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Biotech United States

The President, The State of the Union, and Genetics 921

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the god-schmod-i-want-my-monkey-man dept.
At last night's State of the Union, the president said "Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research, human cloning in all its forms, creating or implanting embryos for experiments, creating human-animal hybrids, and buying, selling or patenting human embryos." Jamie happened onto a link today which humorously and insightfully addresses this bit from the speech. It's worth your time. Relatedly segphault writes "Ars Technica has an interesting look at scientific research and technology proposals included in Bush's State of the Union address."
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The President, The State of the Union, and Genetics

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  • huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:00PM (#14619686) Homepage Journal

    Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research [...] creating human-animal hybrids

    Bush wants to be the last of his species?
    • Re:huh? (Score:3, Funny)

      by hkgroove (791170)
      No, Bush wants to make sure Spender and his scientists stay focused on alien-human hybrids.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:15PM (#14619877)
      A human embryo does not have a brain. Nor does it have a functional nervous system. Therefore it can neither think nor feel. Therefore, experimentation on them involves no suffering or loss of freedom (for the embryo).

      An embryo is not a person, and only qualifies as 'human' by virtue of the DNA it contains. So, please tell me, why is this morally wrong?

      If it is because this aspect of science should remain under God's jurisdiction, then I must insist that God has harmed us by not disclosing this information. We need it to fight the diseases which God allows to plague us, and to heal injuries that God allows to happen to us. This information qualifies as critical, need-to-know information, and if God won't give it to us, then we have no choice but to figure it out for ourselves.

      Besides, "Thou shalt not use embryos in scientific experiments" isn't in the Bible anywhere. I read it cover to cover. It's not there.

      So, again I ask, why is this *morally* wrong?

      • by PFI_Optix (936301) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:27PM (#14620036) Journal
        An embryo is not a person...

        Yes it is.

        That's the problem with opinions. Everyone's got one, and yours is no better than anyone else's. "Person" is a subjective term, and it would seem Bush believes that an embryo qualifies as a person and has rights.

        • And when/if the rights of one person supercede the rights of another person.
        • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:41PM (#14620200) Homepage Journal

          You mean all these years I've been spreading embryos on toast, I've been eating people?
      • by Sir Pallas (696783) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:11PM (#14620565) Homepage
        Aristotle talks about the four types of causes,namely: first, material, formal, and final. The final cause, he says, is superior to the first cause if the first cause anticipates the final. In a very real way, a conception is the first cause of a human. And though not all first causes are seen through to finality, the potential is there for the finality. I believe this is what makes GWB and his ilk feel ill at the idea of doing the kind of experiments he is asking for a ban on: because though they are not (necessarily) being done on sentient life, they are being done on potentially sentient life and the research is preventing the fruition of that sentience.
        • But at the same time the research has great potential to save or prolong hundreds, thousands, or millions of already established sentient lives. Is not the sacrifice of a handful of potential lives worth saving a virtually infinite (as the procedures established will no doubt be kept in the realm of human knowledge until it's improved upon, or humans cease to exist) number of already established lives?
          • I guess the question becomes: is it OK to destroy potential beings in order to potentially create a potential extension for other lives. The second half has a double "maybe": there is hope that this kind of genetic research has benefit, but it's not certain and that's why it's research. On the other hand, there is no reason that other kinds of genetic research can't yield the same results. The last (and perhaps most important) point is that nature has (seemingly) designed us to die; so, is it right to deny
        • by Anonymous Coward
          I believe this is what makes GWB and his ilk feel ill at the idea of doing the kind of experiments he is asking for a ban on: because though they are not (necessarily) being done on sentient life, they are being done on potentially sentient life and the research is preventing the fruition of that sentience.

          The religious right really has a problem on their hands explaining how they can be pro war and anti embryo research at the same time. On the one hand they're perfectly willing to kill people to free other
      • by Ogemaniac (841129) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:50PM (#14621020)
        you are not thinking and feeling, either. In such a case, does that mean I am not taking your freedoms when I put a bullet in your brain?

        Potential matters. When you are sleeping or unconcious, you do not have sufficient intellect to earn rights. What gives you rights is the fact that you will wake up and be an intelligent being. When this is not the case (for example, Terry Shiavo), we correctly deem that the hunk of meat that was an intelligent being no longer has rights, and should be cared for as per that person's wishes and contracts.

        The "potential matters" principle is the only one that is consistent across a wide-range of situations. Here are some others: Imagine you had a real AI, sufficiently intelligent to deserve rights, living on your cellphone. If the batteries ran out, could you then destroy the phone? Does it make sense to say "I can't destroy the phone when the batteries are charged, but I can when they are empty"? Or how about this. What if humans started their lives as catapillars, then became butterflies, and then, after a second larvae stage became babies. Could we kill the butterflies? What if the situation ran backwards, and it went human-butterly-catapillar, followed by a spore stage that created new humans. Could we then kill the butterflies?

        Another problem with your logic is that humans do not become intelligent enough to deserve rights until well after birth, unless you put the bar so low as many animals have rights. So now, you either are stuck with arresting people for manslaughter when they run over a cat and putting Fido on trial for killing a rabbit, or permitting infanticide. Which do you prefer?
        • by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @07:09PM (#14621719) Homepage
          Potential does indeed matter. Trouble is, we're all working on a sliding scale.

