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    If National Review Wants Scientists To Take Conservatives Seriously, Jettison The Discovery Institute
    By Hank Campbell | August 1st 2013 12:00 AM | 85 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone...

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    How would editors at National Review regard the credibility of a controlled market publication that had its economic policy articles written by astrologers using the stars as their evidence?

    They might not like it but so what? Can they prove astrologers can't make economic policy? No, it's just flawed logic, sort of like me challenging someone to prove I am not an alien from space. That is the problem with National Review paying someone from the Discovery Institute to spout anti-science nonsense about 35-year-old science under the guise of 'ethics'. Because misunderstanding and logical head-faking is the strategy the Discovery Institute uses to promote doubt about biology in general and evolution in specific.

    There is no way to sugar-coat it: The Discovery Institute is in the anti-science business. I have no issue with religion, I can nod my head at the idea of non-overlapping magisteria, I have defended religion and the benefits of a liturgical society probably more than anyone in science media and I recognize that western science would not have survived without religion. But there is no reason National Review should be letting an anti-science fearmonger take up this charge against science yet again. Conservatives claim to be more rational so there is no reason to embrace the irrational Discovery Institute, yet Wesley J. Smith, Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center on Human Exceptionalism and quasi-philosophical lawyer, is being encouraged to mask his anti-science agenda under the guise of ethics. Subjective, morally relative ethics, the kind of thing National Review founder Bill Buckley criticized in his book "God and Man at Yale".

    Basically, Smith hates all in vitro fertilization. Always has, always will, it is a tool of Lucifer or whatever the Discovery Institute thinks about all biology. Going in with such blatant confirmation bias, he then massages data and logic to match his world view - the very thing National Review claims to stand against, when liberals are doing it.

    He is a social authoritarian, except he goes to church. The fear-mongering in this case is three-person IVF.  It is apparently yet another example of his favorite slur to heave at researchers, scientocracy: the idea that scientists are inherently unethical.

    Three-person IVF is simple enough. Some mothers have a mitochondrial disorder and that can obviously be problematic for a baby, since it is about 100% certain to be passed along. So by taking a healthy egg from another woman and removing the nucleus and putting in the nucleus of the mother, you have the same egg and the same baby minus the problems.  The UK government is arguing guidelines for it and it's worth considering in the US as well because it is an easily preventable problem.

    What's so unethical about that? Well, nothing, but Smith is not simply against three-person IVF, it is just the latest salvo in his culture war. He is against all IVF and has been since it started, just like Discovery Institute is against all biology, it is the reason they exist.  The Discovery Institute is an anti-science version of the John Birch Society. Why lend credibility to that, National Review?  Who is going to note that the Discovery Institute is likewise "far removed from common sense" the way that Buckley referred to those other conservative crackpots in 1962?

    Smith is not writing about IVF to promote conservatism or ethics, he is writing about it to promote fear and doubt about science that helps a lot of families. If you disagree you must support eugenics. Most conservatives are more nuanced than that but Smith has no problem implying infertile parents are evil if they use IVF.


    Oh no, science has a way to prevent some mitochrondial disorders. We must ban biology and, oh, by the way, let's get rid of teaching evolution unless it has a warning label too. Image link:jessandeeonline

    Pick any year, I did a quick Google search and took one from 2006, and Smith is arguing that as long as IVF of any kind is legal, mean old unethical liberal scientists will start practicing eugenics again like progressives did 90 years ago. You should not get IVF, you should adopt, he has repeatedly cajoled parents from his sanctimonious perch while insisting government should ban a technology that has helped millions. But after that we can get back to our regularly scheduled conservative programming telling us that we don't want liberal busybodies controlling how we live our lives.

    So what if IVF got the Nobel Prize in Medicine? To the Discovery Institute, science and medicine is a vast liberal conspiracy against religion and, by golly, if they they can imply that safer IVF might just mean more Democrats being born and invoke ethics to outlaw it, so much the better. Why don't conservative readers of National Review see that the real agenda of Discovery Institute is to deny science and promote a particular sectarian viewpoint, including in classrooms, exactly the kind of thing conservatives know the Founding Fathers didn't want?

    Smith won't come out and just say he hates all biology, he will instead invoke the precautionary principle. Ironically, this is the same precautionary principle National Review critiques in liberals who want to ban fracking. And then he invokes slippery slope reasoning, the same slippery slope that National Review criticizes when liberals talk about mitigating climate change.

    Conservatives, you can actually get a lot of votes among scientists - a whole bunch of them really dislike the social engineering and irrational naturalistic fetishes of the left. I know it doesn't seem like it, because the last 25 years has seen a real shift to liberalism in science academia, but the true enemies of the science behind food, energy and medicine are progressives - scientists know that, they write about it (and I wrote a whole book about it). It is the left wing who embraces astrology, psychics and ghosts and that really makes scientists crazy. Just stop embracing nonsense and lots of science academics will abandon the goofiness promoted by progressives.

    When I talk to conservatives, they highlight the many positive things science has done, no one is against bone marrow transplants or IVF - and 40 years ago conservatives topped the list in science acceptance. Why, today, is someone with a blatantly anti-science agenda being allowed a national platform to promote nonsense virtually no one conservative agrees with? 

    51 years ago, Bill Buckley took a stand for reason against the fringe radicals in the movement. It is time for the modern National Review to do the same thing.

    Comments

    rholley
    Very interesting — it’s the first time I heard of Bill Buckley, and I’ve just read up about him in the linked Wiki-bio.

    What is the incident, 51 years ago, that you are referring to, and what is “the movement”.

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Hank
    51 years ago he called out the goofy, divisive conservatives in The John Birch Society in America - even though in a two-party system they would presumably vote for a Republican.  For the last generation, religious conservatives have had that same irrational stranglehold on Republicans that environmentalists have had on Democrats - different religions, same methods. Since Buckley founded the magazine that is now giving an anti-evolution crackpot group a platform to preach nonsense to conservatives, it seemed like a good analogy.
    That's how I remember it too. I mean John Birch people stretched from celebrating an American who lost his life fighting Communism (reasonable to me) to declaring that President Eisenhower was a conscious agent of a Communist conspiracy - absolutely lunatic. Someone had to act to insure that conservatives and Republicans generally were not thought to be lunatics, and Mr. Buckley did the job.

    Since when does Hank Campbell speak for scientists?

    Hank
    When does anyone speak for anyone else? Never, in your world of goofy relativism. When do politicians speak for scientists? Or university deans? Or ethicists at the Discovery Institute?  I can't see any point in what you are saying.
    Here's a link to the Discovery Institute's 20-page list of 700 scientists who dissent from Darwinism. I don't see any ethicists on it, but then, maybe I haven't looked hard enough.

    http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?command=dow...

