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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Predicting the Future



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I was asked by the San Francisco Chronicle to write an extended piece that would be a look into the crystal ball about the controversies that can be expected to roil society over issues of science and biotech in coming years. This is it. Among the matters discussed are personhood theory, the "right to reproduce," and whether there is a right in the constitution to conduct scientific research. The piece isn't intended to express my opinion on these matters, although I make it clear where I am coming from. If anyone has any other predictions they would like to share, feel free.

Scientism Marches On



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I have subscribed to the New Scientist, which is a "pro science" magazine, by which I mean, in addition to purely science articles, it publishes polemical broadsides arguing on behalf of naked science unfettered by societal restraints. In the October 22 issue, Timothy Ferris, identified as a "popular science writer and professor emeritus at UC Berkeley," argues in "Keep Up the Search," on behalf of "free empirical inquiry." (No link available. You have to be a subscriber.) Those who wish to regulate science, he claims, are "opponents of science," whether conservative (based allegedly on religion), or those he calls "our fellow liberals," who worry about potential consequences of experiments gone wrong.

Ferris claims that "government restrictions on scientific research seldom if ever make sense." He states that the best way to reduce ignorance in the world is "through persistent experimentation on just about every front that anyone" cares "to explore." That's a very broad statement that would permit no reasonable parameters. He even goes so far as to claim that science moves forward "pretty much how liberal democracies proceed" and that the future of free countries "are bright, if only because it is there that science has taken root and grown."

But this is wrong: Liberal democracy isn't laissez faire anarchy of the kind Ferris seems to advocate for science. Rather, liberal democracies depend on widespread adherence to certain commonly accepted ethical principles and assumptions, that is upon a system of ordered liberty. Or to put it another way, we remain free precisely because we establish reasonable checks and balances over powerful institutions--and what institution is more powerful than science?

Ferris is another example of a believer in scientism transforming science from a means into an ends, a belief system rather than a method. Science as the be all and end all. Rather than supporting liberal democracy, such beliefs are a challenge to it.
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More Truth About the Ultimate Euthanasia Agenda



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Dr. Philip Nitschke, is sometimes called the Australian Jack Kevorkian. He is obsessed with assisted suicide/euthanasia, and has long advocated that a suicide pill be available to anyone who wants it, including "troubled teens." For years, financed in large part by the Hemlock Society, Nitschke conducted research into creating a "peaceful pill," a suicide concoction made out of common household products. (Hemlock changed its name and merged recently with another pro assisted suicide group. The joined entities are now known by the gooey euphemistic name, "Compassion and Choices.")

Nitschke teaches suicidal people how to make their own "peaceful pill." He is now showing a film about his "Peanut Project," in which "well elderly and seriously ill" people make their own peaceful pill.

Nitschke believes that autonomy demands that anyone who wants to die, be allowed access to assisted suicide. He believes it is not up to society to judge who qualifies and who doesn't for hastened death. I know this sounds radical, but it is the logical destination if one accepts euthanasia consciousness.

Animal Liberation Outrages (A Continuing Series)



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Here is a story of just one victim of "tertiary targeting," by animal liberation terrorists.

"First came the threatening phone calls to George Svokos' home in Franklin Lakes last December. Then his mail was stolen. Fliers appeared on his car and those of neighbors, accusing his employer of animal slaughter and abuse. Burglars broke into the house, stole a credit card and ran up a $5,000 bill, including a blow-up sex doll to be sent to his home. They also stole the itinerary for an upcoming family vacation in London, circulating the details in an e-mail urging the recipients to call the hotel and "make his vacation one he'll never forget."

All of this because his company uses Huntingdon Life Sciences to test drugs on animals--testing which is required by law. The silence of the animal liberation movement's leaders and grass roots about these outrages continues to speak volumes about the nature of the movement as a whole.

A Sign of the Eugenic Times



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I was just reading last Sunday's New York Times Magazine. There, in all its eugenic glory, is an advertisement with the headline, "Donor Egg Immediately Available." The text tells us that the "fully-screened" egg donors come from women "in advanced degree programs," with other donors "with special accomplishments." But of course, "each donor is exhaustively screened" by the company's geneticists. And natch, the baby pictured in the ad with the happy mother is suitably blondish and fair skinned. After all, not just any baby will do for the rich and choosy.