          Potential exists in a gamete; how troubled are you by the loss of billions of potential lives during the course of one man's life? How troubled are you by the thought that people using condoms or birth control pills actively want these gametes to never realize their full potential as human beings? What of the father of four seeking a vasectomy--is it his right to nip all that potential in the bud? What of the young woman in need of a hysterectomy--is she more deserving of life than the multiple potential lives she could one day carry to term? What of the celebate--people who have actively decided that they're not even going to try to give all these potential lives a shot?

          Yes, I go to extremes in my examples. That's just the problem, though; though extreme, these scenarios still sit on the same scale of "potential", and we each still need to choose where "extreme" starts. I know for a fact that many people decry the use of condoms, an attitude I personally feel falls comfortably on the "extreme" end of things. Other people feel comfortable with things like late-term abortion, which frankly makes me squirm just to think of doing such a thing. I honestly don't know exactly where I comfortably sit on this scale. It isn't a clear, easy call for me to make. I do realize, however, that at some point we all stand up and say, "OK, that's where I no longer have a problem with cutting off the potential". To paraphrase the old joke, we already know what kind of decision this is. We're just haggling over the price.

          The fundamental problem in this matter is not that the "other side" fails to see what is right. It's that we're all called upon to make a judgement on a matter that none of us are truly able to see clearly.

          • by Ogemaniac (841129) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @07:40PM (#14621917)
            Analogously to criminal law, I use a standard which, mathematically, is probably somewhere between 2% and .1%. It does not matter which number you choose within that range, however. Why? Because a sperm has far, far less than a 1/1000 chance. So does an egg or a skin cell. However, a fertilized egg falls well on the other side (about 30% at fertilization, much higher a few days later after implantation). Therefore, where exactly we draw the line is rather irrelevant, as it is clear that before fertilization we are far to one side, and after fertilization we are far to the other.

            I would say the same standard applies at the end of life. If Shiavo had a 10% chance of recovering, killing her would have been wrong, don't you agree? But the fact was that her chances of recovering were vanishingly small. That is why pulling the plug was ethical. Now, if a fertilized egg has a 30% chance of surviving, why would we also not grant it rights?

            Yes, you can carry the "potential" argument to extemes. One could claim the lint in my belly-button has rights, because there are probably sufficient atoms to spontaneously rearrange into a zygote. But clearly, the probability of this is trivially small. Therefore we can safely discount it.

            As a final point, I also believe in granting the benefit of the doubt. This is an important manner with lives literally hanging in the balance. We should error on the side of protecting life.
    • no, no, no (Score:5, Funny)

      by circletimessquare (444983) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <erauqssemitelcric>> on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:35PM (#14620136) Homepage Journal
      Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research [...] creating human-animal hybrids

      he's only worried about EGREGIOUS abuses of human-animal hybrids, and i believe an egregious is half egret, half religious person (egre-gious)

      so i support the president's narrow, case-specifc take on this issue, it makes sense, because we don't want a bible-thumping skinny bird strutting around now do we?

    • Re:huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:40PM (#14620189) Journal
      Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research [...] creating human-animal hybrids

      It does sound rediculous, but how else are we to study human genes except by inserting them into animals? We can't breed, experiment on, and collect tissue samples from humans at will, so we have to use mice. You can't just study mouse genes, because who cares about mice?

      I'm currently trying to clone the human FGF9 gene into mice so that we can study its regulation. What am I to do when chimeric models are outlawed?
      • Re:huh? (Score:5, Informative)

        by John Newman (444192) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @06:36PM (#14621453)
        The attempted humor in the replies pains me, because this is actually a *very* serious issue that could cripple human disease research in this country if gone about ham-handedly.

        For all you non-bio-geeks out there, we use animal models to study disease because there are many experiments you can do on a mouse or a fly that are either impractical or wholly unethical to do on humans. The trouble is that mice and men are different, so it's rare to find an animal model that perfectly replicates the human disease. But we often get close. One way we get close is by inserting human disease genes into mice. Or rats. Or frogs. Or worms. Or flies. So we can study in great detail exactly what those malfunctioning genes do. These animal models are technically chimeras - animals carrying human genes. But without them applied medical research, the stuff that finds cures for disease, would grind to a halt.

        Then there's the issue of biotechnology, actually creating and producing those cures. Another poster said that recombinant insulin is made by inserting the human insulin gene into other organisms - usually, I think, bacteria. Every recombinant drug is made the same way. So are the many antibody-derived drugs now reaching market (Herceptin, etc.). There's fundamentally no way around this. It's utterly uneconomical to mass-produce these drugs in vitro, using all-purified enzymes, and we don't even always understand how to do that. These drugs are already absurdly expensive, and much research has been devoted to developing new methods to produce them more cheaply (in cows' milk, for example).

        So this is all no joke. Given the record of the people in charge in all branches of government, I don't think we can assume that they thoroughly understand the issues and will craft appropriately rational legislation. If dealt with flippantly, through the usual partisan talking points, this *will* become a medical and scientific train wreck.
    • Re:huh? (Score:5, Funny)

      by vgaphil (449000) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:00PM (#14620440)
      "I wish there were pig-men. You get a few of those pig-men
      walking around, suddenly I'm looking a lot better. That way
      if someone wanted to fix me up they could say, 'Hey, at least
      he's no pig-man.'"

