Cloning


It was just about a year ago that humans were successfully cloned for the first time.  Those researchers used fetal cells.  A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that Robert Lanza from Advanced Cell Technology successfully cloned two humans using adult cells (from a 35 year old man and a 75 year old man).

ObfuscationNow that cloning is back in the media again, the media is once again demonstrating their ignorance of the science, or blatant attempt to pull the wool over the public’s eyes about what is really being done in the lab.  They either:

  1. Leave out the fact that what is produced is a human embryo (going straight from enucleated egg with the nucleus of an adult cell, directly to stem cells)
  2. Or they admit that an embryo is created, but claim it’s not a human being
  3. Or they deny that the embryo is a human clone (redefining human clone to refer to a cloned human who is allowed to be born. 

They are leaving out important details, and redefining scientific words to fit their purposes.  It’s all rhetoric and propaganda, and obfuscates the science and biology behind it. 

For the last time: somatic cell nuclear transfer does not produce embryonic stem cells.  It creates a human clone, and that human produces stem cells.  To extract the stem cells, the human clone must be killed! 

Wesley J. Smith has some nice posts demonstrating how the mainstream media continues to get it wrong: 

Shoukhrat Mitalipov, of Oregon Health & Science University

Shoukhrat Mitalipov, of Oregon Health & Science University

Researchers at The Oregon Health & Science University have just announced in Cell that they successfully cloned 21 humans, and then killed them to extract their stem cells at the blastocyst stage (although they didn’t describe it as “killing”).  This is the first time stem cells have ever been derived from a human clone.  

Welcome to the brave new world of cloning.

 

HT: Wesley J. Smith

In May of this year Gallup polled Americans to determine what behaviors they found morally acceptable and unacceptable.  Sixteen behaviors were evaluated, and here are the results:

(more…)

oocyteDoes anyone remember the promises from the legislators, scientists, and bioethicists that they would not pay women for their eggs for use in cloning research?  As with most bioethical promises, they are handed out like candy in order to obtain the desired political result, only to be taken back once that result has been realized.  Apparently, New York has decided it will pay as much as $10,000 for women to donate their eggs for cloning research.  What’s the problem with that, you say?  The problem is that the hyper-ovulation drugs used for the procedure can have adverse effects including sterilization, and even death.

HR 2560, a.k.a. The “Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2007”, was defeated 213-204. This bill pretended to ban human cloning by defining human cloning as the implantation of a cloned embryo in a uterus (though they did not say “cloned embryo”), rather than the creation of the embryo itself.

The bill states that “it shall be unlawful…to perform or attempt to perform human cloning.” So far so good. It goes on to make it unlawful “to ship, mail, transport, or receive the product of human somatic cell nuclear transfer technology knowing that such product is for the purpose of human cloning.” My question is, What’s the difference? What is the unnamed “product” to which they refer? Considering the fact that somatic cell nuclear transfer technology is the technology used in cloning (it’s what was used to create Dolly the sheep), the product is none other than a cloned human being. But wait…I thought the bill banned human cloning. Silly me! I’m using “human cloning” in a scientific way. These politicians aren’t doing that. They are making up their own political definitions of these terms so they can trick the public. Here is how the bill defines “human cloning” and “somatic cell nuclear transfer”:

Human cloning: “The implantation of the product of human somatic cell nuclear transfer technology into a uterus or the functional equivalent of a uterus.”
Human somatic cell nuclear transfer technology: “Transferring the nuclear material of a human somatic cell into an egg cell from which the nuclear material has been removed or rendered inert.”

The fact of the matter is that somatic cell nuclear transfer is the process by which a human clone is created. Once the nuclear material of a human somatic cell has been transferred into an enucleated egg and fused together, the act of cloning is complete. Where one puts the newly cloned human being after that (whether in a uterus, Petri dish, or trash can) has nothing to do with cloning. Shame on the politicians who are writing these deceptive bills (including an earlier Senate bill, and several different state bills), but thank goodness for the sanity of those in Congress who voted to defeat this bill.

