Chicago Boyz

                 
 
 
What Are Chicago Boyz Readers Reading?
 

 
  •   Enter your email to be notified of new posts:
    Loading
  •   Problem? Question?
  •   Contact Authors:

  • CB Twitter Feed
  • Blog Posts (RSS 2.0)
  • Blog Posts (Atom 0.3)
  • Incoming Links
  • Recent Comments

    • Loading...
  • Authors

  • Notable Discussions

  • Recent Posts

  • Blogroll

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Finally, a reason to vote against Bush

    Posted by ken on October 23rd, 2004 (All posts by )

    that can be taken seriously – that isn’t either a blatant distortion (Iraq is a disaster!), a reason to vote for Bush (he’s going to reduce Social Security benefits! He’s going to go to war against Iran!), or a failing that Kerry would magnify if he got the chance (he spends too damn much money!)

    Apparently, the current administration is pushing for a UN convention intended to ban all forms of cloning worldwide. (Another link here; Kleiman’s post has a link to a Financial Times article that requires registration and payment)

    This is absolutely insane. To protect organisms that cannot possibly be people, that don’t even have the most rudimentary brains that are the first and most basic requirement for sentient life, the Administration is advocating that all of humanity be forbidden to investigate or use techniques that may lead to the possibility of transplanting your own matching organs or even replacing your entire body, and show an exciting prospect for one day finally eliminating the dreaded, agonizing, degenerative disease that has plagued every last generation of humanity since the very beginning of the race, perhaps in time to save you from certain death.

    To be sure, the UN has no power to actually enforce such a prohibition, and the US Congress declined to enact one on its own and would probably continue to do so even if the UN asked it to. But how much needed and useful investment would go on in this country in the presence of an Administration that openly advocates criminalizing the fruit of such long and expensive labors?

    If only his opponent, and his entire party, weren’t so openly hostile to the very idea of market forces being allowed to produce technological improvements, price reduction, and increased supply in the medical field, and in favor of “solving” the problems caused by ill-advised interventions in the marketplace by adding more interventions.

    If only his opposition wasn’t so disdainful of the very possibility of bringing some measure of liberty and democracy to places that knew only oppression and jihad, or so committed to the notion that the introduction of free-market capitalism is a provocation that enrages the locals and understandably makes them turn into jihadis and plot revenge against such outrageous injury.

    Damn, I’m really beginning to hate this election.

    (Update: Maybe Bush is pushing for UN action because it has little practical effect, while allowing him to pretend to take positive action against the evils of cloning and stem-cell research. If we grant that assumption, this move goes into the “reasons to vote for Bush” column. But I don’t know if that explanation makes sense. What do y’all think?)

     

    23 Responses to “Finally, a reason to vote against Bush”

    1. Lex Says:

      You presume that sentience = humanity.

      A lot of people draw the line in other places.

      Comatose people are human. Senile people are human.

      I don’t say this to get you to change your mind. You won’t. I only offer to show that other positions are not obviously foolish.

      More pertinently, do you really think that any action taken by the UN is of much value? Do you really think that laboratory science is going to be thwarted in any significant way by this action? If the United States tries to do this, it will be a political issue. As it should be. What a human being is, when that person has rights inhering, etc. are political and legal questions.

      But for now, even if this is a big deal to you, on the margin, do you really think that over all you would be better off with Kerry? Add it all up, Ken.

    2. Ken Says:

      No, I can’t go to Kerry, knowing what I know about his ideas, his history, and his favored policies and those of his party. And this fortunately won’t have much practical effect, at least in the short term.

      But over the long term, we’ve got to find a way to fix the “truths” that too many of our leaders hold as self-evident.

      “You presume that sentience = humanity.

      A lot of people draw the line in other places.

      Comatose people are human. Senile people are human. ”

      Yes, but impaired brains are qualitatively different from nonexistent brains. And a dead brain is already (correctly) generally recognized as a dead person.

      If technology permitted you could discard the entire rest of your body besides your brain and replace it all with a new body, and still remain intact as a person. You are your brain; the rest of your body is there to feed it and do its bidding.