      -George Costanza
  • by Kesch (943326) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:00PM (#14619692)
    Mr. Bush, you're breaking my balls here. You're breaking my balls...
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:01PM (#14619699) Journal
    Ok, here's one from kindergarten: Actions speak louder than words.

    Ok, I'm fairly certain that I can find a lot of evidence revealing how many leaders of academia actually feel about George W. Bush. And there's a lot of documentation on his actual actions regarding science and research in the nation.

    Harvard's Howard Gardner [csicop.org] calls Bush's science adviser a "prostitute." And we all remember the Scientists and Engineers for Change [commondreams.org] organization compromised of sixty Nobel scientists and Tech Leaders. I'll let you guess out their stance on bush. Don't forget their open letter [scientists...change.org] to the American people stating, " President Bush and his administration are compromising our future."

    Remember, he only said he supports it. Let's see some actual actions to follow that up.

    And if you have time to read up on Bush's actions in the science community, take a look at the Politics and Science in the Bush Administration [house.gov]. I find it hilarious that anyone could expect me to swallow Bush's "scientific research and technology proposals" when his actions are no more proposals than death knells.

    Indeed, it seems the hardest issue regarding science that Bush is struggling with is how to silence it [usatoday.com].
  • Oh, Democrats (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zilverfire (819134) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:01PM (#14619700)
    I think my favorite part of the entire speech was when Bush was discussing social security and mentioned how legislation for it had not been passed in congress last year, and the entire side of Democrats stood up and applauded.
    • Most people don't realize that those who back Bush have exactly zero interest in Social Security.

      The "Social Security" plans are designed to get amateur stock investors into the stock market, where the professionals, who back the plan, can take the amateur's money.
    • by deanj (519759)

      I think my favorite part of the entire speech was when Bush was discussing social security and mentioned how legislation for it had not been passed in congress last year, and the entire side of Democrats stood up and applauded.


      The video of that will be played by their opponents for every election from now on.

      Speech writers know how each side will react when they write these things. I'm amazed that the Democrats fell for it.
    • Re:Oh, Democrats (Score:5, Informative)

      by demachina (71715) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:04PM (#14620497)
      Not sure I want to see any Republican sponsored social security reform but it is a completely broken program and I would be overjoyed if tomorrow it went away and they just gave me a lump sum payment back of what I've paid in. Of course they can't since everything I've paid in has long since been squandered much of it on pork, fraud, waste and abuse and recently to fund tax cuts for the wealthy. Only way I get my money back is from more payroll taxes on workers younger than me.

      I guess I'm saying the Dems are just as wrong in defending the status quo as the Republicans are in their "reform" programs which are scams in their own right.

      Social Security as conceived by Roosevelt was kind of scam since very few people lived long enough to collect it and the tax rates could as a result be very low. Unfortunately most people live long past retirement age now and as of around 1980 the tax burden on working people went through the roof. Counting the hidden employer contribution payroll taxes are now an inescapable 12.5% of your wages. People say low and middle income people don't pay a lot of taxes, well they conveniently leave out this inescapable payroll tax.

      What we have today is America's greatest generation, the World War II generation, who paid very little in payroll taxes and are now living to their 80's and 90's thanks to better medical care. They are making out like bandits, with a huge return on their investment. Baby boomers will also reap big windfalls though not as big a windfall. Where does this windfall come from, why off the backs of younger workers who are paying a STEEP percentage of their income to fund the program PLUS a big surplus that Congress and various Presidents are squandering on other programs. These younger workers may discover when they retire the program has been eviscerated and they get back less than they paid in if they are lucky. At present Social Security and Medicare are cannibalizing young workers to support seniors.

      So can Social Security be reformed today? Not really because the greatest generation and the baby boomers are a powerful lobby and they wont let anyone touch their windfall. They vote in disproportionately high numbers while young people vote in low numbers. They are a powerful lobby.

      The result is the only reform you will see will impact younger workers and end up cutting their benefits compared to today's seniors or end up costing them or younger generations even more in taxes. NO ONE IS TOUCHING THE WINDFALL TODAY'S SENIORS ARE REAPING OR BABY BOOMERS WILL SOON REAP and which will push the system in to the red in a decade or so.

      What do the Republicans want to do. They want to force you to put payroll taxes in to private financial funds which they will strictly define and regulate. It kind of sounds like a good idea but it has a few problems:

      - You still wont really have control of the money because they will tell you exactly what you can and can't do with it.

      - The main thing they are trying to achieve is to take a mandatory payroll tax and put it under the control of giant private financial institutions who are huge contributors to the Republican party. They in turn will reap huge windfalls from manipulating this huge influx of money workers will have to give to them by law. Chances are it will cause a large bubble in the stock marker or wherever else it is invested. You can hope it goes in to stable investments that always appreciate but there is a fair chance it will land in investments where the workers actually end up losing money while Wall Street fat cats profit.

      - When all this money disappears in to private funds there will be a huge shortfall in paying benefits to current seniors and SOME LUCKY TAX PAYER is going to get to pick up the tab, and it probably isn't going to be the rich, OR the government is going to borrow ever more staggering sums to cover the shortfall which will further destabilize the dollar and the U.S. economy.