    Hank
    Discovery Institute instead has lawyers as their ethicists talking about science. If you see nothing wrong with that, explaining science to you isn't going to help.
    Reminds me of a great line that got used on me when a debate over political policy had reached an impasse:

    "I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you."

    It's such a neat line, I didn't even mind getting clobbered with it.

    I'm totally going to have to drop that line a few times.

    And here's the NCSE's page for Project Steve. It's a list of scientists who actually have credentials in climate science, but only those named Steve. Currently at 1278 Steves, vs the Disco 'Tute's paltry list of 700 "scientists," most of whom know jack shit about climate, and many of whom have demanded their names be taken off the list, as they don't support it.

    http://ncse.com/taking-action/list-steves

    Here is an excellent comment by Friedrich Hayek (who was certainly not a welfare state liberal) on the problem with anti-evolutionists:

    Personally, I find that the most objectionable feature of the conservative attitude is its propensity to reject well-substantiated new knowledge because it dislikes some of the consequences which seem to follow from it - or, to put it bluntly, its obscurantism. I will not deny that scientists as much as others are given to fads and fashions and that we have much reason to be cautious in accepting the conclusions that they draw from their latest theories. But the reasons for our reluctance must themselves be rational and must be kept separate from our regret that the new theories upset our cherished beliefs. I can have little patience with those who oppose, for instance, the theory of evolution or what are called "mechanistic" explanations of the phenomena of life because of certain moral consequences which at first seem to follow from these theories, and still less with those who regard it as irrelevant or impious to ask certain questions at all. By refusing to face the facts, the conservative only weakens his own position. Frequently the conclusions which rationalist presumption draws from new scientific insights do not at all follow from them.

    "Why I Am Not a Conservative" (published in The Constitution of Liberty, 1960)

    National Review, I'm sure you have this book of Hayek's in your library. Hayek liked to call himself a "classic liberal," today usually called a libertarian. (Don't let Rand Paul fool you. But that's another story.)

    Hank
    Good quote. And I agree about taking liberalism back to its liber root form - liberalism has been hijacked by loud social authoritarian progressives in America, a group who are clearly anti-science. As is obvious, the same affliction has happened to the right
    I am not a creationist, nor do I practice any religion. When I was a freshman at Princeton, my philosophy instructor was David Berlinski, who has since achieved a modicum of fame as a writer of books on science and mathematics. One of his books is entitled 'The Deniable Darwin' --- a collection of essays attacking the hegemony of Darwinian evolution in the worldview of the educated populace. One of the essays explains why he opposes Intelligent Design theory. The book was published by The Discovery Institute. I can only applaud the tolerance evinced by the Institute, and I can only lament that some its critics do not demonstrate a similar commitment to open debate.

    Hank
    That's all fine but it sets up a false premise; Darwin is not evolution.  We don't write books criticizing Henry Ford for not having air bags in his cars or a turbo-charged engine, nor do we criticize Newton for not understanding special relativity. Yet detractors of biology on the religious fringes constantly focus on Darwin because he did not know everything in 1859.

    That the Discovery Institute is willing to publish a book criticizing biology and sacrifices its own pet idea to do so (not much of a sacrifice, they literally were caught crossing out creationism and inserting Intelligent Design in their texts, it is no different, and certainly not even a hypothesis much less a theory) is not evidence of their commitment to debate, it is evidence that they have no interest in science. They fund zero studies, they exist to debunk science and nothing more.

    Pi = 3: Teach The Controversy!



    rholley
    Not to be confused with the Indiana Pi Bill.

    If you read the linked article, you will find that the story is much more complicated and convoluted than the way it is usually presented.  For example:

    «Despite that name, the main result claimed by the bill is a method to square the circle, rather than to establish a certain value for the mathematical constant.»
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Here's a famous astrologer that meant a great deal to most Americans, Joan Quigley. The GOP is always more anti-science than Democrats. The Democrats are of course, way to high in all the polling, 41% of Democrats believe that God created humans within the last 10,000 years. However 58% of Republicans believe that very same thing according to the latest Gallop poll.

    Hank
    Those numbers are redone twice a year and the delta between the left and the right on evolution is always about 9, give or take. That's fine, we only have two parties so religious people are going to have to vote for someone.  As I noted, on food, energy and medicine - with no religious beliefs getting in the way - the numbers are just as skewed against the left. 

    If you look at the exemptions for vaccines, religious states like Alabama are bubbling over with science acceptance while a far left state like Washington is falling below herd immunity levels - and Seattle has 20% of kids not vaccinated.

    So it isn't religion that makes people not accept science. Rather that in America we create giant umbrellas and people pick and choose to focus on the science denial of The Other based on how they vote.
    I've heard even worse. I've run into religious conservatives who say that those born as the result of IVF or any other way, besides regular intercourse, don't have souls. Therefore, anyone born as a result of IVF isn't human and doesn't have any rights.

    One of the steps that caused me to change my self-description from "libertarian conservative: to "free market liberal."

    Hank
    Yes, and the Discovery Institute is even farther to the right than the Catholic Church in their war on biology - Catholics are against any kind of birth gaming but don't demonize infertile people the way Smith does.

    I am with you on free market liberalism. Unfortunately, both modern mainstream groups want to dictate how people live their lives and one just claims to be cheaper than the other.
    Re: IVF babies being soul-less, not really human.

    The same kind of people - and often the same actual people - claim the same about Intersex people. They have various hypotheses about how Intersex people come to be, usually involving Devils or Nephilim.

    Intersex activists don't object to the occasional drenching with Holy Water, it's something of a hazard of the profession. We do object to gasoline though, and that's been known to be used as a means to "destroy our Earthly form" and banish us to Hell.

    There are real ethical reasons to oppose germ-line genetic engineering in humans. It is disingenuois of you to present the three-parent embryos as if it was free from ethical concerns. Not everyone who opposes this technique is "anti-science." Case in point this wonder piece by Stuart Newman, professor of Cell Biology, at the Huffington Post:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stuart-a-newman/mitochondrial-replacement-...

    Next time you want to make a point it would be better to present both sides accurately instead of just building a strawman.

    Hank
    Well, Huffington Post gets ridiculed for its anti-science nonsense a lot more than National Review -  this may be the only time NR has gotten criticized, mostly people just ignore the Discovery Institute unless they are trying to get science replaced in science classes.

    But let's not create a strawman about me. I never said this technology did not merit full testing before it is implemented, I simply said there is no ethical reason not to research it, and certainly no reason to ban it just because Discovery Institute hates science.

    Most importantly, a conservative should not be advocating a nanny government approach to medicine.  That's social authoritarianism, plain and simple, and he demonizes all scientists when he does it.
    "What's so unethical about that? Well, nothing..." That is a strawman. Next time how about presenting the real and grave concerns that both progressives and conservatives alike have about this technique instead of just proclaiming there are no ethicals concerns and calling everyone who expresses concern "anti-science."