      Hey, maybe Bush is pushing for UN action because it won’t have much practical effect, while still allowing him to pretend to be on the “right side” of the cloning issue with some of his potential voters. On that assumption, this would go under the “reasons to vote for Bush” column.

    3. Jonathan Says:

      I would vote for Bush even if I thought Kerry were better on this issue, because I think Bush is better on issues that are more important than this one.

      However, I also think that what the Bush administration is trying to do here is unwise. First of all, we don’t yet know much about the likely direction of cloning research . And second of all, it’s not obvious that the behavior in question is wrong. Or to put it differently: the threat that humans will be grown in order to harvest their body parts is an extreme case, and cloning opponents are using it as a straw man to dismiss other activities that are morally neutral and might be highly beneficial. If we can grow replacement organs in vitro, without taking them from people, without creating embryos, what’s wrong with that? The Bush administration seems to be applying the same kind of cheesy “precautionary principle” thinking — the worst case might happen so don’t do anything — to this issue as the environmentalist Left does to global warming.

      And what’s wrong with reproductive cloning, anyway? It’s just another form of reproduction. I can see objecting to it because cloned humans might suffer a high rate of deaths and deformities until the technology is perfected, but otherwise what’s the problem?

    4. Lex Says:

      These are large issues. Too large for now.

      What is a human being? How do you know? When does it start? Why should anyone else accept my definitions? When do rights inhere in the person? Legally? Morally?

      Behind all this is your sense that the possibility of radical life-extension technology is right around the corner. Which raises the stakes greatly, if it is correct. I haven’t seen anything which makes me believe this. Nor is it an issue which excites me particularly. Nor do I think most people are aware of it as an issue. This adds a high degree of urgency to your argumnents on these points, which I believe most people don’t share, because they don’t share your perception of what is at stake.

    5. Fritz Meyer Says:

      This is nothing more than a right-wing attempt to keep Larry Flynt in his wheelchair!

    6. Ken Says:

      I don’t know about “around the corner”, but if it comes out of the lab, into the marketplace, and into my price range anytime in the next 40 years, my odds of seeing it are about even. And I think that, if we don’t bog down the whole pharmaceutical community in (additional) senseless restrictions, we’ve got a good shot at seeing it well within that time frame.

      In which case the stakes are high indeed, on the order of thousands of years.

      Part of the problem with people’s perception may be that people have grown to expect technological development to be slow. Our hopes of earlier ages that the future would be a long, rapid series of technological miracles in every field have been dashed – we’re still driving groundcars, outer space is still uninhabited, and human still rarely outlive their first century. Those earlier predictions were based on the unstated premise that nothing (other than a nuclear war) could intervene to stop us from continuing to progress – it seemed so self-evident that technological progress was good, so who could possibly want to stop it?

      A couple of things happened on the way to the future. First, a surprising number of people did want to stop technological progress on various grounds. Second, too many of the remaining people got the idea that slapping government controls on everything and having the government hire tons of researchers was the way to get even more rapid progress, or at least to get continued rapid progress without anyone anywhere ever getting hurt. It hasn’t worked out that way – and the only industry left to display the rate of progress that we once expected as a matter of course was an industry that remained remarkably lightly controlled for most of its life, which tells you something about (a) the efficacy of the regulations and (b) the possibile development of every industry if only controls were lifted across the board.

      Including the medical field, which is an extremely target-rich area as far as deregulation is concerned.

      It’s true that most people don’t share my perception of what is at stake or what is even possible, which is why I spend part of my time trying to convince people that this sort of thing is possible, that it can be seen within some of our lifetimes, and that the way to make it happen is to lift controls, not add them. I may not be the best there is in persuasive argument, but I have little choice but to try.

    7. David/California Says:

      Ken,

      I would offer a hypothesis to supplement your analysis. Whatever else the UN is, or isn’t, its resolutions require some of the most complex negotiations on the planet. How else can 1,000’s of “world-class” bureaucrats justify their existence? To oversimplfy, when negotiating with more than 200 autonomous enities, knowing compromise is inevitable, you don’t put the position you’re willing to end up with on the table as your first proposal.

