May 2018
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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!!

Labour Party to clone Tony Blair before next election to ensure New Labour for Generations to come

Labour Party to clone Tony Blair before next election to ensure New Labour for Generations to come

Having had a disastrous handover to comrade Brown – in fact those of us in the know when the question of whether Tony or Brown should head up the Labour Party and fight for a new labour government at that time knew Brown would probably never win the first labour election victory. His weaknesses at an early time being evident to all: member of the living dead, no charisma (not surprising as member of living dead), and an unfortunate speaking tic (where the jaw is dropped at the end of each sentence ) that drives one mad. No one doubted his intellect, at least compared with the rest of the Labour Muppets around at that time, but what he lacked was leadership – Brown for all his ability, is a manager, not a leader – no one will identify or aspire to be him or, will internalise his pronouncements and make them their own – In the end this will do for him even if he manages to divert attention from the mess he got us into after ten years in charge at No11 by convincing autocratic millionaire Arab kings to fund his public sector spending splurge. It must be said that we want to be led like sheep in this country, and that’s why Tony Blair was so successful – he talked a load of crap – but did this so well and effectively that we thought it was eminently sensible to follow him to the back of beyond – i.e. Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now we are faced with another year or two of Brother Brown burying this country in debt and then what may be an election defeat for him (even though the labour party has built up quite a client state over the last ten years) the labour party has cooked up a ruse whereby in the future we can ensure a constant supply of party leaders in the mould of good ol Tony. Now personally I find this the kind of hell my Sunday School teacher talked about (can you imagine Tony being on the Throne for ever its almost as bad as thinking of Madge or Charles on the Throne) but almost a logical extension with this blind following of ever more outrageous claims made by scientists in the area of cloning, ’embryo’ research and animal experimentation.

As a stake inoculation I might point out I have several postgraduate science degrees and so know the game quite well when it comes to getting funding for, or permission to experiment in, areas of dubious ethical and scientific value. There is an inevitable testing of the boundaries by scientists researching at the limits of relevancy into some aspects of human health. We have over the last few years seen a procession of eminent scientists telling us poor mortals that a new area of research must be allowed in order that some disease or other will be banished, couples helped to conceive, or needed in order for the brain drain of our top scientists to be prevented. Now the arguments or discursive practices being deployed is never ‘oh we need the Dosh to carry out some PhD research’ because we need the grant money, ‘its’ always posed as: needed to find a cure for genetic diseases, or childhood diseases (usually muscular dystrophy or cystic fibrosis), possibly cancer which is always good for a bob or two, or helping childless couples conceive.

What is disturbing is not obvious good intentions co-opted for political gain but the way this cock and bull nonsense is swallowed by politicians and how a bevy of worthies (my eminent scientists) are wheeled out of the closet to tell us we (Jo Public) should allow all this without any critical discussion. They offer vague platitudes and little critical justification other than implied self interest that we or close family will be helped by this further extension of the ability of science to play with life or to carry out revolting experiments on primates.

Elsewhere in one of the other Blogs on the blogger talks about stewardship, doing something that does not have any implied gain but doing something that is right for rights sake. The extension of life for a few months, or the ability to allow someone to overcome biological constraints to conceive, is not enough justification for me to allow playing with the fabric of life. It is not the specific issue of allowing hybrid cells to be created in order to improve stem cell research, as in this case, but the systemic problem of constant leverage of ethical boundaries without informed consent and the labelling of those who raise a yellow card as latter day Luddites – or even labelling them as going beyond their brief and interfering in the secular political world. What’s at issue here is ‘issue selling’ to the public to permit an anything goes approach and we need to think more clearly about setting the bounds. An informed debate in the Commons needs to take place , not constrained by party loyalties to begin this process, as a start to an informed approach.

Some Quotes on this:

“The irony is that this secular utopianism is based on a belief in an unstoppable human ability to make a better world, while at the same time it believes that we have the right to kill unborn children and surplus old people, and to play games with the humanity of those in between.”

Anglican Bishop of Durham Rt Rev Tom Wright

“For people out there suffering from Parkinson’s disease and motor neuron disease, this is not a question of some issue about the procedure through the House of Commons. This is an issue about whether we can find the drugs that can cure their illnesses. So this is the heart of the matter.” Alan Johnson Minister of Health and Former Postman

“It is difficult to imagine a single piece of legislation which more comprehensively attacks the sanctity and dignity of human life than this particular bill.

CARDINAL Keith O’Brian

“This research has massive potential to provide treatments for serious debilitating disorders ranging from developmental abnormalities in young children, to stroke, cancer, HIV/Aids, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, as well as better and safer treatment for infertile couples.” Medical Research Council (this was a good quote as they managed to get in all the worthy causes in one piece)