FC: Responses to Center for Genetics and Society and ban on cloning

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Mon Feb 04 2002 - 18:16:20 PST

  • Next message: Declan McCullagh: "FC: Florida city commissioner replies to ACLU suing police chief"

    Previous messages:
    "Center for Genetics and Society urges senators to ban cloning"
    "Lizard replies to Center for Genetics and Society on cloning"
    Date: Mon, 04 Feb 2002 17:14:05 -0800
    From: Mike Alissi <malissiat_private>
    To: declanat_private
    Subject: Re: FC: Center for Genetics and Society urges senators to ban
    Hi Declan -
    Reason gathered some insightful views on this topic a couple of months ago.
    They respond to many of the issues raised in the CGS letter:
    Criminalizing Science
    Leading thinkers and commentators respond to a left-right alliance to outlaw
    cloning" and stigmatize genetic research.
    Date: Mon, 4 Feb 2002 17:58:41 -0500
    From: Hiawatha Bray <wathaat_private>
    To: declanat_private
    Subject: RE: Lizard replies to Center for Genetics and Society on cloning
    If this is as close as you can get to a counter-argument, the
    anti-cloners--like me--have nothing to worry about.
    Seriously, though, human cloning is a lousy idea, perhaps the lousiest
    ever.  The purpose of science, it seems to me, is the betterment of
    human life, not its abolition.  And abolition is the likely result of
    a policy that allows people to tailor new types of "humans" for
    commercial or political ends.  This is a power that people have no
    business exercising, even if it is within our grasp.  People, after
    all, are not means to an end, but ends in themselves.  This is why
    civilized societies have never tolerated involuntary experiments on
    humans.  And that, of course, is exactly what cloning of people
    amounts to.
    Hiawatha Bray
    Tech Reporter
    Boston Globe
    Date: Mon, 04 Feb 2002 17:14:23 -0500
    From: Alan Cabal <a.cabalat_private>
    To: declanat_private
    Subject: Re: FC: Lizard replies to Center for Genetics and Society on
    I have it on good authority that Bill Gates, Al Gore, George W. Bush, George
    Soros, that mediocre idiot Bono, and pedophile poster child Britney Spears
    are all clones harvested from the DNA of Richard M. Nixon.
    What's the point of closing the barn door when the horses have already
    galloped? Legalize everything, and free Charles Manson.
    Alan Cabal
    NY Press
    Date: Mon, 4 Feb 2002 15:26:48 -0800
    From: Matthew Tarpy <tarpyat_private>
    To: declanat_private
    Subject: RE: Lizard replies to Center for Genetics and Society on cloning
    I'm just a subscriber to your list, not anyone of note in this whole
    cloning/bioethics area (just one of those 'soon to be a law student'
    people), yet still feel compelled to write a few lines about this
    The clear implication of 'lizards' email is that somehow people who are
    against cloning are those same people who are against all progress in
    the scientific realm. I have no doubt that lizard believes that the
    anti-cloning people are the same lot that forced Galileo to recant his
    observations, or that would burn witches at the stake. That being said,
    however, I feel compelled to confess that I am someone who is very much
    against wholesale cloning at this point.
    I am certainly not a technology hater...I work in Silicon Valley, went
    to Carnegie Mellon for my undergrad degree, and am a human-factors
    professional, and was the first TiVo user in my circle of friends; I
    have a deep love of technology and the wonders it can bring us. However,
    I have a great deal of skepticism when it comes to how we apply our
    ability to create new technology and the unintended consequences of
    those acts of creation.
    Look at the atom bomb; no one can deny that the harnessing of the atom
    was a great achievement of the human race, yet at the same time, our own
    sense of ethics just barely kept pace with our ability to destroy not
    only ourselves, but our entire world. I think the same could be said of
    the nascent technology of cloning. I realize that I'm starting to sound
    a lot like Mander does in the "Absence of the Sacred" here, but I'm
    starting to see his point more and more. It's not that the technology
    itself makes a value judgment; it's what we do with that technology.
    After much thought I've come to the following conclusion: if we are
    simply talking about the use of stem-cells/etc to learn how to clone
    replacement organs, I am very comfortable with this line of research.
    Furthermore, no one (save the Amish, Christian Scientists, and the
    Luddites), I believe, would be against that technology. No one could
    say, with a straight face, that a kidney has a soul or inherent
    self-worth. It is, rather, when we turn to the issue of cloning human
    beings and fetuses that the issue becomes hazy. I am extremely
    uncomfortable with the thought of thousands of human fetuses being
    created solely for a research project, and then being discarded. It
    seems to me that this disregards the inherent 'worth' (or soul, if you
    wish) of those fetuses. 