No, prices are not given. If you have to ask, you can't afford it.
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Canada Debating Wild Euthanasia



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A Canadian bill to legalize euthanasia/assisted suicide demonstrates vividly where the "right to die" crowd wants to take society. The bill, C-407, does not require that the person who wants to be killed be terminally ill. It doesn't even require that the suicidal person be physically sick. Severe mental pain will suffice. This is logical: If euthanasia is primarily about honoring autonomy and eliminating suffering (by killing the patient), then what does terminal illness have to do with it?

The bill also does not require that a doctor do the killing. Someone who is not medically trained can terminate the patient so long as he or she is under the supervision of a medical professional, whatever that might mean. This also makes sense since killing is not a medical act. I mean, can anyone imagine a bill permitting a non doctor to perform surgery so long as the non physician was somehow supervised by a doctor?

This bill is unlikely to pass. But don't be surprised if it is used as the "bad bill" to make a bill that is more restricted appear like the moderate position.

Animal Liberationist Justifies Murder Against Those Who “Hurt Animals”--and It Goes Unreported



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Last week, a senate committee held hearings on the terrorist war against Life Sciences Research (Huntingdon), by SHAC and other liberationists, which I have described in this blog and elsewhere. The New York Stock Exchange is the most recent apparent appeaser of SHAC, changing its mind at the last minute about listing Life Sciences on the Big Board, and refusing to explain itself to the senators. This story has been little reported here in the States, but was carried by the BBC, since SHAC has also been very active in the UK.

But even the BBC didn't report that Jerry Vlasak, the spokesperson at the hearings for the terrorists, asserted that animals and humans are "morally equal," and claimed that the "murder" of those "who hurt animals and will not stop after being told to stop" is "morally justified."

And the reaction of PETA to such hate and overt threats of violence? Silence. Utter silence. But it did issue a press release critical of Jennifer Lopez for wearing fur. Good to know it has its moral priorities straight.

My Column Criticizing Assisted Suicide



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I wrote a column against AB 651, which would legalize Oregon-style assisted suicide, in today's Orange County Register. There is nothing particularly new in this piece. But repetition is the key to prevailing in today's public policy debates. And, I think, it is a good, succinct view of why opposing assisted suicide is the right course. If this issue interests you, check it out. (Registration may be required.)

More Evidence That Proposition 71 Was a Big Con



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Gee, it looks like the taxpayers of California won't receive much of a return on their borrowed billions, to be given to Big Biotech and university research centers under Proposition 71, after all. This is in direct contradiction to the promises made by supporters of the initiative. Opponents tried to warn voters about this, but not having a budget it was difficult. And even though opponents tried to point out to the press that it was not at all likely that Proposition 71 would garner a profit for California, the media generally refused to investigate these concerns, preferring instead to harp continually on the "pro-life" attitudes of many of Proposition 71's opponents. Indeed, many editorials actually claimed that the money factor was a reason to vote for the measure.

In the nearly one year since the election, much evidence has accumulated to show that the opponents were almost surely right about the money issue. And since then, a lot of good reporting has been done. Here is just one more story, published on the front page of today's San Francisco Chronicle, reporting that Californians will almost surely reap few, if any, tax and licensing dollars from Proposition 71.

These stories could have and should have been reported during the campaign so that voters could have considered the issue when deciding how to cast their ballots. But before the election, the media was in the tank for Proposition 71. As good as the post-election reporting has been, it has been a day late and billions of dollars short.

An Example of Science as Quasi-Religion



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One of the attractions of religion for many people is that it offers the promise of immortality, if not of the body, at least of the soul. Today, many boosters of biotechnology and transhumanism are offering the same thing--but not tending to believe in the soul, they suggest that it can be attained in the body. Here is a story about one such scientist, who claims people alive today can, through the magic of biotech, live for thousands of years. Such assertions offer a corporeal "new Jerusalem," and induce in some a faith in science as the source of salvation--sometimes called scientism--that can be as intensely devout as religious belief.