    Hank
    He does not address real concerns, he vilifies IVF and then specifically says we should not research anything he has a knee-jerk religious belief against. It's new, and therefore scary, we must retreat to the past and hide behind a benevolent government - in other words, exactly like the left-wing people that conservatives oppose.

    His piece is a rehash of stuff that people have said for 35 years - I agree there are some on both sides against it, so the Discovery Institute and the far left can co-brand FrankenBaby if they want. It's nice to know being anti-science can bring such disparate groups together.
    My objection is not with Wesley; it is with your misrepresentation of the three-parent technique as having "nothing" wrong with it.

    Did you read Newman's piece? Hardly knee-jerk anti-science rhetoric. Here is a relevant point:
    "But perhaps the most insidious factor in calls for acceptance of the idea of genetically engineering humans is the profound misconception of the nature of living organisms that underlies it. Organisms differ from machines or computers by being products of evolution rather than design. But complexity that has accumulated over billions of years does not come with blueprints or instruction books, and cannot be reconfigured with predictable outcomes. Although rejection of the realities of evolution is generally considered to be a sign of scientific ignorance, it unfortunately characterizes the thinking of some professional biologists who are strongly influenced by engineering disciplines."

    The three-parent technique is human experimentation on those who cannot consent to being genetically altered.... and on their children, and their grandchildren. There will be unintended consequences and "unpredictable outcomes." This will open the door to other germ-line genetic modifications that will affect every generation that comes after. Genetically altering future generations without their consent is a HUGE ethical problem that you simply dismiss as "knee-jerk."

    Many countries, including the UK, have outlawed such germ-line modifications to human embryos for good reason.

    Hank
    I think you are making a terrific point - National Review should be paying you instead of Smith - and I have never advocated a libertarian free-for-all nor am I a social authoritarian like he is and simply want to ban it. 

    Virtually nothing in science or medicine can pass a litmus test of 'before it can be researched we must make sure there are no unpredictable outcomes' yet that is what Smith advocates. You are doing it for a positive reason whereas he is hiding behind similar rhetoric but in reality he despises biologists. Discovery Institute is not paying him because they love science.
    Gerhard Adam
    Becky

    Yours is the first post that actually introduces a legitimate ethical argument and there's no doubt that it is a serious one.  The first part of the argument is fluff, since it is simply a criticism of presuming that biology is necessarily synonymous with engineering.  While I certainly agree with the critique it has no ethical component to it.

    The primary ethical argument is in altering the future generations that have no opportunity to consent to the decisions being made. 

    However, the problem is more complex than that.  No individual in a future generation can consent to having been created in the first place.  They cannot consent to the parents they have, they cannot consent to the behavior of those parents, especially when their habits may impact the future individual's development and ultimate health.

    In short, while it sounds appealing, the consent argument, is flawed because an individual that doesn't exist can clearly not give consent, but also they never have been able to give consent to the means by which they came into existence.

    As a result, the problem this introduces is that (1) if future consent is a legitimate claim and represents an ethical concern then (2) are we prepared to hold individuals responsible [ethically] for their behavior in creating new individuals?  Some would say yes, while others would argue that this is a fundamental violation of living persons rather than potential future persons.

    If an individual violates such an ethical premise how should it be handled?  Is it criminal?

    In addition, if we argue that future consent is a legitimate claim, what are we to make of all the individuals in existence that had no such right recognized?  Are we simply manufacturing a "right" out of thin air?

    While it may seem that this is simply a matter of right or wrong, consider the parent that currently has a genetic disorder.  Should they be allowed to pass that disorder on to future generations simply because they wish to have children?  After all, if the point is that future generations can't consent, then can we legitimately claim that we can choose anything but a healthy future for them?  Are we then to proscribe certain individuals from ever being parents even if they are physically able?

    NOTE: That one has to be careful in not denying a right to an individual that is being protected in another.  Using the previous example, if I can deny those parents the right to reproduce without their consent, then what is my rationale for claiming that "consent" is sufficiently important to protect in future individuals?
    Mundus vult decipi
    I understand what you are trying to say, but we recognize the difference between natural events and those brought about by the hand of man. Death by natural causes is one thing. Manslaughter is another. The intentional modification of future generations is not ethically the same as allowing nature to take its course. To equate the two and say that genetically modifying our children with our preferences (disease-free, tall, smart etc.) is the same as the genetic unpredictablility of natural conception is misguided in my opinion.

    I know that you don't like the bantering about of hte word "eugenics" but the last time we tried to take "our evolution into our own hands" it was a total disaster. Newman is right: we are ignorant of the billions of influences nature has made on our genome. We will make even bigger mistakes if we try this very invasive attempt at actively improving our offspring. And generation upon generation will have to live with what we have intentionally done to them.

    Gerhard Adam
    Yes, but the problem here is that yours is then simply arguing that random variation is more acceptable that control.  Yet, we don't actually practice that logic when we get sick or injured.   We rarely accept such a natural result in our everyday lives, so what makes this different?  I'm sure you live in a house, I'm sure you have power, I'm sure you purchase your food, etc.  Every one of these is modifying the "natural" way.  That's precisely why I said this was a much more complex problem than most people acknowledge.

    More importantly, the behavior of parents [i.e. smoking, drinking, etc.] are hardly letting "nature take its course".  It is full of intentional choices.

    I'm not disagreeing with you about the concerns.  My point is that if we are opposed to it for no better reason than that we think it's just "wrong", or it doesn't feel right to us, then that's fine.  But let's not try to dress it up in some scientific or ethical argument to try and gain credibility.

    In my own mind, I disagree with such modification [as well as the transhumanist notions] not because it is unethical, but because I personally believe that it will lead to ultimate disaster.  It would be like controlling the weather.  There are so many nuances, that if any individual had the ability to control the weather it would prove to be disastrous to the majority of people. 

    Again, note that the argument about "nature" is a tough one, because it essentially requires arguing that what humans do isn't "natural".  Since humans are a part of nature, then regardless of what they do, they are as "natural" as a beaver damming a stream is "natural".  Both are modifying their natural environment based on their ability to do so.

    That's why I personally prefer to argue that it isn't about ethics or nature, but rather that I'm concerned that we will be more inclined to screw it up and make everything worse, and potentially "unfixable".
    Mundus vult decipi
    You are right that when we get sick or injured we treat. But consent is a big deal. We are able to give that for ourselves. In the case of our children, parents give consent to treat to THAT child. I do not have the legal authority to give consent for invasive procedures on my grandchildren or my great grandchildren. That is what is happening here. Germ-line modifications are forever, per se, and not one of us has the legal or moral authority to consent to man-made modifications such as a mitochondria switch (no matter how noble) for future generations.

    Gerhard Adam
    I disagree.  Your argument doesn't work, since you're willing to concede that a minor lacks the right to consent because a parent consents on their behalf.  Yet, you want to deny those same parents the right to offer their own informed consent for their future generation of children when it comes to genetics.

