Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Leak: No Clones Made in 2005 Hwang Experiments


This is a leak, it is only a leak: It is not the official conclusion. But it appears that Hwang never cloned human embryos at all in the 2005 experiments, in which he fraudulently asserted to have successfully made 11 patient specific, cloned embryonic stem cell lines. If this is true, it is also probably true about his 2004 claim, meaning that he may never have manufactured human clones at all. It would also explain why his work has yet to be repeated by other researchers.

Peter Singer Knocks Down Straw Men in Weak Pro Cloning Column


I have never been that impressed with the thinking of Peter Singer, although he is probably the most famous philosopher/bioethicist in the world. This article by Singer in the Australian about the Hwang scandal is a case in point.

For example, Singer trots out the old nonsense that cloning makes the human embryo essentially worthless because, well, let's let him tell it:

"Proving the possibility of cloning from the nucleus of an ordinary human cell would transform the debate about the value of potential human life, for we would find that potential human life was all around us, in every cell of our bodies."

The idea here is that since any cell could conceivably be used to create an embryo, and since many people oppose destroying embryos because of their human potential, then since every cell is a potential human life, this somehow disproves the belief that a human embryo has intrinsic value because it is human. But this is mere sophistry. A cell is just a cell, whether used in cloning or not. At most, each somatic cell would be the moral equivalent of sperm--which again, is just a cell. Scientifically, a cloned embryo is a different thing altogether than a mere cell: It is an integrated human organism, which many believe gives it a distinct moral status. Hence, contrary to Singer's assertion, learning to clone will not change this perspective at all.

Here's another weak argument: Singer quotes President Bush as opposing therapeutic cloning because each human life is as unique as a snowflake. "If it is the uniqueness of human embryos that makes it wrong to destroy them," he writes, "then there is no compelling reason not to take one cell from an embryo and destroy the remainder of it to obtain stem cells, for the embryo's unique genetic potential would be preserved."

But of course, that is not why President Bush or others oppose cloning. Otherwise, they wouldn't object to murdering identical siblings, who are the world's only true clones. Indeed, it isn't the genetic uniqueness that makes it wrong to create embryos for the purpose of destroying them to cloning opponents: It is treating human life, even nascent human life, like a commodity, a mere crop to be harvested.

Singer is adept at making straw men to knock over, and employs this technique throughout his column. The truth is that Singer believes that all unborn human lives and newborn infants have no right to life or bodily integrity because they are not "persons." Indeed, he is the world's foremost proponent of infanticide. Hence, under Singer's theories--and he does hint at this in this piece--it would be acceptable to create a cloned embryo, gestate it to the fetal stage, and abort it in order to harvest its organs. Heck, he would justify bringing a cloned baby fully to birth for that purpose. Unfortunately, many readers of this piece may not know the depth of the consequences of Singer's utilitarian mindset.

MSM Now Reporting Hwang Fraud


The New York Times put Hwang on its front page today. That is good. The paper predictably covered the story following the general line taken by cloning advocates. The Washingto Post has another story as well, again by Rick Weiss. It ran on the San Francisco Chronicle's front page.

These reporters and the analysis I read in the Times still are not asking the truly pertinent questions about how this happened. Nor are we yet seeing the skeptical and aggressive reportage that led to Hwang's downfall in South Korea. They quote the editor of Science on the issue, which is fine, but they fail to note that he too has a lot of explaining to do, for example, why initially Science took the blame for publishing what turned out to be forged photographs, claiming the matter was a production problem within the journal.

This story should get much bigger. We'll see if it will or whether the MSM will circle the wagons around therapeutic cloning. That's my prediction.

I will have my own take on it in the next Weekly Standard and will post a few quotes here when it is out.

Snuppy the Cloned Dog May Not Be Cloned


This from the London Times today, reporting on the Hwang fraud:

"The paper reporting the birth of Snuppy did not include DNA tests that were needed to prove the dog was a true clone."

And yet, it passed peer-review muster, as did the fraudulent paper claiming 11 cloned stem cell lines, as did the 2004 paper claiming to have created the first cloned embryo, but which is in doubt because photos are duplicates. I think the scientists involved in overseeing these published papers have a lot to explain. Where was their skepticism?

