CURES! CURES!

The Adler/Smith Debate on Assisted Suicide Continues


Should the United States Supreme Court uphold the right of the federal government to prohibit the use of federally controlled substances in assisted suicide, even where it is legal, such as in Oregon? Or, once a state legalizes assisted suicide, in the name of federalism, must the federal government acquiesce to the state law? We debate: You decide.

Animal Liberationists Grave Robbers Drive Farmers Out of Business


This is a terrible story: A farm family in the UK has been targeted for death threats, vandalism, intimidation, and similar attacks against residents of their town for the last several years by animal liberationists. Their great sin? They raised guinea pigs for use in medical research. Now, the liberationists have finally driven them out of business by robbing the grave of a beloved family member. The farmers went out of business in the hope that the liberationists will give the body back.

This shameful episode deserves the strongest condemnation. If it can happen there, it can happen here. And no one who makes proper and humane use of animals is safe.

My Debate With Jonathan Adler About Pending Supreme Court Case Involving Oregon’s Assisted Suicide Law


A few months ago, the National Review's Jonathan Adler and I debated the upcoming Supreme Court case, Gonzales v. Oregon. The case will determine whether the federal government must permit federally controlled substances to be used in assisted suicide in Oregon, or whether it can pursue its own federal public policy on the issue with regard to the regulation of narcotics under the Controlled Substances Act. Adler believes that Oregon should win because federalism leaves the regulation of medical practice to the states. I counter that both the states and feds can have distinct public policies about the matter and that the states do not have the right to impose their views on the regulation of federal law.

It is important to note that this exchange took place before the Supreme Court decided Gonzales v. Raich, which permitted the feds open latitude to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws even in states that permit medical marijuana, and even if the marijuana was grown at home. If anything, the Raich decision strengthens my position. ( My take on Raich as it might impact Gonzales v. Oregon is reprinted here.)

The debate will be published one exchange at a time all this week at this link.

Check Out the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide


The International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide is a splendid organization dedicated to educating the public about the dangers of euthanasia and assisted suicide. I am honored to be affiliated with the Task Force as an attorney and consultant. Indeed, it was Rita Marker's book Deadly Compassion that convinced to enter the work in which I am now engaged. (Rita is the head of the Task Force.)

I mention this because periodically, the Task Force publishes the "Update," a newsletter filled with the latest news on assisted suicide, euthanasia, futile care theory, food and fluids cases, and the like. The Update is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in these important issues. Here is the link to the just released current issue. And here is the link to the Task Force's WEB site. It's well worth the mouse click.

Skin Cells May Become Stem Cells Says Washington Post


This piece is another of many recent research advances demonstrating the astonishing potential of adult stem cells. This story describes how skin cells have been reverted to embryonic-like stem cells. The potential consequence is that cloned embryos might not be needed to obtain the treatment benefits that the proponents of therapeutic cloning have claimed that procedure could provide. (The process would involve fusing an embryonic stem cell, like those already approved for federal funding by Pres. Bush, with the patient's own skin cell.)

Good for the Washington Post for printing it, and for Rick Weiss, the Post science reporter for reporting it. Weiss is pro therapeutic cloning and has implied that opponents of these technologies are Taliban. But he is also a good journalist. For example, when President Ronald Reagan died, some biotech boosters used the event to push embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning as a way of helping cure people with Alzheimer's. They still do. But Weiss was the only mainstream reporter and the Post the only major outlet of which I am aware to report that stem cells are very unlikely to be a viable treatment for Alzheimer's. When asked why biotechnologists were permitting Alzheimer's victims and their families to believe an untruth that ES cells offered them hope, Weiss quoted one as stating cynically that "people need a fairy tale." So much for compassion.

Most establishment media outlets continue to underreport adult stem cell successes. And they usually continue to list Alzheimer's as one of the diseases that may be cured by cloning or ES cell research. But these two Post stories are pleasant exceptions.

