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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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  • So? What about Mars? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sebastopol (189276) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:04PM (#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.

  • Ethics of genetics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann.slash ... Hl.com minus cat> on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:16PM (#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.
  • Re:One would hope... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by OwnedByTwoCats (124103) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:19PM (#14619938)
    Bush is anti-science.

    Anti-abortionists are anti-women.

    It doesn't make sense that a President would actively work to thwart something like scientific progress in general, but that is what the President and much of the Republican party have been about for the last 25 years.

    I don't care why flat-earthers are flat-earthers. I know enough to know that they are in loonie-land. The same for the consuming-tobacco-doesn't-cause-cancer brigade. And the holocaust-revisionists. And the pi-equals-3-ists. And the creationists and IDists. They are all dedicated to opposing reality.

    One gets tired of listening to the endless repetition of the same old lies.
  • by SewersOfRivendell (646620) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:29PM (#14620063)
    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 attempting to save the remains of the Consitution from the wreckage of the rabid religious fundies of the Shrub dynasty, not to mention staving off a shrill and increasingly hostile-to-common-sense corporate consolidated media borg.

    So, since you care so much about it, and are oh-so-medically-ethical, maybe you'd like to take charge of the effort to define that particular line. How about it?
  • Re:One would hope... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:32PM (#14620097)
    One would hope that Bush's statements on scientific advances prove that he is not anti-science

    It proves that he's a fucking idiot. Where am I supposed to get my insulin, once he's banned the human-bacteria hybrid that produces it [wikipedia.org]? You'd think that if you're going to go stand up and stutter out a big speech you might have someone actually check it over to make sure it doesn't sound like you have absolutely no touch with reality.

    Maybe if he listened more to some real scientists and less to the voices in his head, we might start to look at him as less "anti-science".
  • Wha? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rooked_One (591287) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:35PM (#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 ;) )

  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@nOsPAm.beau.org> on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:38PM (#14620173)
    > 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 happens or how we plan to treat them once created?

    * And no I couldn't resist the star trek reference. Same problem in that episode, they assumed the Horta was only an animal but it wasn't.
  • by stupidfoo (836212) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:45PM (#14620254)
    Divorce rate stats are fun to play with. Here's another way of looking at it:

    Roughly 66% of first time marriages last until one, or both, partners die. Thus the 33% who get divorced once are also fairly likely to get divorced a second time.
  • by NorbrookC (674063) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @05:45PM (#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 demachina (71715) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @06:17PM (#14620627)
    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. By the time a family and society has invested another eighteen years in the embryo it has skills, education, experience, friends, family and lovers. At that point it is an extremely valuable thing if properly developed, or in some cases it was a giant waste on a complete loser.

    There is irony that the Republicans and the Christian fundamentalist zealots that support them are COMPLETELY obsessed with every aspect of an embryo that is of little intrinsic value. Most of the eggs a woman produces are destroyed as part of a natural process. The fact one is fertilized by a man's sperm adds only the slightest additional value. Sure there is potential there but thats all it is potential, and you can combine and egg and sperm with minimal effort to regain that potential.

    Now I'm always left wondering how they justify this fanatical obsession with a one month old egg, while at the same time they seem to have gleefully sent 2,200+ young American's, and tens of thousands of Iraqi's to their deaths in a completely optional war. Those young American's had 18+ years invested in them in feeding, nurturing and education. They had friends and families and in most cases had a lot of both intrinsic value and potential. Why is it OK to get them killed and maimed while we obsess over destruction of an embryo that had a about a month of very little effort invested in it.
  • because... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by c6gunner (950153) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @06:33PM (#14620809)
    See, Jews, despite what the palestinians would have you think, DO have fully developed brains.

    Wether the subject can feel pain or not is irrelevant. We're talking about self-awareness. An embryo does not have a brain. It can not think. It is not self aware. It is no more human than your sperm, so by your logic we could argue that you commit genocide every time you masturbate. I'd love to see Bush run on THAT platform.

    Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of the human hands....committing mass-murder through self-pleasuring.
  • by wsherman (154283) * on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @06:52PM (#14621056)
    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:

    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
    Human cloning is basically creating an identical twin that is not the same age as the original. Creating and implanting embryos is a routine fertility procedure. Human-animal hybrids would be something like growing a human liver in a pig for a subequent liver transplant. Buying selling and patenting human embryos is an economic question. By my standards there are much more egregious abuses of medical research than these activities. In particular, these areas of medical research do not necessitate severe suffering by the research subjects and the knowledge generated by these areas of research is not particularly likely to be used to cause severe suffering.

    If Bush wanted to take a stand against animal (or human) testing that resulted in severe suffering of research subjects or if Bush wanted to take a stand against research designed to develop pathogens capable of causing massive epidemics or if Bush wanted to take a stand against pharmaceutical companies that twist the results of scientitific studies to hide the dangerous side effects of their drugs, then he could use phrases like "egregious abuse" but, as it is, about all that's justified is a call for the same level of oversight that other areas of medical research receive.

  • by Big_Al_B (743369) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @07:05PM (#14621186)
  • by tommyhj (944468) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @08:11PM (#14621732)
    The human embryo indeed has a very developed central nervous system that transmits pain and causes the embryo to react to the pain as per reflex. Whether the pain is percieved by any kind of consciousness is at debate here. I haven't in my short medical career (I'm half through med school) heard of anyone boasting to know when consciousness and ability to percieve cognitively arises in the human embryo/child. Without consciousness (prerequisit for pain transmission to perception centers in the nervous system) or ability to percieve cognitively (prerequisit for the pain to actually be felt by anyone), there cannot be perception of pain. So when can the embryo/child feel pain? Does a tree feel pain when I burn it? Does a computer feel pain if I program it to scream when I hit it? Does a singlecell organism feel pain when eaten by your immune system? Does an ant feel pain when stamped upon? If you say that an embryo feels pain - then you have to accept all the above statements as true also... How much conscoiusness and cognitive ability does it take for an organism to be able to percieve pain, and afterwards as an individual, to actually feel it hurting? Can an ant do that? Does it have mental capabilities to cognitively percieve that someone is hurting it, or is it just a few nerves that trigger a reflex? I'd say the latter, but if some people by their beliefs think that God almighty gave the ant the ability to think "auch, you rotten bastard!" about the Evil Big Shoe, so be it. I can't change your beliefs, nor should I.
  • Re:Pretty much. :) (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gfxguy (98788) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @08:18PM (#14621790)
    Then it's widely accepted that stupid (unintelligent) humans are not "persons". So can we bring eugenics back?

    The problem is that some things simply are subjective... there are certainly absolutes (i.e. "when a baby is born, living and breathing, it's a person" and "an unfertalized egg, or a single sperm, isn't a person"), but there is subjectivety in between.

    To be fair, I agree with your middle paragraph, and I'm not just trying to bait you, but it is subjective and based on a "current" viewpoint. For example, those fully pro-choice (up to time of birth) call the being inside the womb a "fetus" until it's actually born, then it's a baby and it's "life". However, and at the same time, when someone like pregnant Lacy Perterson is killed, everyone wants it to be considered a double homicide.

    So is it a person, then, if the parents want it to become a baby, and "just" an embryo if they don't?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @08:48PM (#14621981)
    Athiests will never betray the concept of the seperation of Church and State.

    What if they force people not to practice religion?

    Athiests will never make policy based on the precepts of a particular faith.

    Not all Atheists are rational. They just don't believe in God. An Atheist could believe that ghost pirates are real and he enacts legislation based on stopping ghost pirates from invading.

    Athiests will never favour the moral code of one small group over their multitude of neighbours because they attend the same church.

    So whose moral code do they favour, then? That of the majority? Is that better? If "fundies" favour miniority morals, then why are they elected by the majority?

    An atheist believes life is very precious because when you die, it's over.

    Not necessarily. Atheists might believe life sucks because there is no God. All being an Atheist means is you don't believe in God.

