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Cloning and Stem cell research on the edge of morality

I still see we are being prepared and softened up to allow scientists to come what may, carry out whatever experiments they see fit, probably up to and including cloning (eventually). We have over the last few weeks seen a procession of worthies come out of the woodwork to challenge the ‘naysayers’ and ‘latter day Luddites’ who are daring to raise a yellow card by suggesting we should place some limits on what science is allowed to do. Now it surprises me that this is not raising more fuss from the likes of Greenpeace and other environmental groups who are quite willing to raise the roof over a few GM carrots but seem disinterested in this far wider issue.

I waxed lyrically in a post in the ethics section on this Forum about the discursive practices being deployed as a resource to get this one past Joe public – this is the claptrap about a cure being around the corner for whatever gruesome disease is top of mind at the moment – what is at issue now is this question of ‘conscience’ and voting according to ‘it’ as Brother Brown would have it. Conscience is the cognitative and affective (emotional) processes which constitute an internalised moral governor over an individual’s moral conduct – its helps us distinguish right from wrong in action. Thus the action at stake here is whether or not to vote on this issue (the bill) in the commons (and how ones conscience informs that choice) and not over the content being proposed – at least strictly. What is needed in fact is a debate over the bounds and what constitutes the limits so we can avoid this constant leverage of the boundaries for the short-term expediencies of the moment – someone’s need to have a research proposal rubber stamped. We need to debate the systemic issue not this specific instance.

I expect if we did this exercise, we could identify the no go areas like a full cloning and go some way to saying that ‘it’ is OK to clone and keep ‘alive’ up to a few weeks until we can harvest some cells (to cure some genetic disease etc etc) – doing this at least we would have the debate up front and ‘understand’ the parameters and risk areas. I might say as a scientist and engineer that I am comfortable with some aspects of the biological research being proposed, where I part company with this particular process is when discursive tricks are used, and eminent worthies wheeled out, to overcome and avoid any real discussion and stifle opposition and reasoned debate with an recourse to emotional self-interested nonsense – with an implied suggestion that those opposing the issue should get back in their box as it is of no concern to them.

I personally welcome the intervention of some church and religious leaders, it is overdue and a refreshing counterweight to the over-weaning acceptance in some sectors of our society of the heroic nature of science, and its ability to solve all ills no matter the price in the end.


See this post in ethics section and join in the debate one way or the other!!

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