The “Case of the Chilled Witness”


My point about academic opponents of all human cloning being threatened with career ramifications if they support abolitionist bills, is being discussed in the National Review's blog, The Corner. Here is a specific example from The Corner of this anti-democratic and anti-academic freedom phenomenon:

From Shawn Mitchell, a member of the Colorado state senate:

As a (then) Colorado State Representative, I sponsored a bill to ban so-called therapeutic human cloning, in 2001 if I remember correctly.

A dean of the Department of Natural Sciences from a local university campus agreed, to my surprise, to testify in favor of the bill. She agreed with most the conservative critique of human cloning: the science isn't there; the promises are overblown; adult stem cells are providing therapies now; and even if it did work, creating human life to kill it for the benefit of others is morally and ethically problematic.

A day before the hearing on the bill, she apologetically called to say that she had been spoken to by university leaders, and she would be unable to testify. I don't know what threats were made, only that an academic willing to speak out against cloning was silenced by the administration.

By the way, the story might be a little more interesting if you know the campus was part of the University of Colorado system, whose president just departed after failing to quell scandals ranging from the football sex and booze scandal to Ward Churchill's anti-American rants. Suppressing youthful hedonism or leftist incitement is unthinkable but muzzling a dissenter to the scientific agenda is par for the course.

In case Mr. Stuttaford asks, I never publicly identified the dean. If she was unwilling to risk professional damage, I wouldn't force her. I was grateful for her initial willingness and frustrated at the bullying that silenced her."

This is a huge story. It might be tough to report because most of the chilled witnesses and professors don't want their names out for fear of job ramifications. But it is a story that needs to be told because it reflects a growing intolerance on university campuses and within the science and bioethics establishments for heterodox views.

Intellectual Stalinism of Science Establishment Revealed


This story from the Washington Post does not directly involve the issues about which I advocate. But it reveals a mindset that I see on a continuing basis. An editor of a science journal connected with the Smithsonian decided to publish an article by Steven Meyer on the theory of intelligent design. (Meyer is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, as am I. We are friends.) The article was peer reviewed and the reviewers agreed that it had scientific merit and should be published.

As soon as the article was published, the long knives came out. The editor was subjected to vicious attempts to ruin his professional career. Strident demands were made that he be fired. Lies were told, his personal life was investigated, false rumors were circulated, accusations were even made that he was on the take and had not actually had the article peer reviewed. All false, as revealed by a government investigation.

I have been told numerous times of the same tactics being threatened or employed against heterodox thinkers in the human cloning controversy. Scientists who want to testify in favor of a ban on all human cloning are warned that if they do, their careers are over, that they will be branded "anti-science" and no longer be invited to participate in seminars or write book chapters. If they don't have tenure, they will never get it. If they do, they will be shunned, shunted to a corner and forced to teach "punishment" freshman classes, rather than their usual advanced or post grad courses. (This happened to Dr. David Prentice at Indiana State University.)

This is the point: The leaders of science have become woefully ideological, to the point that they are willing to stifle discourse and crush academic freedom. In the end, they won't succeed in insulating their views from criticism. But they could destroy the good reputation of science as a venerable field, and transform it into being perceived by a weary public as merely another area of special interest advocacy.

New Stop the Presses! York Times Publishes Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cell Breakthrough Story!


It is getting harder and harder to ignore the tremendous gains being made for regenerative medicine in the "non embryonic" sectors. Here is a great success, reported in the New York Times no less, wherein scientists have found how to garner thousands of stem cells from umbilical cord blood. Already these cells have been turned into liver tissue. Had this been done with ES cells, it would have been on the front page. But I shouldn't grouse. This may be the beginning of the end for the wall of near-silence in establishment media about the tremendous advances being made in adult and umbilical cord blood stem cell research. As I have repeatedly stated, should it ever become clear that the cures and treatments can be achieved without human cloning, the debate will be over.


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