    Some religious fundies are a little freer with human life because the afterlife is so much better if you're good, and if it isn't you deserved it anyway.

    Sure, some are. Don't put them in power, please. But don't discriminate against religious people because some of their members give them a bad name.
  • by T3hFish (943693) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @10:53PM (#14622720)
    The problem with that kind of thinking is that it snowballs. Every sperm and egg (even unfertilized) has the potential to be a sentient being. By your argument you need to save every single sperm and egg! This seems neither morally right nor possible.

    Another thing: If Christians think that a human has rights and is alive at conception, then why do they celebrate birthdays? Why not conception days?
  • by r00t (33219) on Thursday February 02, 2006 @12:11AM (#14623129) Journal
    Consider healthcare. Both said all the lovely things about caring for the American people. Both don't give a damn. Bush supports insurance companies. Kerry supports trial lawyers.

    Well. As a suffering human, which jerk will screw me over the worst?

    I don't really care about the insurance companies. Their costs may go up or down. They pass that on to me because I'll pick the insurance company that looks like the best deal. I could live with high-cost high-payout insurance or low-cost low-payout insurance.

    I do really care about the trial lawyers, in a very negative way. They are to a great extent responsible for excess medical tests and intervention. For example, Caesarean births were uncommon until some asshole lawyer made a career out of getting massive jury awards from doctors that didn't perform the risky procedure and ended up with a damaged baby. (the jury is a sucker for a damaged baby, and they don't really consider all the Caesarean-related risks) Medical insurance is expensive in part because doctors are paying insanely high malpractice insurance, again because of the damn trial lawyers.

    OK, so I vote Bush while trying not to vomit. :-(

    It's like that on a lot of other issues too.
  • by dscowboy (224532) <drugstore.cowboy@gte.net> on Thursday February 02, 2006 @05:34AM (#14624180)
    You make good arguments, and to some degree, I accept them. However I would guess that you are male, only because you didn't really address the other side of the issue: the rights of the mother. See, the question is not exactly "should we kill fetuses?", it's more a question of "how do we value the rights of the fetus in relation to the rights of the mother?"

    A fetus is in nearly every sense a parasite. It grows into the uterine lining and 'hijacks' the mother's blood vessels. But a mother's body typically will not reject this parasite on its own, for obvious reasons. What rights does a woman have to control her own body, with the assistance of doctors?

    Rarely do I see people offer any good policy suggestions in response to the abortion problem, they're either for full criminalization or full legalization. But the spectrum of possibility is far more diverse than that. Here's my suggestion: every abortion request should go before a judge. Abortion judges should be required to abide by a minimum federal list of standards for allowing abortion, including health of the mother, cases of non-consensual sex/fertilization, or the stupidity of a minor. Beyond that, locality-specific standards should apply. I personally don't think adult irresponsibility should ever lead to an abortion. Make the mother have the child, then if she still doesn't want it, give the child state-funded care and make the mother and father pay for it. (Requires DNA test at time of birth, which I think all children should have anyway, if only to shut down the Murray Show).

    But honestly, despite being a blue voter all the way, I don't think the federal government has the authority to guarantee or deny abortion rights to cases not involving health of the mother, non-consensuality or minors. I think beyond that, each abortion request needs to be considered on its own merits by local magistrates.

    Also, cases should be kept secret if the mother requests that. Nobody should be discouraged from requesting an abortion through fear of exposure/retribution. And people should have the option to 'order' their child mandatory, implanted birth control. Judges should also be able to order mandatory contraception in extreme cases, or when the mother/father simply don't have the income to provide for more children.

    Now looking at my opinions as a whole, I would say they are expressly pro-life and almost guaranteed to reduce unnessecary abortions. But the funny thing is, the real 'pro-life' nuts out there would hate these ideas, because the foundation of their anti-abortion ideas are actually anti-sex ideas. They see abortion as a way of 'cheating' God's design for sex, a way of avoiding the consequences and they think of contraception in the same way. You can always tell the real nuts because they're the ones telling poor people NOT to use condoms. *roll eyes*

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