Illinois is on the bandwagon of legalizing cloning while pretending to ban it. Senate Bill 004, a.k.a. the Stem Cell Research and Human Cloning Prohibition Act, legalizes cloning while pretending to ban it via the same verbal sleight of hand other states have used. The devil is in the details. Here is the relevant text:

Section 40. Cloning prohibited.

1 (a) No person may clone or attempt to clone a human being.
2 For purposes of this Section, “clone or attempt to clone a
3 human being” means to transfer to a uterus or attempt to
4 transfer to a uterus anything other than the product of
5 fertilization of an egg of a human female by a sperm of a human
6 male for the purpose of initiating a pregnancy that could
7 result in the creation of a human fetus or the birth of a human
8 being.

What is being outlawed?: cloning, or attempting to clone a human being. Notice that the drafters of the bill are using “clone” as a verb, not a noun. This means the drafters are outlawing a particular act. What is that act? They define it as the transfer of a non-fertilized “product” into a woman’s uterus. How can this be considered cloning? Even the most scientifically illiterate man on the street understands that cloning involves copying something. How does moving a “product” from one location (lab) to another location (uterus) fit the bill? Clearly something more must be involved. That “something” is what the drafters so desperately want to avoid.

Attempting to clone a human being has nothing to do with where you put some unnamed “product.” It has everything to do with copying some “product.” In this case we are talking about copying a human being. And if you copy a human being, what do you end up with? That’s right…another human being. So how is it again that this law prohibits cloning human beings?

Like other bills legalizing cloning while pretending to ban it, the intent of the researcher is integral to the definition of cloning. Rather than referring to what the scientist makes in the lab, cloning is said to be defined by what the scientist intends to do with that which he has created. Unfortunately, what a scientist intends to do with the embryos he has cloned is irrelevant. A clone is a clone is a clone, regardless of what the scientist does with them. If he freezes them, they are clones; if he dismembers them for their stem cells to be used in treating other human beings, they are still clones.

In an earlier section they explicitly affirm their intent to clone
embryos:

6 Section 5. Policy permitting research. The policy of the
7 State of Illinois shall be as follows:
8 (1) Research involving the derivation and use of human
9 embryonic stem cells, human embryonic germ cells, and human
10 adult stem cells from any source, including somatic cell
11 nuclear transplantation, shall be permitted and the ethical and
12 medical implications of this research shall be given full
13 consideration.

What? You didn’t see the word cloning? No, you didn’t. But “somatic cell nuclear transplantation” is the scientific term used to describe the process of what is more commonly called “cloning.” By employing a scientific term unfamiliar to most people, and then later defining “cloning” in a very narrow, unscientific manner, the drafters of the bill are able to claim they are banning cloning.

Even the grammar betrays their deception. The bill says “research involving the derivation and use of human embryonic stem cells…from any source, including somatic cell nuclear transplantation.” “Somatic cell nuclear transplantation” is a process, not a thing. As such, it is not a source for obtaining stem cells; it is a means of obtaining stem cells. What is a source of stem cells? Cloned embryos, created through the process of somatic cell nuclear transplantation. That’s what the drafters were thinking, but they couldn’t say it without blowing their cover.

These lawmakers are distorting science and language for political purposes, and should be ashamed of themselves.

Australia’s Senate narrowly approved a bill Tuesday legalizing the cloning of embryos for destructive research. It still has to pass their House of Representatives before it becomes law, but it is fully expected to pass. The law would require that the cloned embryos be destroyed within 14 days of creation, and forbids inserting them into a woman’s womb for gestation.


What I find interesting is that it was only four years ago that Australia passed legislation allowing the use of “leftover embryos” for embryonic stem cell research. Our legislature passed a similar law this year (but it was vetoed by President Bush). During the debate we were assured that all Congress wanted was the ability to use leftover embryos, not clone embryos. I wouldn’t doubt that Australia said the same thing, but the fact of the matter is that biotechnology, when unchecked by morality, is a slippery slope. We have already seen biotech slide down the slope in Australia and other countries. In fact, we’re even seeing it in America. California, Missouri, and New Jersey have all passed laws allowing the cloning of embryos for destructive research. Don’t believe them when they say “we’ll only do X, not Y,” for tomorrow they will be wanting to do Y. Yesterday they didn’t want to clone embryos for research, today they do. Today they are saying they don’t want to gestate clones to birth, but already some scientists are saying that wouldn’t be so bad after all. As it’s been said, what was unthinkable yesterday is thinkable today, and commonplace tomorrow.

