Friday, March 13, 2009

Moral Arrogance

ESCR proponent Charles Krauthammer explains why he is glad he declined President Obama's invitation to attend the signing ceremony for the Executive Order lifting President Bush's ban on federal funding of ESCR:
... the ostentatious issuance of a memorandum on "restoring scientific integrity to government decision-making" -- would have made me walk out.

Restoring? The implication, of course, is that while Obama is guided solely by science, Bush was driven by dogma, ideology and politics.

What an outrage. Bush's nationally televised stem cell speech was the most morally serious address on medical ethics ever given by an American president. It was so scrupulous in presenting the best case for both his view and the contrary view that until the last few minutes, the listener had no idea where Bush would come out.

Obama's address was morally unserious in the extreme. It was populated, as his didactic discourses always are, with a forest of straw men. Such as his admonition that we must resist the "false choice between sound science and moral values." Yet, exactly 2 minutes and 12 seconds later he went on to declare that he would never open the door to the "use of cloning for human reproduction."

Does he not think that a cloned human would be of extraordinary scientific interest? And yet he banned it.

Is he so obtuse as not to see that he had just made a choice of ethics over science? Yet, unlike Bush, who painstakingly explained the balance of ethical and scientific goods he was trying to achieve, Obama did not even pretend to make the case why some practices are morally permissible and others not.

This is not just intellectual laziness. It is the moral arrogance of a man who continuously dismisses his critics as ideological while he is guided exclusively by pragmatism (in economics, social policy, foreign policy) and science in medical ethics...


[More]

Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Obama Culture of Death Update™: President Lifts Ban on Federal ESCR Funding

President Bush to Veto Stem Cell Bill

Never Mind Church Teaching, Catholic Nancy Pelosi Says ESCR "a Gift of God"

Bush Vows to Veto Stem Cell Bill Passed in Democrat-Controlled Senate

Senate Approves Stem Cell Bill - Congress Still Short Votes Needed to Override President's Promised Veto

"These Boys and Girls Are NOT Spare Parts"

“Mr. President: Veto This Bill”

What a Bush Veto Would Mean for Stem Cells

Rove: Bush Will Veto Embryonic Stem Cell Bill

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25 Comments:

At 3/14/2009 9:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly.

 
At 3/16/2009 6:42 AM, Blogger craig said...

What do you call citing a pro-torture, bloodthirsty hawk to attack Obama for restoring sanity to scientific research?

 
At 3/16/2009 6:56 AM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

You also forgot to point out that Krauthammer is a bloodthirsty cannibal in favor of ESCR.

Oh, but you agree with him on that score.

 
At 3/16/2009 7:30 AM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

As for my citing Krauthammer, if he's such a repugnant figure to you, you ought to be more concerned about Obama's inviting him to the White House.

 
At 3/16/2009 9:18 AM, Blogger craig said...

Obama lives in DC.

I'm sure the room was packed with plenty of other repugnant people he invited that condescended to show up.

 
At 3/16/2009 9:18 AM, Blogger DP said...

craig:

What Jay said. Oh, and try not to rely on genetic fallacies/spleen venting as your first response. Pavlovian responses don't add much to the issue.

Any thoughts as to the actual substance offered by your fellow ESCR supporter?

 
At 3/16/2009 9:23 AM, Blogger craig said...

His article demonstrates how utterly incapable Krauthammer is of showing Obama any respect for doing something he long advocated.

 
At 3/16/2009 9:27 AM, Blogger craig said...

In other words, he proved yet again that he is, was, and always will be a partisan hack.

I truly wish Obama would stop trying to appease obstructionists.
They will never compromise.

 
At 3/16/2009 9:28 AM, Blogger DP said...

That's it? Really?

So there's no way one can advocate for a change yet decry the *methods* by which the change is made?

It's still a gut reaction to the messenger.

BTW, given your support of ESCR, what exactly is *scientifically* problematic about reproductive oning?

 
At 3/16/2009 9:30 AM, Blogger DP said...

"cloning," that is. Yeesh--time for coffee.

 
At 3/16/2009 9:32 AM, Blogger DP said...

Oh, and let's not forget that the "pro-science" president shut down funding of pluripotent stem cell research not involving embryos. Yes, he's all about "restoring sanity" to scientific research.

 
At 3/16/2009 10:23 AM, Blogger craig said...

I have no problem with cloning, but there are plenty of others who do.