Hubristic Science May Be Undermining Public Trust



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Another interesting poll result from the Virginia Commonwealth University (see previous post for link), has to do with the public's perception of science. "Question 3: Scientific research these days doesn't pay enough attention to the moral values of society." Fifty-six percent agreed strongly (25%) or somewhat (31%), versus only 37% who disagree--(23%) somewhat, (14%) strongly. What does that tell us? Perhaps, people are beginning to perceive science as a special interest rather than an objective source of information and advice. If so, those scientists and cloning advocates who spin and jive to win the ongoing political debates have only themselves to blame.

Majorities Oppose Therapeutic Cloning



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This poll taken by the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) demonstrates that most people still oppose human cloning for biomedical research (and, of course, as a means of reproduction).

While majorities support embryonic stem cell research, which was sold successfully to the public as only involving the use of leftover IVF embryos due to be tossed out anyway. About therapeutic cloning, however, people are opposed. Even when the question is asked inaccurately, (leaving out the creation of a human embryo through cloning), a small majority opposes. "Do you favor or oppose using human cloning technology IF it is used ONLY to help medical research develop new treatments for disease?" The results were 43% support, 51% opposed.

Notably, when the question is asked accurately, to wit: "Do you favor or oppose using human cloning technology IF it is used to create human embryos that will provide stem cells for human therapeutic purposes?" The support diminished and opposition increased: Thirty-four percent favored cloning under these conditions and 59 percent were opposed.

This poll demonstrates vividly why pro cloners are engaged in a campaign of obfuscation to convince people that therapeutic cloning isn't cloning and that somatic cell nuclear transfer creates stem cells rather than embryos.

Stem Cell Imperialism



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Woo-Suk Hwang, the Korean human cloner, is forming the World Stem Cell Foundation that intends to circumvent the bans some nations and U.S. States have on human therapeutic cloning. The idea is to do the cloning in friendly areas and then cell the cloned stem cells in locales where cloning is not allowed. As I write in this article, this is not only in stark contrast to those seeking to find a morally permissible way to obtain tailor-made stem cells, but could spark a backlash.

This is the conclusion: "Scientists and bioethicists often complain that society is becoming anti-science. But perhaps the real problem is that many biotechnology boosters increasingly act as if popular beliefs about the wrongness of human cloning are irrelevant, indeed, that only the views of the privileged caste of scientists should count. Defiant proposals such as the World Stem Cell Foundation only add to this perception."

Kudos to Chicago Tribune



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I was flying home from a speaking gig in Kentucky yesterday and at Chicago/O'Hare, I purchased a Sunday Chicago Tribune. There, on the front page, was a great story on the power of umbilical cord blood stem cells to treat terrible diseases. Good for the Tribune. As I have written previously, too often, these amazing stories are either not reported, or blandly presented on inside pages, in the mainstream media. Perhaps the dam is beginning to break.

This being noted, a good story here and there is insufficient to break through the Big Biotech/Media propaganda blitz extolling the wonders of therapeutic cloning and embryonic stem cells as superior to adult/umbilical cord blood stem cells. In my years of public advocacy, I have learned that repitition is the key to getting the attention of the mass of the population that are not news junkies and don't spend their lives focusing intently on various controversies. At some point, I believe, stories like the Tribune's will be the rule rather than the exception. The treatments most likely to come on-line sooner, and at less cost, are non embryonic--and all without the moral baggage.

Michael Fumento on Adult Stem Cells and Journalistic Malpractice



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I posted an entry at Secondhand Smoke a bit ago about a tremendous breakthrough in which adult stem cells have apparently successfully treated serious liver disease in humans. Michael Fumento adds more details here. And, he points out, the mainstream media has all but ignored the breakthrough, since adult stem cells are "politically incorrect." He is so right. His kicker: "Therapeutic progress with adult stem cells will continue to come fast and furious. Just when the public will be allowed to hear about it is another thing entirely."

The media's refusal to fully report on the many successes of adult stem cells is journalistic malpractice with malice aforethought.

Los Angeles Paying for Security for Animal Control Workers



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The threats from animal rights activists against animal control workers have grown so extreme that Los Angeles is paying for special security for them. For example, a smoke bomb was set off in the apartment complex where the head of LA's animal control department lives--a crime acknowledge by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).