      The Republicans have made huge payoffs to their
  • by Lev13than (581686) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:03PM (#14619721) Homepage
    Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit... creating human-animal hybrids

    I suspect that Bush is pissed because this all hits just a little too close to home [boomersfunnies.com].
  • by dr_dank (472072) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:03PM (#14619722) Homepage Journal
    creating human-animal hybrids

    Wiretaps, schwiretaps, HE'S GOING TO BAN FURRIES.

    Thank you, Mr. President.

  • by FortKnox (169099) * on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:03PM (#14619732) Homepage Journal
    Its not an article about the state of the union... its straight out poking fun of it. Granted, I know that slashdot is biased (far from), but don't be surprised to see pudge (editor and slashdot code guy) come in and start fighting back.

    Me? I won't claim a side, just put on my asbestos suit and enjoy my charred marshmallow.
  • So? What about Mars? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sebastopol (189276) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:04PM (#14619738) Homepage
    Yeah, and Bush also wants to go to Mars.

    Just cause he says it, doesn't mean it'll happen.

    Too many Republicans oppose is extremist views on science. And those that don't will someday get a disease that has a potential cure in hybrid/cloning studies, and will then oppose the agenda.

    Not panicked, yet.

    This won't be the first warning sign. Once RvW starts to bend, THEN it is time to panic.

  • The President said "egregious"? I don't buy it...
  • by stubear (130454) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:06PM (#14619769)
    ...but I find it rather hypocritical when many slashbots trash corporations for creating genetically modified foods yet they see absolutely no problem creating genetically modified people. Either genetic modification is OK or it isn't, do we really need decisions made on the basis of how much you hate someone?
    • by raygundan (16760) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:14PM (#14619875) Homepage
      If you have examples of the same people making both arguments, you have a point. Otherwise, just chalk it up to the fact that a bazillion people post here, and it's likely there are a lot of people on both sides of the issue. "Slashdot" is not a guy with two sets of opinions that contradict, it's a lot of people with their own opinions in one place.

      I'm not opposed to GM anything. I do, however, wish we'd spend a little more time testing things out before deploying them on a large scale, and a little less time suing farmers whose crops accidentally cross-pollinated with a patented GM species next door.
    • This is slashdot. Why we didn't invent the double standard, we did manage to patent it!

      Let me clue you in. Microsoft, Corporations and Bush are Evil(tm). Keep that simple fact in mind and you will be able to easily understand the apparent contradictions in the Slashdot psyche. Genetically altered foods are bad because Evil(tm) Agribusiness Corporations are behind it. Genetically altered humans are good because Evil(tm) Bush doesn't want them. See, it's simple!
      • by foreverdisillusioned (763799) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @10:13PM (#14622840) Journal
        There's a wider variety of opinion on Slashdot than virtually any other webforum I've frequented.

        That said, there is a HUGE difference between the genetically modified crops industry and genetic medical research. Very very very few slashdotters oppose GM crops in principle. Only a science-fearing luddite would be against such a thing. HOWEVER, if you take a good look at what's happened with companies like Monsanto, you'll see why many slashdotters are against GM food companies. Monsanto makes GM seeds, farmer A plants them, next door farmer B's fields get contaminated with GM seeds deposited by animals, Monsanto successfully sues farmer B for patent infringment. I think a lot of geeks around here are against patenting genes, especially the ones who are against computer code patents. Few here object to Bush's stance against patenting human embryos. Short-term (e.g. 14 years or less) copyright, sure, but patenting code, be it genetic or computer, is just messed up. On top of this, Monsanto has developed GM seeds with terminator genes and while they have yet to put these seeds on the market, it could lead to many small-time farmers being put out of business in addition to rising food prices. It might even affect the evironment quite drastically if cross-pollinated plants turn out to be sterile or stunted.

        A lot of geeks here loved it when Bush made the declaration that we were going to Mars (though they were very rightly skeptical.) A lot of geeks here love corporations like Apple, Novel, Red Hat, even IBM. I'm all for fighting groupthink, but that doesn't mean exaggerating or inventing groupthink where none exists.

        Stop modding this shit up! It's just not true.
    • by radtea (464814) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:39PM (#14620182)
      ...but I find it rather hypocritical when many slashbots trash corporations for creating genetically modified foods yet they see absolutely no problem creating genetically modified people. Either genetic modification is OK or it isn't,

      "Genetic modification" is an abstract term. It covers a vast range of disparate concretes.

      "Killing people" is an abstract term too, and most of us recognize there are situations were killing people is ok and situations where it is not. A lot of people would find the following amazingly shallow: "I find it rather hypocritical when many slashbots trash murderers for killing people yet they see absolutely no problem with soldiers killing people. Either killing people is ok or it isn't."

      There are, of course, some who take such a black-and-white stand on killing. But most mature individuals recognize that not all killing is the same--even some of the more extreme pacifists will admit that killing in self-defense as a last resort is justified.

      So it is with genetic modification. My own critique of GMOs is simply based on the certainty that the genes will get loose. The issue with Monstanto et al is not that they are genetically modifying organisms, but that they are willfully releasing those organisms into the environment, where their modified genes (particularly the Terminator) will certainly do great damage to innocent people by reducing their yields. This is evil, pure and simple.