MSM Downplaying Hwang Scandal


As I suspected, much of the same media that carried banner stories about Hwang's purported cloning success, are barely reporting his downfall. Notable exception, the Washington Post, which ran a front page story. But I just went through my New York Times, and couldn't find the story. On the WEB site, there is an abridged AP wire story. The San Francisco Chronicle ran a short blurb on page 3.

Not unbelievable, but sooo typical.

I would be interested in the level of reporting from elsewhere.

Singer Don Ho Adult Stem Cell Treatment Appears to Have Worked


Why does it seem to always take celebrities to get media's attention? The Washington Post has reported an apparent adult stem cell success in treating Hawaiian singer Don Ho. Ho reportedly had stem cells taken from his own blood injected into his badly ailing heart, in a procedure not yet approved in the USA. He is now feeling so good he may return to performing.

This is an anecdotal report. Safety remains an issue and until this procedure is repeated, tested properly in blind studies, and verified with peer reviewed articles, it does not a cure make. But With the Hwang debacle, the growing number of adult stem cell successes, and the media just beginning to barely cover the depth and breadth of adult/umbilical cord blood stem cell successes, it may become impossible for cloning proponents to continue to insist that embryonic stem cells offer the "best" potential to develop a robust regenerative medical sector.

Australia Panel Recommends Anything Goes Cloning License


Michael Cook is the editor of Bio Edge and he has published a powerful opinion article in the Australian about a science panel that recommends not only overturning Australia's current ban on all human cloning, but permitting a virtually anything goes license for biotech. Here is the key paragraph:

"The public is being sold a pig in a poke. In return for stuffing the Christmas stockings of scientists full of goodies, it gets gilt-edged promises. The guys in white coats, on the other hand, get jobs, research contracts and royalties on their patented discoveries. Some of them will become very rich. Drug companies will get cheaper clinical trials. And to add insult to injury, the report firmly states that patients must not share in profits which might arise from the use of their tissue."

This illustrates that the biotechnology ideologues will never willingly accept any permanent meaningful boundaries.

Hwang’s University Says He Faked At Least 9 of 11 Cloned Stem Cell Lines


It's official: Hwang is a fraud. His own university investigators determined that he deliberately misled the world about his supposed cloning breakthroughs. Nine out of the eleven stem cell lines were faked and the other two have yet to be confirmed. The LA Times is on the story.

Look now for the same pro cloners who were saying we need to federally fund human cloning to catch up to the South Koreans to not miss a beat and claim we need federal funding of human cloning so we can do it right. And look for the mainstream media to mildly cover the story, which can't be ignored, but not give it the blockbuster treatment it deserves for fear of aiding the anti-human cloning political campaign.

What we need to do is outlaw all human cloning.

China Marketing Organs of Executed Prisoners


There is so much that could be written about this. But, I will just point out that the same dehumanizing, commodifying activity could be unleashed if there is ever widespread human cloning. The need for millions of eggs could result in a the exploitation of women for their eggs, or the selling of executed prisoner's ovaries for the follicles.

The End of the “Cult of Hwang”


South Korean scientists are furious with the "scam" they believe was perpetrated by Woo-Suk Hwang, to the point that they want him "punished." I am not sure what that might mean, but if he obtained government or private funding based on fraudulent assertions, that could be a crime.

What led to Hwang's fame is his supposed ability to accomplish research feats that nobody else could do or replicate. Now, it seems, the reason may be that he did not do it at all. In any event, Hwang is ruined. Along this same line, the journal Nature is now checking to verify he actually cloned a dog and gestated it to birth, which, like creating ES cells from cloned human embryos, no other scientist has ever been able to accomplish.

Some Truth Telling in NATURE


Nature has an interesting article about the Hwang debacle. A couple of quotes stuck out for me.

"In the past few days, doubts have also been raised about the authenticity of [Hwang's] 2004 paper... But whether it is valid or not, the loss of confidence in the 2005 study leaves scientists with no proof that adult cells can be cloned - let alone used to produce stem cells. "Hwang's work gave people confidence to move into this difficult area," says Alan Colman, head of Singapore-based regenerative medicine company ES Cell International and a member of the team that cloned Dolly. "But maybe it's harder than we thought."