A spokesman for the liberationists state that the better course for LA would just be give in and adopt a "no kill" policy for strays, and then all would be better. Of course, that would be giving into Brown Shirtism, resulting not in peace but increased demands made by terrorists emboldened by their success. Moreover, it is very interesting that these thugs seem to have no trouble with PETA, which has admitted to killing tens of thousands of dogs and cats, with two employees currently up on felony charges in South Carolina for killing animals and throwing them away in dumpsters. Apparently, it isn't the killing that is wrong. It is who is doing the killing.

Update on Bestiality Case in Washington



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Readers may recall a disgusting case awhile back of a man who died while having sex with a horse. It turned out that there is no law against bestiality in Washington, and I was peeved because supporters and opponents of proposed legislation there to outlaw bestiality were missing the point that human/animal sex is intrinsically demeaning to human dignity.

Here's the latest
on that story. The man who rented the farm and let people use the animals has been arrested on trespass charges. Since the horse wasn't hurt (he did the hurting), no animal abuse charges could be filed. Only in America.

And They Make Fun of Leon Kass For Warning That IVF Might Be Risky to the Child



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Ever since the human cloning debates began, some bioethicists have chided the former chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics for having worried decades ago that IVF might pose risks to the children created thereby. Kass was wrong about IVF, they thunder, and he is wrong about cloning, too.

Well, lo and behold: Studies now show Kass was right. Betcha the deriders won't apologize.

Eliminating the Disabled Through Eugenic Abortion and Embryo Selection



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The Washington Post deserves credit for running this thoughtful piece by Patricia E. Bauer, a journalist and mother of a disabled child who worries that we are seeking to eliminate the disabled by never permitting them to be born--all in the name of preventing suffering, of course. Bauer writes: "What I don't understand is how we as a society can tacitly write off a whole group of people as having no value...And here's one more piece of un-discussable baggage: This question is a small but nonetheless significant part of what's driving the abortion discussion in this country. I have to think that there are many pro-choicers who, while paying obeisance to the rights of people with disabilities, want at the same time to preserve their right to ensure that no one with disabilities will be born into their own families. The abortion debate is not just about a woman's right to choose whether to have a baby; it's also about a woman's right to choose which baby she wants to have."

I have noticed these attitudes increasing, too. As we tout the Special Olympics, we are wiping people with Down's syndrome off the face of the planet, not only through eugenic abortion, but even including infanticide in the Netherlands and medical neglect of Down's babies here in the States. Meanwhile, our futurists sigh in ecstasy at the thought "seizing control of human evolution" and making "better" babies enhanced for increased intelligence, beauty, or longevity. Yet, developmentally disabled people are some of the most "human" people I have ever met, most merely wanting to belong, contribute, love, and be loved. Somehow that point is lost on the Brave New Worlders, as is the very concept of unconditional love for children regardless of "characteristics."

We are told by "transhumanists" and others that the future will be an individualist's paradise, with all of us able to remake ourselves and our children into whatever form of life we choose. But the reverse seems true. As we claim to believe in diversity, in many ways we are actually well down the path to destroying it.

Progressive Bioethicists Want More Influence, Poor Babies



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Good grief. "Progressive" bioethicists are whining that they don't have enough power. Nonsense. The utilitarian bioethics agenda, which is what the "progressive" bioethics movement really is, has tremendous influence in this country. Indeed, as is discussed in depth in Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America, most bioethicists hew to the ideological lines of the "progressives," which is why bioethics has ceased to be a "discourse" and become more akin to an ideology and social movement. They are just irked that Bush is in power, which has temporarily prevented their sweeping the board. Of course, I find most of mainstream utilitarian bioethics to be not liberal at all, particularly given that most believe human beings can be separated into caste-creating distinctions between so-called persons and human non persons.

Here's a note from Bio-Edge on a recent meeting among the progressives with a Democratic Party think tank, with an interesting comment by Daniel Callahan. I often disagree with Callahan, but he seems right here. Note also the typical nasty comments by Art Caplan, who is the media go-to guy for sound bites on bioethics controversies. I read the transcript of his talk at the progressive soiree and he seems to be growing more demagogic with each passing day. The "progressive's" conference was also covered by Will Saletan in his own inimitable style. (I really enjoy how Saletan bemusedly goes back and forth between "conservative" bioethics/biotech and "liberal" camp meetings. He's a good journalist, even when I don't agree with his perspectives.)

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