    It's not so much that we shouldn't be playing god, it's that we
    shouldn't be playing God when our ethics and moral structures aren't
    advanced enough to deal with the issues that we are going to encounter
    if we go down this path without a careful examination of where we're
    going. These issues of life and death and medicine are very complicated
    and not at all clear cut. Right now out here in California, there's a
    big brouhaha over the fact that a convicted felon was given a free heart
    while other, perhaps, more deserving people on the transplant list did
    not receive the same level of care. Should the convict receive the
    heart? I don't know, he wasn't on death row, he wasn't serving a life
    term, I can honestly see both points of view. If we can't even answer
    this, a certainly 'easier' question than the whole issue of the ethics
    of cloning a human being, shouldn't that tell us something?
    Date: Mon, 4 Feb 2002 17:41:56 -0700
    From: James J. Lippard <lippardat_private>
    To: tsimoncelli@genetics-and-society.org
    Cc: declanat_private
    Subject: Re: FC: Center for Genetics and Society urges senators to ban
    Do you have a version of the letter or any accompanying documentation
    somewhere that actually gives an argument for this position?  I can't
    find one in the text, apart from "lack of an unmet need," which seems
    to me a rather poor reason for banning something--it certainly would
    set a bad precedent.  What are the harmful consequences feared here?
    I realize it is not possible to describe "a future more horrific than
    any we might imagine," but are there any horrific futures you CAN
    imagine that are considered likely, or possible consequences of use of
    these technologies?
    This talk of "the risk that a human clone might be born" makes no
    sense to me.  Why is that any more inherently threatening than "the
    risk that a human twin might be born"?  A twin is just a natural
    clone, isn't it?  Should we have a ban on twins, and a moratorium on
    fertility drugs that increase the likelihood of twins?
    Is the problem that a clone can be made from other cells of human
    beings, and thus the twins may be temporally separated in development,
    rather than reared together. time-wise?
    Or is the problem human control over reproduction, that an element
    of chance can be removed?
    Is the fear "The Boys from Brazil"?  That the worst of humanity will
    be reproduced?  Doesn't that already happen via natural methods?
    Or is the fear "Gattaca"--that genetically engineered humans will
    have fewer diseases and problems, and put those of us who aren't
    so engineered at a disadvantage, and justify discrimination against
    us?  Doesn't that already happen via natural methods, and accidents
    of birth (like nation of origin)?
    Or is the fear "Brave New World"--that genetically engineered humans
    will be used as slaves, or harvested for body parts?  (It seems to me
    that existing laws should already suffice to preclude this
    possibility, unless individual organs could be grown, in which case
    I'm not sure I see what the objection is--what better place for
    getting a compatible heart than from the individual whose heart needs
    I'd just like to get some specifics on what your group finds
    objectionable about cloning.
    Date: Mon, 04 Feb 2002 17:50:02 -0500
    From: George M. Ellenburg <gmeat_private>
    To: declanat_private
    Subject: Re: FC: Center for Genetics and Society urges senators to ban cloning
    Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle
    Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott
    Members of the Senate
    cc:    President George W. Bush
             Members of the House of Representatives
    February, 2002:
    Dear Senators,
    The United States Senate will soon be considering legislation on human
    cloning. Your decisions will
    have profound implications for the future of humanity.
    Religous and ethical groups are crawling out of the woodwork to try to
    presuade your opinion one way or
    another regarding this issue.  Usually the opinion being expressed is one
    that cloning and eugenics is not
    good for our Country, or our World.
    Harken if you will with me, back to the 14th and 15th centuries.  European
    scholars and theologians
    steadfastly believed that the Earth was flat.  He that went against the
    church was guilty of heresy.
    Brave explorers like Lief Erickson, some unmentionable Frenchmen; oh, and a
    certain Spaniard named
    Christopher Columbus proved to all mankind that the Earth was not-flat, and
    this was a Good Thing[tm].
    Let's go back even futher.  Copernicus was all but banshed from society for
    his theories that (gasp!) the
    Earth rotates around the Sun, when doctrine back then taught that the Earth
    was the center of the Universe.
    In modern times; were it not for the brave souls of many others who spent
    (and gave) their lives pursuing
    eternal truth, our World would not be what it is today.
    No one -- not you, I, or "the Center for Genetics and Society" -- are
    soothsayers.  Who's to say that if this
    amazing work is stifled then amazing cures and discoveries may be forever
    After all, it was unethical, at the time, for Copernicus to think, and
    preach, that the Earth was not the center
    of the Universe; that it did, in fact, rotate around the Sun.
    It was also unethical, at the time, for Galileo Galilei to hypothesize that
    our Solar System is a part of a vast
    system of stars, galaxies, and planets.
    People thought Leonardo DiVinci was nuts for dreaming that one day mankind
    will fly.
    Charles Darwin was all but damned to Hell for hypothesizing that mankind
    evolved from lower-ordered
    And, people thought Orville and Wilbur Wright were nuts for trying to make
    Leonardo DiVinci's dream come
    So I and countless others, ask of YOU, our elected Senators and
    Representatives, to not be swayed by
    emotion in this matter, and allow cloning and eugenic research to continue.