As far as I know, Obama did not shut down funding of pluripotent stem cells.
From the NYT:

"His announcement placed few boundaries on stem cell research beyond requiring it to be scientifically worthy, responsibly conducted and compliant with the law. He gave the National Institutes of Health free rein to devise guidelines governing what kinds of research can be supported and what ethical strictures will be placed on it."

link:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/16/opinion/16mon1.html

 
At 3/16/2009 10:30 AM, Blogger DP said...

Yes, he did shut down funding for pluripotent stem cell research, rescinding EO 13435.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Removing-Barriers-to-Responsible-Scientific-Research-Involving-Human-Stem-Cells/

Here is EO 13435:

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Executive_Order_13435

Regarding the ban on reproductive cloning, then why aren't you blasting the administration for limitations on scientific research? Sounds like partisanship to me.

 
At 3/16/2009 11:45 AM, Blogger craig said...

EO 13435 was a supplement to GWB's statement on stem cell research.

That's why it was revoked.

It was a plan to offer several Agency-wide Funding Opportunity
Announcements (FOAs) to accelerate research on human pluripotent stem cells from NON-embryonic sources, since embryonic sources were verboten.

It doesn't mean that ALL pluripotent stem cell research will be shutdown.

 
At 3/16/2009 11:55 AM, Blogger DP said...

Actually, while related to the ban, 13435 stood on its own as an independent project. There was no need whatsoever to strike it down. At a bare minimum, Obama could have reissued it, but he didn't.

And since governmental funding for nonembryonic pluripotent research was initiated by and directed thorough 13435, Obama has ended that research. There is no other way to read it. Period.

Again, why are you fine with the ban on reproductive cloning?

 
At 3/16/2009 4:32 PM, Blogger craig said...

By revoking Bush's EO, all he did was leave it up to the NIH to continue nonembryonic research instead of mandating them to continue.
Also, his statement about human cloning was separate from the actual EO, which doesn't specifically ban reproductive cloning.

 
At 3/16/2009 9:17 PM, Blogger LargeBill said...

A little late to this discussion, but a side comment about folks like Krauthammer. It is sad to see how some when confronted by a personal medical experience decide that morals be damned do whatever you can to potentially cure my ailment.

For Craig,

If ESCR, human cloning, etc are okay in your view then quite likely Pro Ecclesia (or any Catholic or Christian blog) isn't going to be your cup of tea. Beyond that, you seem to misunderstand the meaning of the word sanity. Obama by allowing research with no ethical boundaries is NOT restoring sanity to scientific research. Quite the opposite. Sadly, scientific research has an awful history of ignoring ethical considerations in the pursuit of the glory of advancing science. Look at the evils done by scientists in NAZI Germany or those in prisons in the U.S. or many other scientific testing where people where given diseases in order to test various potential cures.

Bottom line: We are all going to die in this life. Science and medicine can alter the date slightly. Promoting certain things in the pursuit of a different date may affect one's destination after that date. I don't have all the answers, but I know the path to some answers isn't a path we should go down.

 
At 3/16/2009 11:45 PM, Blogger DP said...

By revoking Bush's EO, all he did was leave it up to the NIH to continue nonembryonic research instead of mandating them to continue.

That's a farcical interpretation, and betrays a comprehensive ignorance of agency funding limitations and the impact of mandates. 13435 started the research process and now it's abolished. In its place, Obama mandated ESCR research. Given the funding mandate for the latter, the former will NOT be funded. Moreover, the legal effect of Obama's order is that the previous order can't guide current actions. He's abolished government funded pluripotent stem cell research.

And again, in a developing pattern, you dodge--there was no reason he couldn't have reissued 13435--if he was truly motivated by scientific concerns.

And you wouldn't be making lame semantic excuses for the president's actions if you were, either.

Finally, quit waltzing: the president expressed opposition to reproductive cloning. How, in your opinion, does this not qualify as "anti-science"? Is it as simple as you voted for him? Must be, given the crickets at your end.

 
At 3/17/2009 7:37 AM, Blogger craig said...

LargeBill said:

"If ESCR, human cloning, etc are okay in your view then quite likely Pro Ecclesia (or any Catholic or Christian blog) isn't going to be your cup of tea."

I am a Roman Catholic by blood. I was raised in the RC tradition and attended Catholic school. Catholicism IS my cup of tea.

"Sadly, scientific research has an awful history of ignoring ethical considerations in the pursuit of the glory of advancing science."

Sadly, Christianity has an awful history of slaughter and persecution on a much larger scale in the pursuit of the glory of God.

"Look at the evils done by scientists in NAZI Germany"

Hitler and the Nazis used the Bible to justify their atrocities, just as slave owners used the Bible to justify slavery.