      The Bush Administration has shown itself capable of fairly complex strategic thinking. I wouldn’t automatically assume their initial position in a protracted bargining is their ultimate goal.

    8. Scotus Says:

      Ken, I suggest you (re)read BRAVE NEW WORLD. Perhaps, afterwards, you will at least not think Bush’s policy is “absolutely” insane because Huxley’s classic shows the not unlikely outcome if you are RIGHT about the “promise” of cloning based biotechnology, i.e. happy, peppy, content, long-lived, and totally souless people and a world in which only the “savages” keep the flame of genuine humanity burning weakly. After BRAVE NEW WORLD, you might then turn to the reports issued by the non-partisan President’s Council on Bioethics

      http://www.bioethics.gov/reports/

      especially the reports on cloning and human dignity and biotechnology and the pursuit of happiness.

      You may dismiss all of this as Luddite claptrap if you wish, but, just remember that, during another time when many thought technology would be the salvation of the human race, the people who said the statement “The TITANIC is unsinkable” was nothing but hubris turned out to be right.

    9. Wade Says:

      Scotus – I don’t see how technology resulting in longer/healthier life spans leads to “totally souless people” as depicted in Brave New World. I haven’t read the bioethics report yet, but will.

    10. Scotus Says:

      Wade, the reasons are complex and well covered in the the President’s Council’s report on biotechnology and the pursuit of happiness. Briefly, however, everyone who thinks cloning based techniques will be “successful” also believe it will require the mass production of thousands of human embryos. Such mass production of human life leads to the “commoditization” of human life. Thus, human beings are viewed as products, not persons — products to be improved, like computers, not persons to be respected, even by themselves.

      What’s more, many view suffering and mortality as essential to being truly, fully human. More accurately, many view the overcoming of suffering and the living with the knowledge of mortality as essential to being truly, fully human. Thus, the elimination, as opposed to the melioration, of these two fundamental human realities leads to a stunted, dimished humanity. For example, some might ask whether a ever happy, peppy Shakespeare could have even understood KING LEAR, let alone written it. All of this is wonderfully presented in the famous dialogue between World Controler Mustafa Mond and John “the Savage” in the pentultimate chapter of BRAVE NEW WORLD.

    11. Michael J. Malloy Says:

      I believe John Edwards, when he says that John Kerry will make the blind see and the lame walk. Under John Kerry, there will be no more death, no pain, no sorrow, no disease.

      The truth, according to John/John, chapter 1, verse 6.

    12. Wade Says:

      Scotus, Perhaps it could help lead to the commoditization of human life, but if they did have to harvest thousands of embryos it’s not the same thing as harvesting a fully formed sentient human (leaving out the question of “ensoulment”). Do parents using IVF value their children any less knowing that many embryos were created to have their child? If they could choose features like eye color from their embryos would they think of their child as a product? It’s even possible that long lived humans would become less like commodities and more precious since death wouldn’t come so soon.

      Regarding suffering, it’s a good point, but debatable. We certainly had more suffering when most children died of infectious diseases before they were five years old – was that a better time? Were we more human? I imagine whatever problems future technology solves we’ll still have plenty of issues to cause us pain.

      Regarding Brave New World it seems to me that the people’s sheep-like existence was due more to the way they structured their society (having children in labs, raising them without parents, drugging the adults with soma, etc) than to any medical technology. Could we form such a society? I suppose. Does such a society necessarily follow the development of better medical technology? Definitely not.

      I’ll read the two reports you cited to get a better feel for their arguments.

    13. Scotus Says:

      Wade, to ask a few questions of my own: Did the production of dozens of embryos in IVF procedures lead to a view of human life as a product that now makes mass cloning seem reasonable? If so, would mass cloning lead to an even greater viewing of human life as a product leading the structuring of society as it is structured in BRAVE NEW WORLD? Is it reasonable to believe that the medical technology they have in BRAVE NEW WORLD in no way influences their view of human life as a product, thereby contributing to how they structure their society?