"We're back to knowing that animal cloning is possible but wondering whether it is possible in humans," adds Kevin Eggan of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "This is an enormous setback." (My italics.)

This is important because it acknowledges that the act of human cloning is the creation of the cloned embryo, not the cloned baby. It flies in the face of the disingenuous propaganda campaign being mounted by Big Biotech and their allies that cloning an embryo is not human cloning.

Here's another interesting quote:

"But for others, the episode merely confirms that therapeutic cloning is not the way forward. 'I always had my doubts about therapeutic cloning to generate patient-matched cells,' says Stephen Minger, a stem-cell researcher at the Wolfson Centre for Age Related Diseases in London, UK. He believes that banking stemcell lines from normal embryos, so that they can be matched to patients once they are made, is a more realistic prospect."

So, it isn't just religious folk who believe that therapeutic cloning doesn't make sense scientifically. Of course, he supports ESCR, but I believe that within five years, the advances in adult and umbilical cord blood stem cells may be such that ESCR will not be seen as necessary for clinical application.

More Evidence that Hwang May Have Faked First Cloning Report


Science has steadfastly defended Hwang's research--until now. It is investigating the 2004 paper that announced the first human clones.

Now Schatten May Be In Hot Water


Reuters Alertnet is reporting that Woo-Suk Hwang's former partner, Gerald Schatten, who first alerted the world to Hwang's ethical challenges, may be dismissed by his university. I wonder what that is all about? This story may have only just begun.

Human Trial to Begin Using Adult Stem Cells to Treat Brain Trauma in Children


Some more potential good news comes to us now amidst the human cloning debacle out of South Korea. Early human trials are about to begin utilyzing children's own bone marrow stem cells to treat brain trauma. The Phase 1 trial (which is primarily aimed at testing the safety of the procedure) has been approved by the FDA. Let us all hope it works, leading to further testing and the eventual bringing of adult stem cell treatments to people who suffer serious brain injuries.

Hwang May Have Faked First Cloning Report


The Hwang scandal may involve his every notable scientific work. Questions are now being asked whether he actually cloned a dog and gestated it to birth, which no other biotechnologists have ever been able to do. Now, it looks as if his first announcement in Science, that he had cloned human embryos and obtained one embryonic stem cell line, may also have been faked. The evidence? The purported photos of the cloned stem cell line is identical to earlier published photos of embryonic stem cells taken from naturally created embryos.

If this is true, human life appears never to have been cloned and the ongoing political campaign to federally fund the research in order "not to be left behind," is in tatters.

Stalin Ordered Creation of Ape/Man Warriors


The Transhumanists might say that Stalin was just ahead of his times when he ordered his scientists to create a half human/half ape species to be warriors.

It wasn't just Stalin. In our own time, Joseph Fletcher, who bioethics historian Al Jonson has called the "patriarch of bioethics" urged the creation of a half ape/half human sub caste to do our menial labor: "Chimeras or parahumans might legitimately be fashioned to do dangerous or demeaning jobs...Hybrids could also be designed by sexual reproduction, as between apes and humans...If women are unwilling to gestate hybrids animal females could." (The Ethics of Genetic Control, pp.172-173).

Now, the transhumanists want to use biotechnology, nanotech, and every other kind of tech to create a "post human species." This is a return to the concept of the super man, but Stalin and Fletcher illustrate that such technologies could also be turned to less utopian purposes.

And Yet Another Woefully Inaccurate Description of Cloning


This laughable depiction of cloning comes to us courtesy of Jamie Talan of Newsday. In a story on December 16 about the Hwang mess, therapeutic cloning was inaccurately described as follows:

"This technique calls for taking DNA from a donor cell and transferring it to a cell whose own nuclear DNA has been removed. Cloning techniques trick the hybrid cells into multiplying. The researchers say they use these cells to extract embryonic stem cells."

This description is barely coherent. No mention of the egg. No mention of the embryo. No, according to Talan, hybrid cells are tricked into multiplying.