      Genetic modification of lab animals for medical research is a different situation entirely. Far from being flung willy-nilly into the common environment they are kept very carefully isolated. There is some risk they will get lose, but their numbers are fantastically small compared to crop plants, and the risk of harm coming to innocent people from them is nil in the ordinary sense of the term.

      So it is possible to be in favour of GMOs for medical research and against GMOs for agriculture, because "GMO" is an abstract term that covers things almost completely unlike each other in every respect. Just as knowing that something is an apple tells you nothing about whether it is good to eat (is it rotten? crab? poisoned?) so knowing that someone is creating GMOs tells you nothing about whether they are doing good or evil.

    • by dR.fuZZo (187666) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:55PM (#14620388)

      ...but I find it rather hypocritical when many slashbots trash corporations for creating genetically modified foods yet they see absolutely no problem creating genetically modified people. Either genetic modification is OK or it isn't, do we really need decisions made on the basis of how much you hate someone?

      If you genetically modify, say, corn and plant it in a field, if your modifications have some unforeseen consequences, you could have already cross-pollenated a huge area before you could do anything about it.

      If you genetically modify a person, the short term consequences are that you screwed up one person. It would be 20 years before you have to start worrying about the tainting of the entire gene pool.

  • One would hope... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sexyrexy (793497) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:09PM (#14619810)
    One would hope that Bush's statements on scientific advances prove that he is not anti-science, no more than pro-lifers are anti-women. It is silly (though convenient) to label someone with whom you disagree as evil - it doesn't make sense that any President would actively work to thwart something like scientific progress in general. It DOES make sense that a President would try to do what's best for the country, and that is where the disagreement lies.
     
      Rather than saying "I am for progress and Bush is against it because I am Good and he is Bad", try to understand why his position is what it is - you just might discover that there are intelligent arguments on all sides of the table.
    • by Whammy666 (589169) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:24PM (#14619995) Homepage
      It's well documented that Bush's anti-science stance is quite real. Bush has been critisized by virtually every scientific discipline for his interferrence with basic scientific research. Unlike those trained in the scientific method, Bush draws his conclusions first, then cherry picks or suppresses any research that supports/challenges his predrawn conclusions. Not only does this represent a poor understanding of the scientific method, it's any incredibly stupid way to form public policy.
    • by copponex (13876) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:06PM (#14620518) Homepage
      Obviously God does not want us to mess with genes or embryos. Even though I have no religous documentation to back this up, it's what I think, so let's just go with it, okay?

      PS: That whole "THOU SHALT NOT KILL" thing doesn't apply to fighting for natural resources or the march of freedom. Uh, because that's also what I think. Ain't it amazing how often God agrees with me?
    • by NMerriam (15122)
      try to understand why his position is what it is - you just might discover that there are intelligent arguments on all sides of the table.

      Yeah, except the problem is that his position is based on theology, not intelligence or thought. It's one thing to be opposed to scientific research because of potential complications, and working to address those very real issues -- it's another to outright ban entire realms of research because you think they go against what God intends.

      it doesn't make sense that any Pre
  • by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:09PM (#14619811) Homepage
    It bears mentioning in mind that virtually all of our nation's supply of insulin is generated by human-animal hybrids.

    While I doubt that the President's intent is to stop the manufacture of human insulin, I can't help but notice that legislators are historically bad at crafting good legislation on complex scientific subjects. Here's hoping the whole human-animal hybrid thing has the legs of the "stop steroids in baseball" and "manned mission to Mars" schticks he's thrown out in past State of the Union addresses...

  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris.beau@org> on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:12PM (#14619855)
    Put aside your hatred of Bush and judge on the merits. No, I don't agree with the position but it is a defendable position ethically. And there is a lot there I can agree with.

    A ban on the "buying, selling or patenting human embryos" should be fairly universally acceptable, especially the bit about no patenting here amongst the slashdot hordes.

    A ban on "creating human-animal hybrids" is more debatable but we damn sure better get a line drawn somewhere and we better do it fast or science is going to race out ahead of ethics and make one hell of a mess for someone to clean up.

    And that leaves his call for a ban on "human cloning in all its forms, creating or implanting embryos for experiments" which is where most of slashdot parts company. Fine, lets have it out in Congress, again so some boundraries can be drawn up. And you liberals had better actually pass a bill this time because if you leave it to the courts like you did with abortion you will really get burned because of the shift in the Supremes. So lets actually debate it and come to a political decision we might all be able to live with this time.

    Personally I'd like to see medical science be able to use some super advanced cloning tech to make me new spare parts from my own DNA so I wouldn't take immune supression drugs for life if I ever needed a transplant. But I don't really like the thought of creating and killing millions/billions of things that are/maybe/might be/could have been/sorta/etc humans to get there. I suspect a lot of folks are caught in that halfway position.
    • And you liberals had better actually pass a bill this time because if you leave it to the courts like you did with abortion you will really get burned because of the shift in the Supremes. So lets actually debate it and come to a political decision we might all be able to live with this time.

      Preparing for some doomsday scenario involving an invasion of giant cloned mice-men is hardly at the top of the list of liberal legislative priorities.

      The 'liberals'/pre-1980 moderates already have their hands full att
      • > Preparing for some doomsday scenario involving an invasion of giant cloned mice-men is
        > hardly at the top of the list of liberal legislative priorities.

