Cloning and Politics

Robert Harley robert.harley@inria.fr
Wed, 5 Dec 2001 03:02:28 +0100 (MET)


Monsieur l'Os wrote:
> > I don't think that splitting hairs on terminology is particularly
> > productive.
> It's right to the point. 

Whatever dude.  I think you just like arguing for its own sake.


> Is a human-animal hybrid "human?"  Japan's going to blaze the trail
> for us on that one.

Oh sure!  Has Slashdot also mentioned that Japan allows time-travel?
Let's just take a quick look at the quote responsible for that particular
anti-cluon zone, shall we?:

> Japan says it will allow combined human-animal embryos to be produced
> through cloning.
> Ministers hope the move will lead to transplant organs being produced
> in specially-bred animals.
> [...]
> It means the implanting of human cells into fertilized animal eggs for
> medical purposes will be allowed.

Implanting cells into fertilized eggs...  R-r-r-riiigghhhtt....

As far as I can gather this does not involve cloning at all, nor gene
splicing, but rather involves transplanting a human embryo cell into a
non-human embryo in an attempt to grow, say, a pig with a
genetically-human liver.

When they start producing furry Star Trek creatures, along with
sentient computers and instantaneous travel to the far end of the
universe, get back to me and then we can worry about the implications.


Meanwhile, back on planet Earth...

> Is a pre-blastocystic human "embryo" human?

Is a green "apple" green?


> That definition would criminalize the very common activity mentioned above,
> i.e. discarding in vitro embryos that parents choose not to implant.

Non sequitur.  The quote comes from a by-law concerning the use of
federal funds, and certainly does not extend the same protection
afforded to other human organisms to embryos.


> Yup, and your grampa never thought he'd see men on the moon in his
> lifetime, either...

Since both my grandads died before men were on the moon, they would
have been right to think so.  However my Dad confirms that his Dad
would certainly have believed so and probably that men would be on
Mars shortly after!

I would guess that since the second half of the 19th century, it has
seemed feasible in the not too distant future to educated people.
Once rocket propulsion was invented (when my granddads were 20 or so),
it would have been clear that it was a "mere" matter of time and
effort to perfect take off and landing technology.  You have to be
willing to risk the lives of a few astronauts though.  All for the
noble cause of proving that you're way more rad-cool-mondo-groovy than
the commies.  Coasting for a few days in empty space is a non-issue.
I nearly bust a gut laughing at Hollywood movies suggesting that if
that you get a pin-prick in your space-suit you will explode!


> Not only that, but technology-induced change is *accelerating* over
> time.  Get ready for future shock.

Some changes, including major ones, will happen.  However I have a
finely honed instinct for spotting the crap a mile off.  Economically
useful fusion will happen, but probably not for 50-odd years or more.
When I was a kid, it was due circa 2000.  The naive view of quantum
computing will not happen.  Etc.


> > someone in immense pain has the right to assisted death whereas others
> > don't [...] (NB: "life's a bitch" and the like don't count as immense pain
> Really?  Who are you to make that decision for someone else?

For fuck's sake!  I'm giving my opinion on the topic.  I haven't
decided life or death for anyone recently.  And you?


> I don't believe that *humans* have any "natural" rights at all.

Of course.  What the heck are "rights" anyway?  It's a dog-eat-dog
world out there.  But if we can agree to defend each other's "rights",
maybe we can rise above that and be better off.  Did the local
alpha-male kill you when you were a child so that he could screw your
future girl-friends in your stead?  I guess not.  That's progress.


> I really don't care whether the parents agree or not, beyond whatever
> economic considerations are involved.  [...] But "damn you, look, you've
> gone and killed my future child, you evil man" is superstitious nonsense.

Try destroying the embryos of such a couple and see if they bitch
about the monetary consequences.  Let me guess: you don't have kids
and you haven't seriously considered having any yet.


> Again, what do we mean by human?  I've proposed a strawman: ability to
> solve typical 1st-year calculus problems.

No comment necessary.


> How does one have "half" a right to life?

By being radioactive?


> > An unimplanted zygote is different from an 8-month-old fetus is different
> > from a 5-year-old child [...]
> Sigh.  Of course, that's what all your kind believes.

My kind?

Presumably Jeff Bone is a human organism with a "right to life" of
some sort.  Presumably the gametes involved in making him were not.
Since you are demanding a binary predicate, I claim that the most
logical one appears to be when a cell with your unique genetic make-up
appeared.  If you disagree, then offer an alternative: two cells?
three?  930?  When the spinal cord first appeared?  When you learned
calculus?  Or else agree that the world includes shades of grey,
edge-cases, etc.



> I hate this "we need time" argument.  It's bullshit, it usually ignores
> *years* of research and thought and debate [...]

I hate to break it to you, but embryonic stem cells were first
isolated four years ago.  Non-cancerous "immortal" cell lines were
recognised two years ago and the relevant adult ones were isolated two
years ago.  The surface has barely been scratched.
 

> > (ooh... the A word).
> By "may" do you mean that you grant her that right

Why, do I get to be judge and jury?  Did she ask for my opinion?

Or is this an "us versus them" thing.  So do you support Manchester
United or Liverpool?  You have to support one side or the other,
completely, totally and starting now!  Ha ha, "they" are crap!  "We"
are so cool!  (... shades of the school yard circa 10 years old -
I don't follow soccer personally...)


> > I think that combined pills are to be recommended, or else use a
> > condom too.
> Good grief.  Come on, let's just get to the point and outlaw "fun"
> entirely, what say?

Outlaw fun?  Much fun can be had with a condom, especially when a
women is at the other end.  You should try it some time.


R
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