Bad reporting about cloning is clearly pandemic.

Kansas City Star Also Inaccurately Describes Therapeutic Cloning


As regular readers of Secondhand Smoke know, I am still looking for a mainstream media outlet to accurately describe somatic cell nuclear transfer cloning, one that simply acknowledges that cloning creates an embryo, which is destroyed for research, or perhaps, (in the far distant future) for use in medical treatments. I am not asking for condemnation. Just accuracy in reportage.

This seems like a vain quest. Comes now the Kansas City Star with an editorial seeking to garner support for a proposed Missouri initiative that would create a state constitutional right to engage in human SCNT, which, following the usual pattern, is blatantly misdescribed: "Opponents are objecting to a procedure that involves scooping genetic material from a human egg and replacing it with DNA from a patient's body cell. Researchers, using chemicals and nutrients, coax the egg into dividing, producing a ball of about 300 cells. Healthy stem cells are harvested from the ball. Scientists think those stem cells have the potential to cure diseases and rebuild the body after devastating injuries." (My italics.)

Notice the editorial states that the egg produces the "healthy stem cells." If the editorial writer were a high school biology student answering a test, he or she would fail. The egg doesn't divide. Once the cloning is completed, it ceases to exist. The cloned embryo is the organism that creates the embryonic stem cells, which is destroyed to obtain them.

Notice too, the stem cells are not even identified as embryonic.

Yes, this is an editorial. But opinion should be based on accurately presented facts, not upon what National Review's Ramesh Ponnoru calls a game of "hide the embryo."

More Media Bias by Omission in Describing Human Cloning


Here's the latest blatant example of bias by omission in the mainstream media when describing somatic cell nuclear transfer cloning. Once again, the reporter is Nicolas Wade, who writes in today's story about the Hwang Woo-Suk scandal: "In an article published in Science in March 2004, he claimed to have performed the first nuclear transfer with human cells, the cloning procedure in which a nucleus from a person's adult cell is inserted into a human egg, from which embryonic stem cells are obtained." (My italics.)

False. Embryonic stem cells are not derived from eggs. The egg ceases to exist once the SCNT is completed, just as it does upon the completion of conception. At that point, a new, integrated individual human organism comes into existence that is called an embryo. The embryo is developed for a week and then destroyed for its stem cells.

It would only take an additional 7 words to be accurate, to wit: " which a nucleus from a person's adult cell is inserted into a human egg, transforming it into an embryo, which is later destroyed to obtain embryonic stem cells."

Why the incomplete description? Perhaps because polls show that if people believe mere cells are created, they support therapeutic cloning. However when told that embryos are created and destroyed in the process, they oppose therapeutic cloning.

Senate Passes Umb. Cord Blood Stem Cell Bill!


I just received this press release put out by Senator Sam Brownback's Office:

"Late this Friday evening, Democrat proponents of destructive human embryonic stem cell research have lifted their hold/objections to passage of the Cord Blood bill-the "Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005" (H.R.2520/S.1317). Following this, the Senate just proceeded to pass this legislation by Unanimous Consent.

This is an amazing break-through for all Americans. As Sen. Brownback noted on the Senate Floor last night, holding this bill was cruel for thousands of patients who could start receiving treatments and benefits immediately upon enactment of the National Cord Blood Bank, which would be established by this bill...

Last night in objecting to this bill, Sen. Harkin falsely argued that embryonic stem cells would treat people now if only there was 'better' funding for such human-destructive research. The truth is that embryonic stem cell research is already very well-funded and has been for years, but as the prestigious journal Science noted on June 17, 2005: "It is nearly certain that the [human] clinical benefits of the [embryonic stem cell] research are years or decades away. This is a message that desperate families and patients will not want to hear."

Tonight's Senate action on Cord Blood ends what amounted to a 7 month filibuster by proponents of destructive human embryonic stem cell research and cloning. (The bill was passed on May 24, 2005 by a vote of 434-1 in the House.) This should be greatly celebrated, and it is a wonderful achievement in ending the unneeded politicization of Cord Blood. Now, the bill (H.R.2520) will go to the House for passage and then to the President. The bill could become law as early as next week."


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