        That isn't the fear. The fear is a pig/chimp/dog/etc with enough human DNA to become sentient. Imagine the social chaos that is going to erupt when a pig/human at a research lab scrawls "NO KILL I"* on the floor of it's stall. Wouldn't it be a lot better to think that problem out ahead of time and either agree to limits to ensure it NEVER EVER hap
    • A ban on "creating human-animal hybrids" is more debatable but we damn sure better get a line drawn somewhere and we better do it fast or science is going to race out ahead of ethics and make one hell of a mess for someone to clean up.

      I would be happier if Bush concentrated on cleaning up the mess he has already created in Iraq with the war and America with the deficit, rather than making noises about cleaning up an entirely hypothetical mess in an area where a great deal of good and important medical resea
    • I missed where buying and selling of embryos is bad. There will be supply and demand for such scientific items, and remuneration when such property transfers ownership. Organs are sold right now, though it's not called that. It's merely a fee for the cost of the service of human organ transfer, but it's no different than any other raw material with a zero material cost and a high man-hour / processing equipement cost. Call me cynical, but there are real costs associated. If there is no remuneration, resea
    • This probably wont be the most popular position but human DNA and embryo's are abundant to the point they have basically no value. You could buy, sell and destroy them with abandon and it is a trivial to make more. A woman can churn them out about once a month and a man can provide his component about once an hour. There is absolutely nothing sacred about it.

      The sacred component comes from time and care invested. By the time a woman has invested nine months in a human embryo it has a lot of value in it.
    • I agree, it is not an ignorant position. It is a well crafted and very wrong position designed to give Bush a talking point that the uneducated or uninterested will not strongly oppose, while people who have a clue about science will be very angry and vocal about. This gives Bush a way to frame a debate he does not care about at all in such a way that his opponents waste a lot of time fighting an uphill battle educating people and to stop him from stopping scientific progress.

      A ban on the "buying, selling

    • Put aside your hatred of Bush and judge on the merits. I don't agree with the position but it is a defendable position ethically.

      Bush's position is compatible with some people's moral values and incompatible with other people's moral values. Putting aside a hatred of Bush does not suddenly change a person's moral values such that those values are compatible with Bush's opinion.

      And there is a lot there I can agree with.

      Well, there is a lot there that I disagree with. Let's have a look at the actual quote:

  • Ethics of genetics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann.slash ... m ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:16PM (#14619890) Homepage Journal
    Maybe you guys disagree with Bush's proposal. But HOW would you change it? What would you remove?

    Is it valid to sell or buy a human embryo? To clone embryos? To make human-animal hybrids?

    As with all controversial issues, it's not possible to please everybody. So I'd like to ask slashdot what parts they agree and disagree with, and why.
    • by Bob3141592 (225638) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:01PM (#14620448) Homepage
      Maybe you guys disagree with Bush's proposal. But HOW would you change it? What would you remove? Is it valid to sell or buy a human embryo? To clone embryos? To make human-animal hybrids? As with all controversial issues, it's not possible to please everybody. So I'd like to ask slashdot what parts they agree and disagree with, and why.

      The debate is premature unless we have a clear and reliable definition of what human life and personhood is. That's not as easy as it sounds, as it has to include everything that should be included and exclude everything that should be excluded. Is it legal for a parent to allow a child to starve to death or is it murder (easy one there)? But is it legal to remove the feeding tube from an anechpalitic baby, or not to provide the tube in the first place? What about cases like Terry Schiavo? At the point they removed her feeding tube, did she have all the legal rights and privilidges and obligations of a human person? What about charging for IVF? What about destroying fertilized ovums? How damaged does the ovum have to be before this is considered murder? What about bone marrow transplants if the stem cells it contains could be manipulated into becomming a person?

      Want to declare all abortion illegal from the moment of conception? Then how can you avoid charging a pregnant woman who miscarries with (at least) involuntary manslaughter?

      What's a human animal hybrid? Pigs chanting "Are we not men?" (Does anyone else find it ironic that Bush takes his cues from Animal Farm but not 1984?) How about goats with human genes to produce immune hormones in their milk? Where's the line? Want to make a law about it, and the line has to be drawn clearly and not in the sand.

      Unless we decide, not just philosophically but legally, what it means to be a human, to think and feel and live as a human being does, there's no way to decide these issues.

      Personally, I suggest that humanity resides in the brain. Life isn't defined just by a beating heart, or just by breathing. Those old methods of deciding when someone was alive and when they were dead didn't work well, and can't always be applied to featuses or people undergoing cardiac surgery. Id like to see some definitive evaluation of brain function based on remote fMRI studies. Before that point, a fetus isn't a real human being and so abortion isn't taking a human life. After that point, maybe restrictions on abortion would be defensible. If a patient is brain damaged and can't maintain that level of organized neural activity, then that person is brain dead, or more simply dead. Where exactly to set that point, unambiguously and as an absolute dividing line? I don't know, but then, I Am Not A Doctor.

      Research on human tissue lacking that intrinsic humanity is acceptable, but manipulating people for research isn't. Find a way to direct a blastocyte to develop mature liver cells without developing the neurological capacity or humanity, and I don't have a problem with it. Why should I? It doesn't bother me if fibroid tumors are excised and treated as trash. Any other hunk of meat without the capacity to think and feel as a human doesn't get any more consideration.