    Sorry, but that's a double standard.  If a minor can't offer consent, then why should an embryo?  In both cases it's the parents making the decision, so you can't argue that it is some arbitrary outside third party for which legitimate consent wasn't obtained.

    Germ-line modifications are NOT forever, any more than your combination of genes is forever.  That's precisely the problem, is that too many people think that such changes are static and will never change.  It's no different than if we concede that we may well introduce a genetic defect into our future generations.  Ignorance is no excuse from culpability if the information is available.  At that point, if you don't do genetic testing then you can't claim that you reproduced with "informed consent" to your future children.

    [BTW, consider that every time you make a life decision regarding your child's survival you are making a decision about your grandchildren and great-grandchildren that is outside the scope of what might occur "naturally".  If you accept the concept of "natural selection", then you would have to accept if your child were "selected out", which I doubt you or anyone else would do.  As an example, I wear glasses.  At some point in our past, that might have been a sufficient liability to prevent my surviving to adulthood.  Therefore the mere act of getting glasses, ensured that there were future generations from me.].

    I'm sure, you don't object to cultural modifications being made to your children.  You teach them, you shape them to be the people YOU want them to be, certainly not something they consented to, because you recognize that they don't have the ability to provide informed consent.

    As I said, I don't believe there's a legitimate ethical argument that you can make here that doesn't introduce more contradictions than it resolves.  That's why my point is that I'm opposed to it simply because I don't trust people.  I don't trust them to not introduce questionable traits to serve their own interests better.  I don't trust them to not abuse their abilities to create questionable outcomes.  I don't trust those with power to not try and create a permanent underclass.  I don't need a more substantive ethical argument.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I agree with your objection as well but many do not. We are such a naive culture that assumes science and medicine will always have our best interests at heart. Anyone who has worked anywhere in science and medicine knows that is not always the case. We should not trust that such techniques will always be done for the best.

    I think we have a legal argument with consent. If the Nuremburg Trials gave us nothing, it gave the importance of informed consent that has guided us and we should continue with that. My granddaughter should have the right to consent for herself and my great granddaughter for herself etc. I should not be able to usurp that right with what I want.

    I disagree with your point about "cultural modifications" The "cultural modifications" you talk are nothing like genetic modifications. I can teach my children to play piano or play baseball as kids, but they can choose as adults to stop those activities or chuck whatever I have taught them. They cannot change what I have done to their genetics without more invasive techniques.

    Gerhard Adam
    Don't be so quick to assume that "chucking" cultural modifications is that easy.  While I'll probably get blasted for this, the majority of people that claim to be religious aren't so because of "informed consent".  In fact, the majority barely know anything about their religion, but their indoctrination ensures they will profess that belief their entire lives [for the most part].

    As much as I can see your point about your grandchildren, the reality is that they cannot have the power to consent unless they exist, at which point it is too late.  All the decisions have already been made. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Dammit, I am frustrated that this comment system doesn't allow for up and down-voting. Gerhard would have a huge stack of upvotes now, and Becky would be receding into the negative numbers rapidly.

    You are speaking in hypotheticals, but try applying your objections to the real world. A close friend of mine was recently diagnosed with a rare degenerative neurological disorder. He has to walk with a cane now, and suffers from vertigo & nausea on a regular basis. In 10 years, he will likely be confined to a wheelchair, and will need to be catheterized some time after that. Eventually, he will lose the power of speech, the ability to feed himself, and then to breathe without a machine. His two teenage boys each have a 50% chance of having the same disorder. In what way would it be unethical to have scanned their DNA before birth and edited out the scrambled sequence that causes this creeping misery? Yes, I'm sure it's horribly unethical to take that choice away from them, right? Right?!?

    This is not simply "editing a out sequence." This first involves significantly altering an oocyte (removing a nucleus which is also performed in SCNT, better known as cloning, and we all know that SCNT carries a high risk of birth defects in other species) AND it involves replacing 37 genes and a risk of heteroplasmy. If you want to talk about realities, there is significant risks involved with this procedure, not just for one generation, but for many.

    Gene therapy for the individual is a good for sure, but if we start germ-line engineering embryos and something goes wrong, we have affected more than just one individual. This is not a risk to be taken lightly.

    Hank
    So, simple question, should it be allowed in research or not? Smith wants it banned - he waffles, saying he doesn't want anything banned, but even he can't keep track of his goofy logical meandering. There is no way to find out if it is viable, much less safe, unless it is researched.  So the Discovery Institute should stop spreading anti-biology nonsense and engaging in their ethical scaremongering until there is a reason.

    By the way, the Obama administration bans SCNT with federal money too, despite the fact that the majority of Americans favor it (your 'better known as cloning' boogyman aside) - so if National Review cares about conservative principles they should get behind letting science be science.  And then engage in a policy debate about that. Not promoting bans on research on their website (and maybe in their magazine - I stopped subscribing because they started publishing more and more crackpot nonsense after WFB died).
    How can you truly research this in humans ethically? Try it out and see what happens to the kids and their offspring? I don't call that ethical. There are a lot of medical advances we could have if we treated human subjects unethically but we have said "no" to doing that. There really is no ethical way to do long-term studies of germ-line engineering in humans. Someone has to act as the guinea pig and in the case of germ-line engineering, the subsequent generations did not sign up for that.

    Gerhard Adam
    ... the subsequent generations did not sign up for that.
    But that's where your argument fails since subsequent generations never sign up for the decisions their parents make.  That's precisely why we have problems with babies that have HIV, addictions, fetal alcohol syndrome, etc.  These are all parental decisions for which the next generation hardly signed up and yet they occur.

    So, what can or should be done about this?  If nothing, then why simply argue that it is wrong for the parent that is attempting to make the right decision for future generations in removing the issues of a defect or problem? 

    As with so many problems in our society, we only want to ban or restrict the activities of those that wish to do the right thing, since those that choose to make bad decisions, tend not to listen anyway. 

    Consequently the question becomes this.  Safety issues aside, and let's put the questions of experimentation aside.  If these aspects of the technology were resolved, so that there were no real safety issues, would you still be opposed to the technology?  If yes, then let's be clear that it isn't about safety or anything else.  You're simply opposed to it as a moral consideration.
    Mundus vult decipi
    " That's precisely why we have problems with babies that have HIV, addictions, fetal alcohol syndrome, etc. " Those are not approved clinical trials. We are talking here about sanctioning an intentional genetic manipulation as a medical treatment. A treatment that we will not know the full ramifications until another generation or two is produced. It is not ethical to intentionally proceed with such a treatment when we have no idea of the long term effects. You are equating bad parental behavior with approved clinical treatments. Not the same thing. Just because some parents are bad parents does not mean it is ethical to experiment on the next generation.

    I hold there is no *ethical* means in which to test the long-term safety of the three-parent technique. We need to try something else like gene therapy for the individuals with mitochondrial disease.

