Human Exceptionalism

Clueless on Cloning

The New York “all the news we see fit to print” Times has a clueless editorial out today about human/animal hybrid cloning. Here are a few tidbits:

Stem cell research in the United States has been hobbled for years by severe and misguided restrictions on federal funding. But now a vexing additional problem is slowing even privately financed research. There are distressingly few women willing to donate their eggs for experiments at the frontiers of this promising science.

Gee, how selfish of women not to risk death, infertility, infection, blood clots, and other serious side effects to promote morally contentious and speculative research. I suggest that any woman of child bearing age at the New York Times editorial board lead by example and undergo the onerous process of super-ovulation.

Surplus embryos from fertility clinics can seldom be used to study specific diseases or develop treatments for them. Scientists need to develop new stem cell lines genetically matched to patients with diseases like diabetes or Parkinson’s. They typically take the nucleus of a patient’s skin cell and inject it into an egg whose nucleus has been removed. If all goes well, the desired stem cell can be derived from the result.

Yes, well that is cloning, a word the Times doesn’t use. Moreover, the Times’ editorialist must not know that Wu-suk Hwang was a fraud and that embryonic stem cells have not yet been derived from cloned embryos. At most, one could write that “in theory” genetically matched stem cells can be derived. Thus, the use of the present tense is either ignorant or intentionally misleading.

There is little doubt that human eggs would be better for research and ultimately treatment. But with a shortage of donors, animal eggs could prove a valuable alternative. Meanwhile, many scientists are hoping that it will be possible, without using eggs at all, to convert human skin cells directly into embryonic stem cells, as has been shown possible in mice. That would be an elegant solution to the vexing egg donor problem.

No, the elegant solution would be in not having to create and destroy embryos through human cloning and would offer a way to desist from using nascent human life instrumentally.

The Times’ pointing to Brave New Britain as an example of enlightened (we never say no) regulation demonstrates the paper’s “blank check” mindset. I cannot imagine the paper ever supporting reasonable regulations over biotechnology. Mark my words, in ten years when “the scientists” are telling us we need to gestate cloned fetuses to get the CURES! the NYT will be promoting the cause enthusiastically.