      What's remarkable is that the religious right and the policicians who cater to them take such an unbiblical view of these issues. According to the Holy Word of God, personhod is established by breath. The Bible explicitely excludes causing the death of a fetus from the "life for life" punishment system. A man who assaults a pregnant woman and destroys the fetus, as long as no other injury to the woman ensues, at most pays a fine. Therefore the fetus is not a human life. But what the Bible says God wants has nothing to do with how the religious pursue political power.

      Okay, now, as Johnny says, "Flame On!"
  • once upon a time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <erauqssemitelcric>> on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:17PM (#14619908) Homepage Journal
    china enjoyed a heyday of invention: paper, fireworks, pasta, etc., while europe languished

    later, before columbus, a chinese explorer, chen ho, was said to have discovered america... chinese officials burned his boats when he got back. were it not for this governmental backwardness, perhaps i would not be living in new york city with it's famous chinatown, perhaps i would be living in new szechuan city with it's famous europetown

    after that ignomity, china continued to languish while europeans made massive strides in exploration and scientific discovery and invention, culminating in china's humiliation in the 1800s at the hands of european powers (the opium wars and the concession of hong kong, for example)

    so obviously, with such backwards, luddite, anti-scientific thinking now on the lips of the west's most powerful leader, it seems we have a signal that it is china's turn once again (along with korea and japan) to pick up the reigns and lead humanity in the next era of scientific discovery and space exploration, while the west drowns itself in religious fundamentalist simplemindedness

    maybe some centuries/ decades from now, the west will be humiliated by the east's wealth and knowledge, and be encouraged to pick up the reigns again, but for now, i see a changing of the guard in the world today in terms of scientific leadership and discovery

    the east is beginnig to eclipse the west

    and, as an american, that such idiocy and ignorance should be on the us president's lips, i am only deeply ashamed
    • by line-bundle (235965) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:06PM (#14620517) Homepage Journal
      A bummer that Africa never gets a turn.
    • by tacokill (531275)
      "the east is beginnig to eclipse the west"

      Are you kidding?

      Nature just published an article that touches on what you say in your post. I don't think you have a solid grasp of what is ACTUALLY happening. Take a look...

      This article [nature.com] seems to suggest that, not only are you wrong, but the countries you cite (China, India and "the east") are actually at the BOTTOM of the scales in terms of scientific output. Now, you can argue that it's an American publication/study (and you may have a point) -- but I
  • by ErichTheRed (39327) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:17PM (#14619920)
    Don't forget that for every scientific, ones and zeros, logical, "scientific truth is the only answer" person out there, there's several thousand religious people who don't like science. How so many people can believe in something that has no proof, no explanation and no evidence baffles me, but they're welcome to their opinion. Until I'm proven wrong, however, I'm sticking with the evidence to the contrary.

    No matter what you believe, things have really turned against the scientific community lately. The religious people out there now have enough people in power to push what they want through for quite some time to come. I guarantee it's not going to be the US who finishes solving the stem cell puzzle. Putting another conservative judge on the supreme court didn't help either.

    On the other hand, there's this. Every time I get mad at people and wish they'd listen to reason, I remember what the communist states did to suppress religion, and how it didn't work. Replacing someone's core beliefs with unquestioning loyalty to the state is obviously the wrong way to go forward. You need an open society to prevent collapse. However, how do you move society forward while letting those who hold progress back believe what they want?
  • rough subject (Score:3, Insightful)

    by apocalypse76 (254086) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:29PM (#14620062) Homepage
    I think what Bush was trying to say is there's a fine line between doing genetic research that's good for society. And doing genetic research that's destructive to society because it has a possibilty of cheapening life.

    Think about the implications of both scenarios for a min. In one way we find amazing life saving drugs, and in another we become slaves because life doesn't matter anymore. Yes, that is extreme in both ways but look at the way most people here are reacting to his speech.

    Problem is I don't trust all scientists enough to let them do unlimited research. I also don't trust congress to lay down sane laws that govern the science research. Mainly because who knows what is right or wrong in this situation? The science behind genetics is still relatively new. It should not be strictly goverened by heavy handed laws that are laid out without some serious considerations of thier implications.

  • Wha? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rooked_One (591287) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:35PM (#14620128) Journal
    creating or implanting embryos for experiments

    This just makes me wonder how many people vote for the right, but then get embryo transplants when they can't have a kid. I mean, that IS an experiement, becuase you do not know if it will work. *sigh* (I voted nader or something like that ;) )

    • Re:Wha? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by smellsofbikes (890263)
      Pfft, there are LOTS of people who are against everyone else getting to do what they personally do on a regular basis. It isn't just liberals whose underage, knocked-up daughters are getting abortions and whose short sons are getting illegal growth hormone injections. Think about speeding: I think most people are in favor of some sort of speed limit, and most of them speed. It's quite rational to want everyone else to have to obey laws and live under restrictions that you don't have to, coz it helps your
  • by NorbrookC (674063) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @04:45PM (#14620255) Journal

    What he just proposed amounts to the banning of all human stem cell research in this country. This is a step back from even his previous allowance of certain stem cell lines.

    Even more than that, the broad outlines if implemented specifically will outlaw virtually all human genetic research. Transgenic animals have enabled us to examine human disease conditions in detail, and methods of treatment.