    George Ellenburg, Atlanta, GA, USA
    Date: Mon, 4 Feb 2002 19:47:21 -0500
    From: Nat <nathaniel.echolsat_private>
    To: Declan McCullagh <declanat_private>
    Cc: politechat_private, lizardat_private
    Subject: Re: FC: Lizard replies to Center for Genetics and Society on
    This reply would fit in better on Slashdot or Usenet.  However, since it's
    already been aired, I'll try to respond.  Disclaimer: I'm a biology major,
    but I'm in no danger of being a "real scientist"- merely an informed
    I agree a moratorium on "research cloning" is a bad idea- it's mainly
    meant to cure debilitating illness in people with few other options.
    Safety should be an issue, but most patients needing related therapies
    probably are willing to take risks.  I'd guess most scientists would
    probably agree that it should be fairly tightly regulated, perhaps for
    reasons similar to the Center's.
    On the other hand, reproductive cloning is extremely risky with no benefit
    to already living, suffering individuals.  I have two objections to it:
    1. It's unnecessary.  I'd love to hear if anyone has ideas about why we
    _need_ reproductive cloning.  (The only good one I've heard is that cloned
    individuals might serve as tissue donors, but this sounds very
    hypothetical and opens up all sorts of ethical issues- even assuming that
    any procedure done wouldn't harm the clone)
    2. Figuring out how to clone humans will probably result in quite a few
    "errors", some of which will probably not be caught until after birth.
    I'd argue that this qualifies as experimentation on unwilling human
    subjects.  Yeah, the risks have probably been overblown.  But Western
    medical and scientific ethics seem to me to prohibit taking this sort of
    risk, even if it were for a medically useful experiment.
    I mentioned my concerns on this list some months ago and received a lot of
    nasty replies from people, none of whom could supply a good reason why 
    we need cloning.  I know many hate hearing "we know what's best for you"
    from the scientific community, but every scientist I've heard voice an
    opinion on reproductive cloning has been against it (plus, now, the
    National Academy of Sciences), usually for reasons similar to mine.  Some
    of these, by the way, are strongly in favor of stem-cell research etc.
    Finally, the suggestion below that anyone against reproductive cloning is
    a religious fanatic or luddite is offensive.  Forget this Center- do you
    think the NAS is a right-wing think tank?
    Date: Mon, 04 Feb 2002 17:03:36 -0800
    From: lizard <lizardat_private>
    To: Nat <nathaniel.echolsat_private>
    Cc: Declan McCullagh <declanat_private>, politechat_private
    Subject: Re: FC: Lizard replies to Center for Genetics and Society on
    The anti-genetics bandwagon is populated by a delightfully bipartisan 
    mix of right-wing creationist/anti-abortion fanatics and left-wing 
    Rifkinite 'science is a patriarchial capitalist plot to rape Mother 
    Earth' fanatics. Both types, IMO, should be allowed to live their 
    preferred lifestyle in some isolated, useless, wilderness, such as Canada.
    The main problem I have with the 'moratorium' on reproductive human 
    cloning (the ONLY part of the agenda which has even the slightest hint 
    of a rational basis) is that the logic is "We don't know how to safely 
    clone humans, therefore, we shouldn't do it." Uhm...hello? McFly? Unless 
    we perform experiments, we'll never LEARN. Thus, the moratorium is a de 
    facto ban. Which is, of course, what the people proposing it desire. "We 
    don't know if X is safe, so we must not do X until we're sure" is an 
    argument which doesn't hold up, when doing "X" is the only way to find out.
    As to "why" should we clome humans...why NOT? Someone wants a clone of 
    themself, let them have one..big friggin' deal. The clone won't BE them, 
    any more than one identical twin "is" his brother. The clone will have 
    identical DNA, but a different personality, outlook, values, etc.
    Saying that human cloning should not be permitted to *bring a child to 
    term* until there is a strong assurance of freedom from genetic defects 
    makes some sense -- indeed, a similair moral logic should be applied to 
    any pregnancy likely to result in a gene-damaged child. However, before 
    we can safely create a human clone that can be born, we will need to 
    perfect the process on embryos which will then need to be destroyed 
    before birth (probably within a month or two of fertilization)
    But if you need a 'why'...such research will lead to tremenous gains in 
    understanding human reproduction, cell diffrentiation, and so on. It 
    will also do a lot to settle 'nature vs. nurture' debates.
    POLITECH -- Declan McCullagh's politics and technology mailing list
    You may redistribute this message freely if you include this notice.
    Declan McCullagh's photographs are at http://www.mccullagh.org/
    To subscribe to Politech: http://www.politechbot.com/info/subscribe.html
    This message is archived at http://www.politechbot.com/

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon Feb 04 2002 - 18:39:54 PST