Should Government Control Biological Research?

The Discovery Institute just posted this at their creationist blog: Scientists Make Human-Monkey Hybrid Embryos. It was written by Wesley J. Smith, described at the end as: “Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.”

We’ve written about Wesley and hybrids before — see Human-Sheep Hybrids & the Discoveroids. In that old post, as in his new one today, Wesley favors government regulation of science. Here are some excerpts from his new post, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

They said they wouldn’t do it, but of course they did. Scientists working in China — where else? — have constructed embryos that are part human and part monkey. From the Nature story:

Wesley’s link is to an article in Nature titled “First monkey–human embryos reignite debate over hybrid animals.” You can read the whole thing without a subscription, but this is what Wesley quoted in his post:

In the study, researchers fertilized eggs extracted from cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) and grew them in culture. Six days after fertilization, the team injected 132 embryos with human extended pluripotent stem cells, which can grow into a range of cell types inside and outside an embryo. The embryos each developed unique combinations of human and monkey cells and deteriorated at varying rates: 11 days after fertilization, 91 were alive; this dropped to 12 embryos at day 17 and 3 embryos at day 19.

Interesting. Then Wesley says:

This is getting far out of hand. First, U.S. and other Western scientists go to China to conduct experiments for which they could not get government funding — a rush to the lowest common denominator that Stanford bioethicist William Hurlbut calls “outsourcing ethics.” [Link omitted!]

After that he tells us:

Second, this work cuts across crucial moral boundaries. [Egad!] These human-monkey cells would not have just been bone or kidney tissue, but also brain neurons. Moreover, we are not talking mice or rats but monkeys [Gasp!], which have a much closer genetic affinity with humans. [Really?] What might result from such a combining? I don’t think we should find out.

It’s strange to see a Discoveroid — or any creationist — speak of a close human-monkey genetic relationship. Anyway, Wesley continues:

Third, even scientists are concerned about the ethical propriety of this work — but they resist binding international regulations. Indeed, the International Society of Stem Cell Research will be publishing new voluntary “guidelines” to steer such work: [Quote omitted.] Do you see how lax those standards are?

Not authoritarian enough? Let’s read on:

But even these flacid guidelines are worthless if scientists are willing to risk social exclusion from peers to pursue experiments — as with the genetic engineering of born human babies [Link omitted!] which, not coincidentally, also happened in China.

Well, what’s to be done about it? Wesley gives us the Discoveroids’ position:

The time is long past to create binding laws to govern and restrict biotechnology. [They should have started with Darwin!] I am certainly not confident in our political leadership’s willingness to effectively engage the issue or stand for rigorous ethical propriety. But somebody needs to. [Who, the Discoveroids?] Otherwise scientists will simply slouch into Brave New World with both predictable and unknowable results.

We have no idea what’s going on in China, but it seems to us that whatever they’re doing over there is being used as an excuse for folks like the Discoveroids to control what scientists are doing over here. After all, one day soon, someone will create life in the lab — and that will destroy a major argument of all creationists. Or they may discover life on another planet, and loads of creationists will be furious about that. So yes, we can easily understand the need for controls. Go for it, Discoveroids! The sooner the better!

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8 responses to “Should Government Control Biological Research?

  1. They are doing stuff in China that ahole chrisANALs prevent us from doing here and they wonder why there are no controls. And so what?? I don’t mind the planet of the Apes happening, can they do any worse than we are???

  2. docbill1351

    Some of my early research was funded by the Navy Weapons Lab. Ooooooh, I’m training dolphins to blow up submarines! Nope. I was doing pattern recognition of chemical data to identify heavy metals in seawater that could lead to corrosion. Turns out that Metallica was influenced by AC/DC and don’t get me started about Nine Inch Nails.

  3. Dave Luckett

    It seems to me that the research as described in Nature, if not unethical in itself, could conceivably lead to unethical outcomes. Injecting human stem cells into the cultured fertilised eggs of another species is, I would say, dubious.

    It would appear that the object was to see if the fertilised ovum survived. The answer would appear to be no. But the variance in the deterioration rates implies that it might be possible to extend its development further, by eliminating causes of deterioration. Perhaps to viability.

    I would say that that is an unethical line of enquiry. Does that mean that I agree with Wesley J Smith? No, it does not. I would say that public utilities should be in public ownership. Does that mean that I agree with Karl Marx? No, it does not.

  4. “they resist binding international regulations”
    This is simply a lie. However, scientists being human, we can be sure that some of them can be bribed to do forbidden research anyway. Big companies have done exactly that to suppress research that demonstrated the damage caused by smoking; oil companies the same to deny climate change. One thing is for sure, Free Market guarantees scientific fraud.
    However it doesn’t follow that governments should control research. To some extent they already regulate it. The Auschwitz experiments done by Mengele are forbidden everywhere. Wikipedia has an entry called “Unethical human experimentation in the United States”. Well known culprits are the US military and the CIA.
    It’s a complicated topic. As IDiots are liars they are about the last ones to have a say on it. As for me, I don’t have a clear view. There are several experiments I thoroughly dislike (Herman the bull, Dolly the sheep, ivf) but I realize that it doesn’t follow that they should be banned.

  5. @DaveL: “Does that mean that I agree with Karl Marx? No, it does not.”
    Amusing – neither do I, no matter how often our dear SC asks me about Josif Vissarionovich when I criticize Free Market ….

  6. FrankB says: “One thing is for sure, Free Market guarantees scientific fraud.”

    I could respond by saying that socialism guarantees poverty, tyranny, and the collapse of civilization, but I don’t want the blog to degenerate into that kind of thing. So why don’t you just stop making comments like that? They’re way off topic.

  7. Wesley says “…monkeys which have a much closer genetic affinity with humans…” Egad, a Darwinist mole in the Discovery Institute. Next they’ll tell their beloved sheep we’re related to apes. This could get bad for their donations!

  8. “So why don’t you just stop making comments like that?”