    Gerhard Adam
    This is not a risk to be taken lightly.
    Unfortunately, the behavior of actual people doesn't back you up.  There are still a significant number of pregnancies that occur without intent.  As has already been mentioned, there are significant number of people with genetic defects that may not be aware of them and still reproduce.  Then there are those that know they have defects and wish to reproduce anyway.

    Where is the culpability in those situations?

    I don't believe anyone is suggesting that risks should be taken lightly, nor has anyone suggested that the technology is mature enough to be introduced as a wholesale procedure.  However, it is important that we stay focused on whatever the issue is we are arguing.  Is it ethics?  Is it simply safety?  Is it further research?  Each is a specific issue with specific points to consider but we can't simply advance an ethical argument and then switch to a safety one if the former doesn't pan out.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Becky, what are you talking about? 3XIVF does absolutely nothing to the zygote's DNA except change it's location, and the 37 genes you're going on about don't move at all; they stay right where they started, in the mitochondria of the new egg cell. As has been pointed out elsewhere in this thread, any medical intervention on adults also affects future generations, so your argument goes far beyond gene therapy. Are you prepared to follow your argument to it's logical conclusions?
    Yes, there might be unforseen problems, but there are already real and concrete problems right NOW that people are suffering and dying from. It would be criminal to let someone bleed out on the sidewalk if you could help, because maybe they'll go on to rob a store or kill someone later. It is also unconsionable to ban new methods of medical therapy because a future generation might disagree with your results.
    Sure, there should be reasonable safeguards and oversight, but an outright ban because maybe something bad could possibly happen generations later is a lot of iffy reasoning.

    Look...I am just trying to point out that there are A LOT of scientific and medical discoveries we could have if we treated human subjects unethically....LOTS. We have rejected the idea that we can conduct unethical experiments just to get medical advancements. Is creating children this way and then just seeing how they (and their offspring) turn out ethical? I say no. I say work on gene therapy they can consent to when they can give informed consent and if something goes wrong it is limited to that individual. There are lots of both progressives and conservatives that think germ-line engineering is a line we should not cross. Also, again, this is a MEDICAL INTERVENTION which is NOT ethically the same as natural conception.

    Gerhard Adam
    I am just trying to point out that there are A LOT of scientific and medical discoveries we could have if we treated human subjects unethically....LOTS.
    Yet, that's precisely the point I'm trying to address.  Despite your claim here, there is little evidence to suggest that unethical experiments have ever produced any results.  Whether it be from the Nazi doctors, or the unethical experiments done on Native Americans.  In virtually every case, there is little evidence to suggest that anything of merit emerged.

    Again, I don't think that anyone is attempting to dismiss the ethical considerations, but we also have to be prepared to have a real ethical discussion about the matter.  I can fully appreciate that anyone may feel that such technology is simply wrong, and there's no reason for them to produce proof beyond their own feeling.  But let's not pretend that such a feeling is based on anything more than their personal feelings.  They may well be right, but they haven't produced an ethical or scientific argument for their position.

    Similarly you might argue that not all such positions require format argumentation.  Again, I don't have a quarrel with that, assuming that we understand that we are then arguing from a moral perspective.  I know many people that oppose abortion from a moral perspective and it would be foolish to try to convince them otherwise since their position isn't amenable to "facts", because it is based on their own deeply held beliefs.

    Let me also be clear that I fully agree that people are entitled to their beliefs, regardless of whether they have evidence to support them or not.  That's just the way it is.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    Attorney Smith has responded to me and he makes his case the way you expect an attorney to make his case - redefining what "is" is and dodging the question and making tangential claims like that if Discovery Institute has any biologists, they can't be anti-science. 

    But I should clarify something he gets incorrect in his title: I want the Discovery Institute and its nonsense booted from a conservative magazine I respect - if he goes too, that is a bonus.

    But it will never happen. Smith is only intolerant about science - if he were on a racist rant, they would notice, but demonizing scientists and IVF parents and children is still okay.
    Gerhard Adam
    There are certainly ethical considerations and I'd be happy to hear them.  However, it will also involve more than simply muttering the word "eugenics" from time to time and invoking images of forced sterilizations and Nazi death camps.

    I also agree that the phrase "anti-science" gets tossed around far too much, when the issue isn't the science but rather the applications of that science which are vastly different things. 

    However, if we look at Smith's arguments what do we find?
    Excuse me?  So, even though we don’t know about the safety, we should go where parents have never gone before? No.
    This would be a legitimate ethical argument if the issue were about whether consent was informed , except that it isn't.  Therefore, there is no ethical argument if individuals willingly choose to accept the risk.  Now one can argue all manner of elements surrounding such a decision, but there is no ethical dilemma involved here.

    He then exacerbates the problem by the following statement.
    Allowing the manufacture of three-parent children when safety concerns remain insufficiently explored would be blatant human experimentation.
    So it appears that he's concerned about insufficient research providing a high enough level of safety for the procedure.  Yet, the problem then is that it takes his claim to an ethical argument and simply makes it a procedural one.   Consequently I'm assuming that if the level of safety increases, then he no longer sees an ethical difficulty with this position.

    His second objection is to the destruction of embryos by claiming that current practice [in standard IVF] is wrong, so therefore any explanation that the new process is the same thing is simply arguing that two wrongs make a right.  However he fails to argue why the current practice is ethically wrong, so the problem isn't in "bootstrapping", but in failing to have established the validity of the initial premise.  In other words, make the ethical argument for why an embryo represents a life form with the criteria for determining the considerations for its preservation.

    In the third instance he then wants to shift focus to the "slippery slope" arguments regarding lifestyles, eugenics, etc.

    Again, there may well be legitimate arguments here but I haven't heard any.  One cannot simply claim an ethical concern and then fail to actually address the ethics of the situation.

    For example, he states:
    For example, IVF moved very quickly from allowing infertile married couples to have a baby to a consumerist service used by fertile women to have babies via surrogacy if they don’t want to gestate.

    IVF has also become a means of eugenics, for example, couples paying beautiful and brilliant college women for their eggs and embryo selection.
    So, how is this eugenics? and where is the ethical argument here?  Other than appealing to some subset of individuals that simply presume there's something wrong here, what is the issue?  How is surrogacy an ethics issue? 

    Again, I'm not saying there aren't legitimate issues to be explored and considered, but that isn't happening with this kind of haphazard approach to philosophy which is simply based on making erroneous assertions and advancing these simplistic bias'.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    There are certainly ethical considerations and I'd be happy to hear them. However, it will also involve more than simply muttering the word "eugenics" from time to time and invoking images of forced sterilizations and Nazi death camps.
    Right, and if you wrote on it, the article would be nuanced enough that people could have a debate about the real issues of the technology and its benefits and risks - but he just shouts eugenics and subjective morality and the case is closed.

