Monday, April 12, 2010

Sin # 3: Hampering Scientific Research Re Stem Cells And Cloning

After some extemporaneous rants, we return to the extended, multi-part rant.

Religous opposition to stem cell and cloning research follows two themes:

  1. The "all human cells are potential people and as such may have souls" magical thinking. As in the discussion of abortion, if we are going to do everything possible to protect back to the zygote stage, then clearly these cells are off limit to any research -- even if they are being held in storage at a fertility clinic and will be destroyed if the parent couple decides they don't need them. Meanwhile, what kind of controls and limitations are there on stem cell research in China, Japan and Korea? Pretty much none. We actually wound up effectively encouraging top foreign-born researchers in these areas to return to their home countries, where their work would be encouraged by the government rather than restricted.
    It says something for the zealotry of conservatives that even in the face of a direct, emotional plea by Nancy Reagan on behalf of her beloved Ronnie -- Ronald Reagan, probably the most beloved conservative of the last 50 years -- for stem cell research as a treatment for Alzheimer's Disease, she was turned down flat.
  2. The "this is the affair of god, man has no business here" cant. Fear of the various genies that science can let out of their bottles dates back to Mary Shelley and "Frankenstein". Some legitimate fears here (re Bill Joy and "Why The Future Doesn't Need Us"), but, by and large, my feeling is, you can't keep technology advances bottled up. They will break out. The sooner you realize that and make realistic plans to deal with it, the better.

Here's a little song I made up. I think you can guess the tune:
Don't give me that old time religion.
Don't give me that old time religion.
Don't give me that old time religion.
It ain't good enough for me.

[verse 1]
It don't know about evolution.
It don't know about relativity.
It don't know about quantum mechanics.
It ain't good enough for me.

[verse 2]
It wasn't there when they split the atom.
It wasn't there for the double helix.
It wasn't there for the human genome.
It ain't good enough for me.

[verse 32,768]

And so on ...

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