Saturday, May 21, 2005

I Do Believe in Sperm

I have a few more questions, this time for President Bush:

President Bush has condemned stem cell research advances in South Korea and said he worried about living in a world in which human cloning was condoned. He said he would veto any legislation aimed at loosening limits on federal support in the United States.

"I'm very concerned about cloning," Bush told reporters in the Oval Office on Friday. "I worry about a world in which cloning becomes acceptable."

Why does the President find twins unacceptable?

"I made it very clear to the Congress that the use of federal money, taxpayers' money to promote science which destroys life in order to save life is — I'm against that. And therefore, if the bill does that, I will veto it."

So, does this mean the President is for using federal money to support the type of research done by the South Korean scientists? Those researchers used only adult cells*--an enucleated egg cell from one adult, and a nucleus from another adult's cell--and no fertilization took place.

Bush and some religious and conservative groups who believe life begins at conception are offended by the research and don't think tax money should be used to finance it.

Since the embryonic stem cell lines were created without conception [nuclear transfer (egg + a woman's/man's/child's cell nucleus) vs. fertilization (egg + sperm)], why is the President's belief about conception used to decide what tax money should finance?

Actually, the better question is: Why should the President's personal beliefs, and his sensibilities [or those of any other politician, for that matter] be allowed to decide funding for lines of scientific inquiry?

[*I saw the article on another blog, but I forgot which one. If you know, please e-mail me and I'll credit the link.]


At 5:29 AM, Blogger Amanda said...

Hee. The President might have a very good reason to find twins objectionable.

At 7:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amanda, that was snide.

There are many good people who are bothered by the idea of using human embryos for test purposes. Is there a reason a little caution is not in order here? The only thing W. has done is prohibit the creation of new embryos with federal money. That federal money comes from you and me, and from people who object to creating embryos to do medical experiments on. Sneering at people who believe that is 'life' does not prove them wrong, nor prove you right. If you don't believe life starts at conception, that's okay; it's certainly the start of something wondrous, but I tend to go with the old rule of thumb that 'quickening' is the time a baby is I'm not the fundamentalist wacko I'm sure you think I am. W. is not prohibiting stem cell research; he's just not forcing those who are against it from funding new stem cell lines aka new embryos. Why is government funding required here? Why not private funding? The VCs are staying away because they figure they will wait to see what works, let the feds take the initial financial risk. Rational. But back to embryos and cloning and related matters: one good reason for caution here is that things are developing so quickly that society and culture has not yet come up with a decision about what is reasonable and what is not. That is not the same as individuals not having an opinion, but society as a whole. Consensus is what keeps societal fabric reasonably whole. We don't have consensus on abortion (which I personally think should be legal up thru the 1st trimester and even beyond in unusual circumstances), and look how it's polarized the country. You can look down on those who don't believe in abortion and sneer at them, but they have as much right to their opinion as you do to yours. And here's the money quote: what is our societal consensus on when an embryo is too far along in development to stop doing medical research on it? 4 cell divisions? 12? 72? 2 weeks? 2 months? 4 months? Why not grow an embryo big enough to harvest a liver from it, or a kidney? Sounds gruesome, eh? Exactly. At what point does it become 'gruesome' and stop being 'medicine'? Hard questions, hard answers. So when you sneer at people who believe a fertilized egg has life in it, what other than your opinion do you have to defend your point of view? Our old ways of determining when a fetus becomes a baby are no longer helpful in many ways, so let's slow down a little and work this through together.

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