    Both you and Becky showed a lot more range than Smith is apparently capable of showing - but the Discovery Institute did not hire him because he is a deep thinker on ethics, they pay him because he will parrot what their goal is - undermining biology. Nothing truly wrong with that, we all have to eat, but no one should pretend he is about helping society understand the roadmap of science.
    Smith's claim that 3-parent IVF is "human experimentation" also fails for the reason that all medical experiments eventually test things on humans. Has he never heard of clinical trials?

    Gerhard Adam
    It doesn't even require that level of knowledge.  Anyone that thinks the implanting of the Jarvik 7 heart was a routine procedure clearly doesn't understand what's involved.  It was a clear-cut example of a medical experiment on a consenting human adult.
    Mundus vult decipi
    rholley
    a ... publication that had its economic policy articles written by astrologers using the stars as their evidence?
    But compared to our government’s economic advisers, my father used to say that at least the 16th century court astrologers based their predictions on real stars.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Hank
    I think you should write a book of those. Twice a week you say something I want to steal!
    You almost immediately discredit yourself, Mr. Campbell, by writing that "Discovery Institute is in the anti-science business." Anyone familiar with the positions taken by DI fellows and scholars will know that your assertion is quite false. Apparently you can't distinguish between Discovery Institute taking issue with certain scientific claims (such as those made by apologists for Darwinian theory) and its being "anti-science." Many DI fellows and scholars are themselves scientists, which makes it quite absurd to assert (as you do) that they are opposed to their own profession.

    Gerhard Adam
    ...apologists for Darwinian theory...
    OK, enough with that crap.  If the Discovery Institute has an alternate theory, then let's hear it.  Otherwise they are most definitely anti-science if the only argument they have is that they don't like Darwin's theory of evolution.

    This is such a bullshit argument, because it presupposes that somehow people have a vested interest in protecting Darwin.  They don't.  His theories are accepted because they work, and until there is an alternative presented the DI is simply a bunch of fools that have no alternatives.

    NOTE:  Don't even think of promoting Intelligent Design as an alternative.  That's got so many holes in it, you'd be better off reading Kipling for an explanation as listen to that nonsense.
    Mundus vult decipi
    It is, of course, silly to say that not fully accepting Darwinian theory makes one "anti-science." If that were the case, then the many mainstream evolutionary biologists who have written about the theory's explanatory shortcomings would have to be described as being "anti-science." What nonsense.

    There's no need to reply to this, Gerhard. I can't take seriously someone who describes Discovery Institute scholars as "a bunch of fools." The description appears to more aptly fit you.

    Hank
    You're fetishizing a man, that is what is foolish. Darwin is not evolution, just like gravity exists without talking about Newton.

    Propping up silly straw men and debunking a guy from 1859 just reaffirms my point that Discovery Institute exists to undermine science; there are zero positive contributions DI has made, they just raise money and spend it on campaigns to attack anyone who deviates from their social authoritarian world view.
    I wasn't speaking of the person Charles Darwin, Hank. I was instead speaking about Darwinian theory, which is a not uncommon way of referring to modern evolutionary theory, even in mainstream science journals. Including "Darwinian" in the name simply pays tribute to Darwin's seminal contribution to evolutionary theory, that contribution being (as you no doubt know) his doctrine of natural selection. But since you seem to have strong opinions about intelligent design, I'm going to go out on a limb here and list the essays and books by design theorists on intelligent design and/or on the explanatory shortcomings of Darwinian theory that you've read. Here's the list:

    1) None.

    How'd I do?

    Hank
    I also have not read the latest scientific claims about Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster, for one simple reason: any monkey can promote doubt about what science does not know.  Truly, I can debunk gravity too. This does not mean you should jump off a building.

    But again you are proving my point: DI exists not to advance science but to promote their limited sectarian viewpoint and get it taught in science classes alongside science.  To do that, they have to make evolution a world view and Intelligent Design morally equivalent to it. The exact complaint National Review has about liberals.

    I'm happy you feel legitimized because non-experts in evolution don't believe in evolution right along with you - and that National Review gives this guy a platform. But it makes that magazine look dumb, it does not validate the Discovery Institute.
    In other words, Hank, when you write about intelligent design, you quite literally (and by your own admission) don't know what you're talking about. It shows.

    By the way, Discovery Institute opposes requiring intelligent design to be taught in public school science classes. You can review DI's education policy here: http://www.discovery.org/a/3164

    Hank
    Oh really? They why did they write a whole book claiming that the court ruling not to teach Intelligent Design in schools was flawed? http://www.discovery.org/a/2879
    Gerhard Adam
    Well that didn't take long. 

    Intelligent Design is the alternative.  So, that pretty well says it all.
    Mundus vult decipi
    John Hasenkam
    I trust you understand that explanatory shortcomings do not invalidate a theory. Of course evolutionary theory cannot explain many biological phenomena but that is a complexity problem that permeates nearly every area of science. The range of phenomena in any given intellectual domain is so vast that the unexplained is to be expected. It means nothing. I can spend all day pointing out the shortcomings of evolutionary theory but that does mean I repudiate that theory just that I recognise its incompleteness. At some level nearly all scientific theories are incomplete. 
    What is significant is the observation of phenomena that contradicts the prevailing theory used to explain the domain of phenomena. The foundation stone of evolutionary theory has and will continue to enlighten us regarding biological phenomena while Intelligent Design will continue to fall into the category of just so wishful thinking category of explanations. It has the same if not less epistemic value as Evolutionary Psychology. 


    I trust you never travel by air because there are still learned souls questioning the prevailing theory of aerodynamics. There are still unexplained phenomena in physics so don't use a computer or many other modern technological devices. There are huge numbers of mysteries in biomedicine so don't rely on modern medicine to cure what ails you. 
    Put up or shut up James. Please cite a single peer-reviewed scientific study published by the Disco'Tute. You can't, because there are none. Zero. They have people with PhD's on their staff, but that does not make them scientists. They don't have any research labs, they don't advance any new theories, they do nothing but try to discredit the best-supported theory in science, and demonstrate their complete lack of understanding or even basic honesty in every word they publish. In what way is the Disco'Tute NOT anti-science? I'm waiting for your explanation.

    So what has to happen to make this conservative scientist take liberals seriously?

    (FWIW, I have no time for creationism or the Discovery Institute)

    (sorry, should have read page 2)

    Hank,

    I'm confused -- as you yourself acknowledge in one of the comments, the Catholic Church's position is no different than Wesley Smith's position. I don't know why you think Smith "demonizes" infertile couples -- the Church believes it is a sin to use IVF and counsels against it. Furthermore, many thoughtful conservatives in the natural law tradition would agree with Smith -- and support him in his effort to protect life in all it's stages (our principle objection to IVF is the creation and destruction of embryos that never get implanted).