DP,

I am not the one doing the kabuki dance, Obama is. He made a real nice statement about reproductive cloning, but there is nothing in the EO that forbids it and I am not the only one to notice that.

link:

http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=30043


As far as nonembryonic pluripotent stem cell research goes, you are correct. I have no secret, inside knowledge of the NIH's funding. If you do, great!

IMO, rescinding EO 13435 will open new avenues to research as it does not tie the hands or budget of scientific research. Science researchers will now be free to go wherever the data and most promising results take them. If ESCs demonstrate more interesting and promising results, why waste time, resources, and money on induced pluripotent stem cells (which we've used for over 50 years) as mandated by Bush's EO?

Such freedom allows science to move wherever the data takes it, which is the quickest way to discovery and application.

 
At 3/17/2009 8:55 AM, Blogger Matthew Siekierski said...

I am a Roman Catholic by blood. I was raised in the RC tradition and attended Catholic school. Catholicism IS my cup of tea.

Then learn it and live it. Don't claim it as your own and then remake it in your own image. ESCR kills human babies, and the Catholic Church opposes such destructive research.

Sadly, Christianity has an awful history of slaughter and persecution on a much larger scale in the pursuit of the glory of God.

A lovely non-response that avoids the point. Unfettered science is ripe for abuse. Unethical research will occur because of a lack of a line-that-cannot-be-crossed.

If anything, this should serve as a reminder for you...if even the name of Christ can be misused and abused to drive people to do evil, how much more is the name of Science susceptible to such abuse?

Hitler and the Nazis used the Bible to justify their atrocities, just as slave owners used the Bible to justify slavery.

And scientists use...er...the promise of miracles 20 years down the road to justify their atrocities today. But the ends never justify the means, and political sleight-of-hand has existed since politics first started. Previous use of such BS techniques don't make it somehow "ok" for Obama to do the same thing.

IMO, rescinding EO 13435 will open new avenues to research as it does not tie the hands or budget of scientific research. Science researchers will now be free to go wherever the data and most promising results take them.

And who really cares if the most promising results (20 years from now, according to the promises of scientists seeking funding) involves butchering unborn babies? You seem to think that applied morality and scientific advances are mutually exclusive.

If ESCs demonstrate more interesting and promising results, why waste time, resources, and money on induced pluripotent stem cells (which we've used for over 50 years) as mandated by Bush's EO?

ESCs may be more interesting to some scientists, but ASC have more promising results to date, and if induced pluripotent stem cells are just as effective as embryonic stem cells, why not pursue that avenue? (Where the heck did you get the 50 years number? The research I've seen has occurred within the past year or so...Wikipedia says 2007 for human cells.)

Such freedom allows science to move wherever the data takes it, which is the quickest way to discovery and application.

Again, this ignores the moral implications. If the quickest way to discovery and application involved butchering winos and homeless people, would you be willing to accept that? What about using prison inmates or death row inmates as medical test subjects? Surely that would speed things up.

There MUST be checks and balances on what researchers do in the name of research.

 
At 3/17/2009 11:22 AM, Blogger craig said...

Matthew says:

" ESCR kills human babies, and the Catholic Church opposes such destructive research."

It took about 200 years for the Catholic Church to fully accept the theory of evolution. ESCR has a long way to go.

"Unfettered science is ripe for abuse. Unethical research will occur because of a lack of a line-that-cannot-be-crossed."

Maybe that's why the EO says "conduct responsible, scientifically worthy human stem cell research, including human embryonic stem cell research, to the extent permitted BY LAW."


"And who really cares if the most promising results (20 years from now, according to the promises of scientists seeking funding) involves butchering unborn babies?"

Using IVF embryos slated for destruction is not the same as "butchering babies". Just because I support scientific progress does not make me part of the "culture of death".

"ESCs may be more interesting to some scientists, but ASC have more promising results to date, and if induced pluripotent stem cells are just as effective as embryonic stem cells, why not pursue that avenue?"

As I have been saying the whole time, nowhere in the EO does Obama forbid the continuation of IPSC research. People are just inferring that because he revoked Bush's EO which simply MANDATED IPSC research. The NIH may be more than willing to continue that line of research and now they get to decide if they want to, free of any mandates.


"(Where the heck did you get the 50 years number? The research I've seen has occurred within the past year or so...Wikipedia says 2007 for human cells.)"

Sorry, I was talking about adult stem cell research starting back in the 60's. You are correct, the first human IPSC's were produced in 2007.

 
At 3/17/2009 12:48 PM, Blogger DP said...

