Human Exceptionalism

Blank Check Syndrome

“The scientists,” by which I mean the politicized advocates for a financial and ethical blank check in human cloning, genetic engineering, and other awesomely powerful biotechnologies, are upset. The poor babies are grousing about the potential for government regulation–in the UK where the regulators are more rubber stamps than enforcers of reasonable ethical parameters! From the story in the Times:

Excessive regulation of science is damaging public confidence in research by creating a misleading impression that most of it is dangerous or ethically dubious, say working scientists.

Much of it is. Endangering women’s lives, health, and fecundity in egg harvesting for human cloning experimentation. Human cloning and genetic engineering. Seeking to create artificial life. These are no small or mundane matters.

Far from reassuring ordinary people that research is safe and ethical, scientists feel that strict laws covering experiments on animals, embryos and human tissue actually have a negative impact on public perceptions of their work.

Actually, it gives false assurance to the public.

There was particular concern about new rules that require doctors to obtain explicit consent before patients’ tissue samples can be used in research.

Whose tissue is it???

Tough regulations on animal experiments and research using human embryos and stem cells have a similar effect, suggesting that there is something undesirable about such work.

Are they out of their minds? Those regulations are essential to public confidence that animals are not abused or used in experimentation for gratuitous purposes. Do these people not know that animal rights crazies want to destroy their lives and work? As for embryos, they are using nascent human beings as mere natural resources. That too is no small matter and for many people is of profound ethical import.

And here comes the blank check part:

Tony Gilland, of the Institute of Ideas, who organised the survey, said that while the respondents were self-selected, their views reflected a clear mood that science was overregulated.

“If we really want value for money from publicly funded scientists then we have to be willing to allow them to pursue their curiosity and see what comes of it,” he said.

“A scientist’s peers are best placed to judge whether their work is excellent or mediocre. Today the mark of a ‘good’ scientist seems to be all about whether they are prepared to doff their cap to the externally imposed constraints of ethics committees and regulators or the Government’s demands for short-term economic or social benefits from their work.”

Talk about spoiled brats. No powerful institution gets to do what they want just because they want to, or depend wholly on their colleagues to police their activities. Not lawyers. Not doctors. Not even hairdressers. Why should scientists be any different? They don’t know when they have it good.

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