    Anyway, I'm sure we'll simply have to agree to disagree on the ethics of IVF -- but it is silly to claim that there are no conservatives (or no science-loving) conservatives who have good reasons for opposing IVF. Conservatives are not libertarians and there are often good reasons why the government should be in the business of what you call "social authoritarianism". I would call it protecting the innocent and promoting the common good, but we obviously are working from different ethical frameworks and conservative political philosophies.

    Hank
    Hi there,

    You may have an ethical issue with IVF - that is a policy debate and everyone should participate in it - and while the Catholic Church is against IVF they do not portray infertile people as evil the way Smith does.

    Let me be as clear as I can be once again. I have no issue with conservatives or ethical concerns - science, like the military, is a civilian-run tool and what is done with science, as with soldiers, is a political matter.  But Smith is a flat-out biology hater who gets paid by the Discovery Institute to undercut science.  So my criticism is that National Review is wrapping him in their legitimacy and he is using it to promote a company whose sole existence revolves around replacing biology in science classes with their particular viewpoint. That is social authoritarianism and just because you happen to like it does not make it any different than when the left wing tries to ban golf fish or golf or Big Gulps.
    Hank,

    I think you are letting your emotions get the better of you. You make a couple of clear claims in response to me:

    1) Smith is "a flat-out biology hater";

    2) "who gets paid by the Discovery Institute to undercut science";

    3) "he is using it [National Review's legitimacy] to promote a company whose sole existance revolves around replacing biology in science classes with their particular viewpoint";

    4) "That [what you describe in #3] is social authoritarianism".

    O.K., going back to Smith's original article and your response to him I fail to see how you support any one of those four claims -- especially numbers 1 and 2. Nothing Smith says in his articles gives one the impression that he "hates" biology. I read a lot of Smith and I'm afraid you'll have to do better than point and sputter -- that's usually how the left argues ;-)

    In everything I read of Smith's, he comes across as thoughtful, humane and someone who is more than willing to use science -- within ethical limits -- to help the disabled, sick, and injured.

    Hank
    I've read more than one of his articles and his hiding behind ethics to promote his subjective, arbitrary and entirely personal opinion is evident - nothing emotional about it.  Declaring that the rest of the world should reconfigure itself to submit to his world view is rubbish and National Review would dismiss his postmodernism if an academic wrote it.

    If he were the fan of science and reason you claim, he would not work for the Discovery Institute.  Saying where he gets paid is not a factor is a standard no one at National Review agrees with - and you will note there has been no rallying around the flag for him. The other contributors over there have to be a little queasy knowing his agenda (and DI's) - but in a country of two big tents they have to rationalize his presence with 'well, at least he is on our side against liberals', and that's about the extent of it.

    I am not endorsing 3-person IVF, I am just not in favor of banning it until we know the safety issues.  That is the difference between an evidence-based person and a cultural mullah like Smith.
    Hank,

    You really need to step back and take a deep breath. Look at what you just wrote: "I've read more than one of his articles and his hiding behind ethics to promote his subjective, arbitrary and entirely personal opinion is evident."

    O.K., but it is NOT evident to me, to many others who read Smith, and to many others who share Smith's point of view. Again, there are serious ethical objections not to 3-person IVF, but to IVF in general -- and throwing around phrases like "cultural mullah" suggests that you don't appreciate the ethical arguments for the other side (you don't have to agree with them, but at least try and understand our position).

    Again, folks like Smith, and Leon Kass, and Robert George get slammed all the time by the LEFT because the left rejects our worldview -- how we define what a human being is, what we think we owe all our fellow humans, what science should and should not be in the business of, etc.

    Heck, I think Smith is wrong about IVF because unlike him, I would indeed ban the practice for all:

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_...

    If you are indeed a conservative, I'm thrilled; but I think you need to rethink your strategy when it comes to science advocacy and arguing for ethical/moral claims.

    Conservative-bashing anger. I challenge you to debate Smith or any other senior fellow at the Discovery Institute. You won't because you know you can't win the argument. Better settle for ad hominem and watering the progressive weed patch (er, I mean--sustainable garden).

    Hank
    Debate him about what? He is probably a good attorney, so he will be earnest and emotional and will deal in doubt and possibilities - that has nothing to do with science. 

    But you are making my point. He and other anti-science shills at the Discovery Institute are not interested in evidence or data, they want to 'debate' philosophically. It is a pointless exercise, I might as well debate an astrologer.

    All I said was a magazine like National Review, that prides itself on reason and clear thinking, should not be dressing his social authoritarian nonsense up in a conservative flag. 

    You did nothing to dispel the belief that his acolytes are anything but more fundamentalists out to legislate and control the behavior of others - except you call it 'ethics'.
    That's a lame response. Astrologer? What are you, 12? Fundamentalist? Do you know what a fundamentalist is? Someone who believes in the fundamentals. You're right. Lawyers (like me) destroy people like you because you don't rely on evidence to support a point, your bias shows, your animus shows, and you therefore can't be trusted to tell the truth.

    Hank
    A lawyer shilling for the Discovery Institute calling anyone else dishonest is the funniest thing sane people will read all day.

    Look, you have no interest in science and I have no interest in hearing subjective ethical opinions made by people who lack any foundation in evidence. So go back to DI and engage in your sophistry, science has survived for thousands of years despite attempts by cultural militants like you and Smith to suppress it. And it will survive another 2,000 no matter how much you try to ban things while claiming to care about conservative principles and liberty.

    Science and data are not juries you can manipulate - if you had the ability to grasp that clever rhetoric is not actually truth, you would know that.
    Ethics are a branch of philosophy, not science. So, setting aside his general problems with Discovery Institute, are we to take from Cambell that any serious ethical disagreement with scientific research is automatically anti-science?

    Merry Christmas Dr Frankenstien!

    Hank
    are we to take from Cambell that any serious ethical disagreement with scientific research is automatically anti-science?
    Not if you read the article.  

    Smith is hiding his anti-biology beliefs and those of his employer behind a facade of ethics at a conservative magazine. There is no ethical issue in IVF unless you happen to believe that infertile people are cursed by God and science should not fix that problem and so you should ban it.  And commenters here obviously do believe that right along with him, no one has brought up a legitimate ethical defense for his crackpot nonsense.  They would ban IVF too - so the issue is not only not ethical, it is not conservative, because the people setting out to ban science they happen to not like are the most social authoritarian of all.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I think you are making some good points Hank :)
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    No ethical issue with IVF? Have you forgotten Octomom? What about 400,000 unused frozen embryos? What of the temptations to use those embryos for experimentation? What of the question of selective abortions to ensure only the male embryos service the procedure?

    You don't have to be a theist to be concerned that a technology that helps many couples do something most agree to be good can be abused by unthinking, unscrupulous, and unethical people to do something most would agree to be bad. Unethical misuse is a risk with most technologies. Categorically stating there are no ethical issues is not just rhetorical nonsense, it's intellectually dishonest.