I'm not the one doing the kabuki dance, Obama is. He made a real nice statement about reproductive cloning, but there is nothing in the EO that forbids it and I am not the only one to notice that.

Translation: I don't have any problem with Obama promising to obstruct scientific research because of my partisan precommitments.

I have no secret, inside knowledge of the NIH's funding.

It doesn't require it. All it requires is a grasp of the concepts of (1) limited agency budgets, (2) the impact of Obama's appointees upon those budgets, and (3) a grasp of the impact of rescinded EOs upon continued activity in the area affected by the rescission.

Only someone striving to muddy the waters would claim that the NIH would continue research in the face of the obvious political, budgetary and legal realities. In any event, your political hero snuffed government support of promising alternative scientific research in the name of politics, and your pro-science pose is exposed for the partisan special pleading that it is.

Using IVF embryos slated for destruction is not the same as "butchering babies". Just because I support scientific progress does not make me part of the "culture of death".

Except that it is--you just arbitrarily apply the label "baby" somewhere way on down the line. Probably when fully emerged from the mother's body.

And you *don't* support scientific progress, as has been amply demonstrated on this thread. You support partisanship posing as an objective champion of science. You refuse to criticize your partisan banner-carrier even when he conflicts with your views of scientific research. And you aren't much of a Catholic theologian, either, despite your claims of allegiance.

 
At 3/17/2009 3:14 PM, Blogger Matthew Siekierski said...

It took about 200 years for the Catholic Church to fully accept the theory of evolution. ESCR has a long way to go.

So...does ESCR kill babies or no? The time it took the Catholic Church to officially say "it's ok to believe that evolution was the mechanism God used to create man, so long as you accept that man was created" is irrelevant to the truth that ESCR requires killing human babies.

Maybe that's why the EO says "conduct responsible, scientifically worthy human stem cell research, including human embryonic stem cell research, to the extent permitted BY LAW."

Er...what law? There are no real guidelines, and the research itself already requires the killing of other humans. That is not scientifically worthy research.

Using IVF embryos slated for destruction is not the same as "butchering babies".

It's not? I guess cryogenics removes humanity from an entity. (FWIW, I'm against IVF, and against destruction of "excess" babies.)

I mean, the inmates on death row are slated for destruction as well...let's use them as spare parts for experiments!

Just because I support scientific progress does not make me part of the "culture of death".

It does if you're supporting research that requires the destruction of other human beings.

As I have been saying the whole time, nowhere in the EO does Obama forbid the continuation of IPSC research. People are just inferring that because he revoked Bush's EO which simply MANDATED IPSC research. The NIH may be more than willing to continue that line of research and now they get to decide if they want to, free of any mandates.

And as has been pointed out several times (I think), Obama didn't have to revoke Bush's EO, and doing so removes the mandate to proceed with iPSC research. In its place is a mandate to fund ESC research, which will get all the money while iPSC will get nothing, or next to nothing. (Again, FWIW, I'd rather see all of this research funded by private grants and donations, not through the use of public funds.)

If scientists want to experiment with embryonic stem cells, let them use lab rats, not humans. By the time they figure out how to control things, iPSC will be solid and no humans need be destroyed to reach the cures.

It is possible to support science and be ethical. But in the rush for the cure, and the rush for fame, many people seem to be ready and willing to toss ethics out the window.

 
At 3/17/2009 5:15 PM, Blogger craig said...

You are both inferring things from Obama's EO that are not stated.

Why don't you wait for the NIH's review to be complete before you assume that everyone that works there is a bloodthirsty scientist that can't wait to drop all of the research they are currently performing and start "killing babies".(Your term, not mine.)

You just may be pleasantly surprised.

 
At 3/17/2009 10:02 PM, Blogger Matthew Siekierski said...

craig, you're continuing to not listen to what is being said.

Researchers currently receiving government grants for iPSC are going to see that money dry up, and the money will go to different researchers who don't have compunctions against pureed baby as experimental reagent. That's what's been mandated by Obama (the latter part, not the drying up of funds. That's just a result of limited budgets, as DP said.)

And you're darned right it's my term that ESCR requires "killing babies". That's also what the Church says, and any honest scientist as well.

As for your strawman that I think all researchers are bloodthirsty, waiting with anticipation for the opportunity to kill babies for research...I never said "all" researchers are prepared to chuck ethics. I said "many". Too many.

I notice you avoided the rest of my questions/points. I'll ask again: Does ESC research depend on the killing of human babies? Shouldn't death-row inmates be used for medical experiments, since they're slated for destruction the same as "excess" IVF babies?

 

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