      In BRAVE NEW WORLD, their is no pain, but no true joy either. Thus, biotechnology may produce a world without either.

      We are not talking about the melioration of pain, which is what one does when one fights infections that used to kill most children under five. We are talking about trying to eliminate pain and suffering by turning humans into products, rather than persons.

      As to the two questions you ask in your first paragraph, to the first I answer “I don’t know.” I don’t know of any studies that have been done showing parental attitudes towards children conceived by IVF compared to those conceived naturally. To the second, I answer “I don’t know” as well, but some parents already view their children as products for their own fulfillment, and I rather suspect that the advent of “designer embryos” would do nothing but reinforce this unfortunate trait. I think of, for example, the speculation of the movie GATTACA.

    14. Ken Says:

      “We are not talking about the melioration of pain, which is what one does when one fights infections that used to kill most children under five. We are talking about trying to eliminate pain and suffering by turning humans into products, rather than persons.”

      Medical technology, however advanced, is not going to eliminate joy or suffering. It’s not going to eliminate striving for chosen goals nor frustration and disappointment when failing to reach them. It’s not going to eliminate the pain of unrequited love nor the joy of a wedding day, a childbirth, or a Christmas family gathering. It’s not going to eliminate the tragedy of war or the thrill of a righteous victory.

      All it will do is correct deficiencies in our bodies.

      So long as humans exist in this universe, there will always be ends still remaining for them to strive for. The attainment of old goals will never exhaust the supply of new ones to aim at. At least, there is little danger of that to a species that is still confined to a single planet out in the forgotten edges of the galaxy.

    15. JosephMendiola Says:

      WIth STEM CELLS, the best cells scientists can use is from the spines of very young or infant baby fetuses – free market demands bears the very real risk of human babies being deliberately aborted or slaughtered for scientific research purposes, THE ULTIMATE, PSEUDO-“SOLYENT GREEN” MANIFESTATION OF ABORTION-ON-DEMAND/INFANTICIDE -ON-DEMAND! CLONING is similar but on the opposite dimension – whereas with stem cells, science and the free market may kill a natural, BIOTIC life in order to save a life, with CLONING one has to CREATE LIFE, THEN KILL IT, IN ORDER TO SAVE A LIFE, AS THE BEST TEST OF A CLONED ORGAN’S VIABILITY AND COMPATIBILITY IS VIA ANALYZING ITS REAL-TIME OPERABILITY WITHIN A WORKING HUMAN BODY, active analyzing BRAIN and all, OR A PSEUDO-HUMAN BODY THAT WAS MOSTLY CREATED FROM BIOTIC TISSUES/CELLS! The Left and pro-abortion/cloning activists know all this – their real secret agenda is to promote these as an indirect, PC way of promoting SOCIALISM AND BIG-GOVT. DRIVEN SUBSIDISM – read, UNCONDITIONAL FREE MONEY!

    16. Scotus Says:

      “Medical technology, however advanced, is not going to eliminate joy or suffering. It’s not going to eliminate striving for chosen goals nor frustration and disappointment when failing to reach them. It’s not going to eliminate the pain of unrequited love nor the joy of a wedding day, a childbirth, or a Christmas family gathering. It’s not going to eliminate the tragedy of war or the thrill of a righteous victory.

      All it will do is correct deficiencies in our bodies.”

      Ken, I’m afraid that the dualism this quote indicates just doesn’t hold up. Attempts to “correct the deficiencies in our bodies” by the contemplated biotechnological means will inevitably affect our souls. (I hate to sound like a broken record, but Huxley’s haughting visison should at least give everyone pause.) All the things you celebrate can be celebrated only by persons, and the whole person can become merely a happy, peppy product when we recklessly and blithely attempt “to correct the deficiencies in our bodies.”

    17. Lex Says:

      “Including the medical field, which is an extremely target-rich area as far as deregulation is concerned.”