    What do you think an ethical argument is, if not based on a set of moral beliefs? And where do you think most people get their moral beliefs, if not from religious sources and traditions?

    You may fantasize about a day when no one uses religion as a basis for ethical/moral evaluation, but you can't pretend that today is that day. Until that day comes, there will be ethical/moral arguments against technologies like IVF that make you uncomfortable, but that alone does not make them invalid or unworthy of consideration.

    Hank
    No ethical issue with IVF? Have you forgotten Octomom? What about 400,000 unused frozen embryos? 
    So you are going to ban something for everyone based on one example and then one slippery slope possibility? Gosh, you sound a lot like that Mayor Bloomberg guy, who also claims to be a conservative.

    You know what your efforts are not?  Conservative.  Again, I have no issue at all with an ethical debate about IVF - sure, I think only goofy crackpots think it is the role of government to pick winners and losers in fertility (something conservatives object to when it comes to markets) and that science can and should fix the problem of infertility, but you have a place in culture too.

    However, you do not want to discuss science, you want to ban science you personally, arbitrarily, subjectively, in completely morally relative fashion happen not to like.

    I said National Review should not be endorsing an anti-biology crackpot - and the reasons you list are the exact opposite of the conservative tenets National Review claims to espouse. You want to use the force of government to control peoples' lives and decide who gets to have children.

    Ahhh, I think I see where we're stuck, here. You don't want to talk about bioethics. You want to talk about National Review, Discovery Institute, and social conservatives in general. You want to use broad epithets like "anti-science" or "anti-biology" to describe these groups. You want to paint anyone who defends a pro-ethics position as part of one of these groups.

    See, I never claimed to be a conservative, but you've based most of you response on that incorrect assumption. I don't want the government to control anyone, although I think you'd agree that it has a role in regulating the biotech industry for safety, effectiveness, and ethical practices. And I don't oppose the ethical use of IVF, when all other fertility options have failed. I simply disagree with your categorical assertion that there are NO ethical problems with IVF at all.

    My best friend and his wife used the technology in a highly responsible way (minimal stimulation method), after trying many other treatments for years, to create only a few embryos (not many, as with Octomom and millions of other women). The daughter they were blessed with as a result of IVF is my goddaughter. They are pregnant with a second baby today and are left with only three frozen embryos.

    Compared to Octomom (merely cited here as a well known example), most people would agree that my friends and their doctor made an ethically superior choice in their use of IVF. The fact that that distinction can be made by anyone at all is direct proof that there can be ethical problems with IVF.

    IVF is a very powerful technology that can be used ethically to produce miracles (like my goddaughter) or abused unethically to produce human beings for commercialization and experimentation. This is not a hypothetical slippery soap argument. Embryos are used today in many countries for parts in embryonic stem cell research and more radical cloning research.

    Again, pretending there are no ethical issues is simply incorrect on your part.

    Hank
    Ahhh, I think I see where we're stuck, here. You don't want to talk about bioethics. You want to talk about National Review, Discovery Institute, and social conservatives in general. You want to use broad epithets like "anti-science" or "anti-biology" to describe these groups. You want to paint anyone who defends a pro-ethics position as part of one of these groups.
    I'm not stuck, you finally read the article instead of some anti-science crackpot talking about what he wishes I were saying.

    And you still get it all wrong - to such a degree I wonder if you are incapable of understanding something simple or you are going out of your way to troll up faux moralistic gibberish.

    I said the Discovery Institute is anti-biology - and that National Review should not be letting one of their well-paid, anti-science charlatans masquerade that nonsense in their pages.

    Nothing more, nothing less. 

    If you are against IVF for your own personal, subjective, arbitrary reasons - fine. Its stupid and illiterate and not moral and certainly not conservative but, unlike Smith and the DI, I am not trying to ban opposing beliefs.  

    I am just telling an idiot to stop writing about science in National Review.
    My understanding of what 'troll' means must be different from yours. I thought my posts were reasonable, albeit somewhat disagreeable to you.

    I support the ethical use of IVF. I thought that was pretty clear in my last post. Why do you continue to argue as if I don't support IVF? What is your litmus test? Why can't someone support IVF with reasonable caution and concern for the potential ethical entanglements without being labeled 'anti-biology' or 'anti-science' or anti-whatever?

    You do a lot of name-calling and generally insult people with ideas contrary to your own. Calling my positions "personal, subjective, arbitrary" is merely dismissive, not directly responsive to my points. So lets try this one more time...

    You stated there is "no ethical issue with IVF". I disagree based on the reasons I cited above.

    More objectively (if you prefer), there is considerable material in medical, embryological, and bioethical literature describing and evaluating a wide variety of ethical issues with IVF. A simple Google search of "ethics and IVF" produces more than 920,000 results containing innumerable articles, papers, websites, news stories, commentary, etc. in which people are debating the ethical issues. These issues are taken seriously, and are in active discussion among scientists, doctors, and ethicists, not to mention the general public, like you and me.

    There are ethical issues with IVF. I think I've proven my point in a rational, troll-free way.

    Care to amend your previous statement that there aren't?

    That's a lame response. Astrologer? What are you, 12? Fundamentalist? Do you know what a fundamentalist is? Someone who believes in the fundamentals. You're right. Lawyers (like me) destroy people like you because you don't rely on evidence to support a point, your bias shows, your animus shows, and you therefore can't be trusted to tell the truth.

    .William Becker
    =======================================

    Are you the William Becker that lost the Coppedge Intelligent Design case? Well done! If so, that's some impressive chest thumping on your part.

    Hank
    I never thought to Google him, his arguments didn't make enough sense for me to imagine he might be anyone important in the Intelligent Design movement. Funny how 'it is all a vast conspiracy' and 'you are too dumb to understand ID' cropped up in both instances.

    DI apparently employs a lot of attorneys. Maybe they should spend some money on a biologist.
    Far more attorneys than biologists. As an attorney myself, I have a particular interest in following the string of attorneys arguing bad science on behalf of the Intelligent Design movement. They talk big outside of court only to crash and burn inside.

    Hank
    I've been intrigued by the 'if you don't embrace every crackpot idea any of our members have, you can't be a conservative' logic - oddly, both those attorneys used it but I recognize their obligation is not to portray truth or fact, but rather to win cases for their employer. 

    In the end, it may not be about ideology, it may just be about getting someone with an R in front of their name elected, so National Review may have sold out its conservative beliefs to keep anti-biology charlatans on the fringes of religion voting the right way. It's a shame that WFB's legacy has been perverted by creepy demagogues who want to impose their 'ethics' and squash freedom.

    Science does not accomplish anything when fundamentalists control research - these supposed conservatives at the Discovery Institute recognize that places like Iran do no science at all, yet they want American science to be controlled and manipulated by mullahs of their own choosing.