15 June 2005

Discover: June 2005 (I)



Moblogging Discover mag while on a flight to Phoenix.

An article that touched a sore spot with me was an interview with a "stem
cell researcher" (PhD in molecular bio and co-chair of Harvard's stem cell
institute) named Doug Melton. Interviewer is David Ewing Duncan; the
interview is actually an excerpt from an upcoming book.

The article hits on such topics as fatherhood, Catholic teachings on
fertility and conception, government and private funding of scientific
research, creation of human-animal chimeras, killing twins, etc.

Dr. Melton has some very outspoken opinions on the above, which are his
right. But they are simultaneously egoistic, hypocritical, manipulative,
bigoted, and so over-the-top you have to wonder if he really believes them.
If he does believe them then his ethical and moral compass is pointing
somewhere very far from my own.

Samples:

---

"So I have actually educated myself on quite a lot of the various religious
views. I don't really want to get into it, and the reason is I don't think
it's fundamentally interesting. It largely has to do with the trivial
concern of trying to put a tag on when life begins."

---

On her college daughter's goal of becoming an embryologist and lawmaker: "I
just hope she gets the chance.". [The context in the article is that if
Daddy doesn't personally find an embryonic stem cell cure for Type I
diabetes, she will die before that.]

---

"[Human-animal chimera experiments] is a new kind of biology that I find a
million times more interesting than these specious arguments over whether
life begins at fertilization."

---

"I started to speak out, particularly against bioethicisits, who I think are
self-appointed priests of certain political views, saying to them, 'I don't
know why you think you have the right to say what is ethical and what
isn't', and that my own views should have as much validity as theirs. I find
that when most people say ethics what they really mean is morals, and that
it has to do with their religious beliefs."

---

"People get the heebie-jeebies when you talk to them about puting a human
brain into a dog."

---

Q: A human brain in a monkey that is conscious; it would be a horrible
freak.

A: "I'm not suggesting that this chimera would have human intelligence."

Q: But how do you know it wouldn't?
A: "It's an interesting question; I find it highly unlikely that this would
happen. I don't think it would. There would just be parts of the brain that
were human."

---

"Of fertilization events, most of them fail. If that's true, the Catholic
Church has a major problem that they fail to face up to if life begins at
fertilization. Let's assume there are 10 million Catholic couples trying to
have babies for their families. This would mean there are tens of thousands
of fertilized eggs that do not result in the birth of a baby, and this poses
a problem in terms of the Catholic Church holding funerals for all those
fertilized eggs." [Upon his saying this, I can almost imagine that he
expects the Catholic Church to evaporate in a puff of logic: "Oh my", says
B16, "you've got us there. We'll change our teachings right away."].

---

Props to Dr. Melton for being concerned enough about his kids to work for a
diabetes cure! Jeers to him for using melodrama about his children's
condition.

Props to him for seeking private funding for stem cell research! Jeers to
him for thinking he also has some kind of entitlement to other people's tax
money to do so.

Props for talking to religious leaders about stem cells! Jeers for
dismissing thoughtful religious viewpoints as "specious" and "trivial" -
especially for dismissing them _because_ they are religious.

Props for challenging professional bioethicists as sole arbiters of ethics
(indeed they should not have sole standing there)!. Jeers for promoting
himself as an arbiter of ethics while simultaneously ignoring the ethical
standing of 300 million others.

-Brain in a Jar

--Sent from my Blackberry wireless handheld.