Human Exceptionalism

Joplin Globe: Incompetence in Editorializing

It stuns me sometimes how utterly ignorant media can be about human cloning and embryonic stem cell research. Not only does ignorance drive bad public policies, but it can be harmful. The Joplin Globe committed both journalistic sins in this ludicrously bad Joplin Globe editorial about attempts to outlaw all human cloning in Missouri in the wake of the passage of the deceptive Amendment 2.

Opponents argue that the procedure known as somatic cell nuclear transfer kills life at the earliest stage. But for life to begin, at least as we understand the process, an egg must be fertilized. No fertilized eggs are used.

As readers of SHS well know, there are now two ways to create mammalian–including in theory, human life. The first is “sexually,” as described by the editorial above. The second is “asexually,” that is via SCNT, which creates an embryo just as much as fertilization does. This is how Dolly came to be born, meaning that before she was a born cloned lamb, she was a cloned sheep embryo. And James Thomson, the man who first derived human ES cells, has so acknowledged.

But this is where ignorance goes beyond misleading to actively harmful:

[F]or thousands of Missourians today and in the years ahead, somatic cell nuclear transfer is about the only glimmer of hope they have.

What drivel. If SCNT is the “only glimmer of hope” sick people and their families have, it is because of journalistic malpractice in not reporting accurately about the full breadth and scope of biotechnological research. Human SCNT hasn’t been done yet, at least not to the point where ES cells were derived. It may never be done. But tremendous strides are being made in non controversial medical research and biotechnology all across the board. Adult stem cells have stopped MS from worsening, people with paralysis due to spinal cord injury have regained feeling in early human trials, cancer drugs are being created that will be targeted to a patient’s specific genomic makeup. Indeed, in actuality, SCNT–whatever one thinks of the morality of creating human embryos for use and destruction in research–is a very small piece of the biotech pie. There is great hope. Killing it through ignorance is no way to run a newspaper.

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