    This is typical pandering to the right-wing of his party, without consideration of either the ethical, legal, and even moral implications of his broad-based statement. I predict that over the next few weeks we'll see a host of officials on talk shows doing the "What he really meant was ..."

    I'm still reading through the trancript. I try not to watch it live - I get too annoyed with the scripted "standing ovation" moments.

    I have to admit wondering about his new energy program - I mean, really, wasn't it over 30 years ago that yet another Republican president promised the same thing?

  • by Baldrson (78598) * on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:27PM (#14620742) Homepage Journal
    As someone who has done his share of technology [geocities.com] policy [geocities.com] politics [geocities.com], I can tell you that Congress and the government needs to be limited to issuing prize [geocities.com] awards [wired.com] for achievement of objectively defined milestones. Picking winners is bad enough in industrial policy but when you get Congress handing out money even indirectly through "top men" in grants for proposals, it is way too fraught with potential for institutionalizing the "search [google.com]" for solutions rather than the achievement [geocities.com] of solutions.

    Make up lots of objective goals and make the prize awards really big because you can afford to since you're paying for results rather than mere proposals to achieve results.

    Making the real achievers of objective goals rich beyond their wildest dreams will lead to far more effective R&D spending of those dollars than will handing them over to life-time bureaucrats.

    PS: A big problem is exemplified by a USA Today article about prize awards for technical achievement [usatoday.com]

    Last June, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation put an exclamation point after "grand challenge" when it announced one of the richest in history. The Grand Challenges for Global Health pledged $436.6 million (including $31.6 million from British and Canadian sources) toward solving some of the world's worst health problems. Preliminary funds have been granted to 43 groups attacking 14 challenges.
    Why is it that no one can see how much of an obscene mockery this use of the term "grand challenge" is?

    The fact that no one understands the difference between awarding a prize for achieving X vs awarding a grant for a proposal for achieving X is illustrative of why technology policy fails miserably generation after generation.

  • by ta ma de (851887) <chris@erik@barnes.gmail@com> on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:30PM (#14620767)
    His statment suggest that science can clearly delinate between human and non-human DNA. For example suppose I want to use AGTTCCCAGGTTC from a human and stick it in a silkworm to make fake hair for a wig. Suppose that same DNA set is found in monkey's too. Is it a human/silkworm hybrid or a monkey/silkworm hybrid?

    Where human begins and ends is a fairly small subset of the genes which many animals share.

    this was just a silly example please don't parse the technical issues ... I put as much thought into this as Bush ... well maybe a little more.

  • Ban Twins!! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by An Ominous Cow Erred (28892) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @06:06PM (#14621200)
    The president says we should ban cloning in *all its forms*! Let's start by banning the oldest form of cloning -- identical twins!

    Because obviously a human with the same genetic makeup has the same soul, thus leading to one clone never knowing if they're "real" or not! (Or is it a soulless evil, husk? I'm never quite sure what the Luddites believe.)
  • by msbsod (574856) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @06:44PM (#14621513)
    Some people like to argue that the current administration is actually increasing funding for research, something in the order of billions of dollars. True, missions like the one to Mars, which may not be feasible, do get more attention. Now, let me illustrate what effect the actual decrease of funding in nuclear research has on science. Last year, Dr. Christoph Leemann [jlab.org], Director of the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (JLab [jlab.org]) sent a clear message [jlab.org] (read it!) to all staff and users at JLab. This is alarming! For most people outside the scientific community it is probably hard to imagine what the loss of 45 jobs at JLab means. The situation at other labs, such as the Brookhaven National Laboratory [bnl.gov] is very similar, if not worse. Let me assure you that this cut has serious consequences for a lot of people at many research labs and universities in the US. We will see how this changes education in the US.
    There is more information available at the APS Public Affairs [aps.org] web site.
  • by RecycledElectrons (695206) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @06:57PM (#14621624)
    I'm a type 1 diabetic. I have given up on a cure in my lifetime because of the fundamentalist rants that have changed the research culture that was, once, 18 months from a cure for type 1 diabetes. We will now never see a cure in my lifetime.

    The reasoning of these fundamentalists is this: abortion is endangered, so it must be said to lead to something good. Therefore, they claim that embryonic stem cells are a cure-all. These fundamentalists find it trivial to ignore the fact that EVERY human who ever received an injection of embryonic stem cells had terminal cancer 18 months later resulting from the injection. These fundamentalists also find it trivial to ignore the miracle cures arising from adult (e.g., bone marrow & cord blood) stem cells.

    Who are there fundamentalists? I would like to indict, on capital charges:
    (1) The American News Media, who talk about cures from "stem cells" when they mean adult stem cells, and then talk about a ban on research using "stem cells" when they mean embryonic stem cells. They know the difference, but they lie and kill diabetics.
    (2) The American Congress, who take about cures from "stem cells" when they mean adult stem cells, and then talk about a ban on research using "stem cells" when they mean embryonic stem cells. They know the difference, but they lie and kill diabetics.
    (3) The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which is run by genocidal left-wing nuts. They monopolized all research money intended to find a cure for type 1 diabetes, and now refuse to let one dime go to finding any possible cure that does not involve the known-fatal embryonic stem cells. They know better, but they lie and kill diabetics.

    Andy Out!

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