      This we agree on. Steyn today had a piece about 600 people dying in Canada’s wonderful “free” hospitals. Meanwhile, doctors in India are attracting a global clientelle with clean, up to date, cost-effective surgical centers.

      The worst thing is that the over-regulated market prevents the Schumpeterian gale fromn blowing through. It is a fine thing indeed to have competition on price and service and service. But it’s not much. What is more desirable is for the entire field to be changed beyond recognition, and the current straitjacket largely prevents that. If health care were transformed even as much as telephone service was by deregulation, the mind boggles at what we would see happen.

    18. Lex Says:

      “price and service and service” That should be “price, quality and service”. It’s late.

    19. wade Says:

      Scotus,
      “Did the production of dozens of embryos in IVF procedures lead to a view of human life as a product that now makes mass cloning seem reasonable?”

      For some maybe, but for most (both for and against IVF) I would guess it hasn’t changed their views.

      “If so, would mass cloning lead to an even greater viewing of human life as a product leading the structuring of society as it is structured in BRAVE NEW WORLD? Is it reasonable to believe that the medical technology they have in BRAVE NEW WORLD in no way influences their view of human life as a product, thereby contributing to how they structure their society?”

      Brave New World is such a radically different society from ours, and I don’t see advances in medical technology influencing us to adopt such a society. For example, the greatest joy that most people experience is raising their children: why would health enhancing technologies make parents want to give up this experience – to be raised by the state with conditioning to reject their mothers no less? IMO Brave New World explores a utopia turned nightmare as opposed to the consequences of advanced medical technologies.

    20. Scotus Says:

      “IMO Brave New World explores a utopia turned nightmare as opposed to the consequences of advanced medical technologies.”

      Huxley sees an inherent link between advances in medical technologies and a “utopia turned nightmare.” IMO, I agree. For example, how many parents today overly rely on medication rather than discipline to reign in their unruly children. I mean is it totally absurd to think that too many kids are taking too many psychotropic drugs?

    21. Ken Says:

      “For example, how many parents today overly rely on medication rather than discipline to reign in their unruly children. I mean is it totally absurd to think that too many kids are taking too many psychotropic drugs?”

      I don’t know how much truth there is to this widely held notion. For one thing, Ritalin is not a tranquilizer. If you are hoping to use it to get your normal but undisciplined kid to sit down and shut up, you will be sorely disappointed.

    22. Ginny Says:

      Ken,
      Every semester one of my student’s favorite topics is the over or under medication of grade school students. That is because a lot of them have been medicated. (I suspect that our population is skewed – we have the highest rate of transfer and graduation from 4-year schools if any jr. college in the state and we often remark that our students’ problems are more those of maturity than of intelligence. We are the place they grow up. I suspect a disproportionate number of them do, indeed, have the kind of problems ritalin is supposed to address.)

      But those papers do have fairly scholarly sources; some schools (more often the ones that send more kids to college, that are in upper middle class suburbs, etc.) have a high percentage of kids on ritalin, some have few. Certainly, that seems to indicate that they are prescribed somewhat arbitrarily.

      I also know at least two families that went to home schooling of boys whose teachers demanded they be put on ritalin. The parents balked and took them out of school. Our class sizes are smaller and more homogeneous than they used to be, but the system seems to see a docile girl as the norm. This has not lead to a useful approach to boys. (I only have daughters, but mine have complained of the sexism of their teachers – especially in grade school. They thought the guys were getting a raw deal.)

    23. Wade Says:

      “For example, how many parents today overly rely on medication rather than discipline to reign in their unruly children. I mean is it totally absurd to think that too many kids are taking too many psychotropic drugs?”

      No, I don’t think it’s absurb to think that. Will future drugs and treatments be overused or abused? Sure, at least to some degree. But there are feeback loops, and the pedulum will swing the other way thru choice, regulation, etc. as experience is gained. Every new technology has risks of unintended consequences, but it doesn’t mean the risks aren’t worth it or can’t be managed if the benefits justify the risks. And the potential benefits in curing disease, etc are so large that they justify taking some risks.