Human Exceptionalism

The Curtain Opens on Act II of the Great Stem Cell Debate: Now Pay Us to Create and Destroy Human Embryos

I have written repeatedly in the last two weeks about how “the scientists” are moving their duplicitous anything-goes-in-biotech campaign to the next stage, now that the curtain has come down on Act I with the slaying of the hated Bush funding restrictions. In the opening of Act II, we will see intense lobbying for the Feds to fund the creation of embryos for use in research–meaning that human life would be brought into being solely for the purpose of being destroyed–a first in human history.

Standing in the way is the Dickey Amendment, a provision that is passed yearly as part of the budgetary process. The Dickey Amendment prohibits federal money from being used to create embryos for research, or in their destruction. President Obama just signed the budget bill that contained Dickey, but next year might be different. As I have reported here at SHS, the NYT and Nature have both editorialized for the end of Dickey. And now a story in Science strongly hints at the same agenda in an otherwise forgettable report about where all the research money will come from to fund the Center for Regenerative Medicine now that we Californians can’t sell our junk bonds.

From the story (no link–CIRM Close-Hauled, Seeks Bonds to Sustain Headway, Constance Holden, Science 27 March 2009: Vol. 323. no. 5922, pp. 1660 – 1661):

The Center for Genetics and Society, a public interest group in Oakland, California, has hinted that the state may find better ways to spend its money now that the economy is tanking and NIH is no longer inhibited by the Bush policy. But scientists point out that as long as NIH has to comply with the Dickey-Wicker Amendment prohibiting research with human embryos, federally funded researchers will have to look to private or state-supported sources like CIRM for new ES cell lines. They also argue that in California, as elsewhere, a strong local establishment makes scientists more competitive when it comes to getting federal grants.

Well, that’s a patently false statement. Under Obama the Feds can fund research on any ESC lines that are made from whatever means: We just can’t fund creating embryos for research, or the destruction of any embryo.

But inaccurate reporting aside, the question before the house is why “the scientists” want federal money to create and destroy embryos. Or to put it another way, what’s up here?

At least two things: First, in a word; cloning. ESCR with “leftover” embryos was merely the launching pad for using developing human life as a natural resource. The Brave New World agendas of genetic engineering, fetal farming, transhumanist recreationism, familial anarchy, generally will require human cloning to perfect. Human cloning is proving very difficult to work out. It will be very expensive to perfect.

Second, societal approval: Federal funding would give society’s explicit imprimatur to this instrumentalization of embryos (and later, fetuses), thereby allowing “the scientists” to feel good about what they are doing as they cash the checks that finance the work. (One reason the Bush policy was so reviled is that it sent a powerful implicit message that destroying human life for use in research is morally wrong.) Indeed, even more than money, it seems to me that the science leadership insist that they be looked up to and adored. Having us all pay to custom make embryos via fertilization and/or SCNT cloning for research would restore the relationship between the science sector and society to the “proper” place, from “the scientists'” POV: They do whatever they think is right, they decide what is ethical, and we pay them to do it.


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