I never ceased to be amazed at all of the scientific inaccuracies and spin the mainstream media is responsible for when reporting on embryonic stem cell research and cloning (and to a lesser extent, abortion).

This morning I read an article on This Is London about English researchers who are seeking to clone human embryos using rabbit eggs rather than human eggs. If successful, the resulting embryo would be a chimera: part human, part non-human. In this case it would be 99.9% human, .1% rabbit.

Not to make light of the moral issues involved with creating chimeras, but I can’t help to laugh when I think about what would happen if one of these cloned embryos was allowed to be born (rather than killing it within 14 days). Can you imagine what little Johnny would say in his 4th grade class when he has to research and report on his genealogy: “I am part English, part Italian, and part rabbit. My mom is the Cadbury bunny, my grandpa is Peter Cottontail, and my great grandpa is the Easter Bunny!

Humor aside, while creating chimeras has been going on for some time now, I find it odd how cavalier the reporting on it is. It is reported on as if there are no qualms about joining human and animals together. Maybe it’s because there is usually so little animal DNA involved (or the converse). The scary thing is that eventually scientists will start mixing more and more genetic info together so that it will be difficult to distinguish whether the chimera is human, animal, or something else. Right now scientists are simply getting the public comfortable with the practice in principle. Then, they will use the boil-the-frog strategy in which they will gradually and incrementally increase the mixing of DNA until they are finally able to achieve the levels of genetic mixing they really desire. The process will be slow enough that we—like a frog—won’t realize we’re being boiled in a pot of water.

But I digress. The reason I bring this article to your attention is to highlight what the article did not say, and the spin on what they did say.

What they did not say is that what these scientists want to do is clone human beings. As a general rule scientists and the media go to great lengths to avoid the “C” word, even if it means being intellectually dishonest and redefining established scientific definitions. The author did admit that what is being produced is an embryo (which is more than American media will usually admit), but s/he would not say how that embryo is being produced. S/he leaves it as the vague “create embryos.”

The article ends with these words: “The embryos will be allowed to grow for only 14 days, at which point they will be cells smaller than a pinhead.” Apart from the fact that this sentence seems to stop short of an actual finish by failing to note that they will be killed by the 14th day, and apart from the fact that this is a strange way to end an article, what is said is a common liberal tactic to devalue the life of that which they advocate killing. Why else comment on the size of the embryo? The presupposition is that since they are so small, they do not have value. How being small deprives one of value is never explained or defended. It is merely assumed, and merely asserted. The next time you hear somebody repeat this line, a good question to ask them is Exactly what size does one have to be before they become valuable and obtain the right to life? Chirp chirp chirp chirp.

Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures (MCSCRC), a cloning and embryonic stem cell research advocacy group, uses misinformation to persuade the Michigan public towards their agenda. For example, on their FAQ page for somatic cell nuclear transfer they responded as follows to the question, “What is somatic cell nuclear transfer?”:

 

Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is a laboratory procedure that creates embryos for use in stem cell research; sometimes referred to as “therapeutic cloning.” In SCNT, nuclear transfer is used for medical treatment or research. For example, nuclear transfer could be used to create a line of embryonic stem cells genetically identical to the donor. These embryonic stem cells could then be used to generate specialized cells that are transplanted into the patient to replace cells lost to injury or disease. When used in a medical treatment, this would ensure that the new cells would not face rejection by the patient’s immune system. Nuclear transfer also gives researchers the ability to create stem cell lines that carry genetic defects that cause inherited human diseases, allowing them to study the origin of these diseases and potentially to develop new treatments.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[1]<!–[endif]–>

This is simply not true. SCNT is a laboratory procedure that creates human embryos, period. What scientists intend to do with the embryos created by SCNT is irrelevant. The MCSCRC is illegitimately incorporating scientists’ intentions into the definition of SCNT itself.

 

They are a little more honest when answering the question, “How does SCNT work?”

 

SCNT substitutes the nucleus of a somatic cell (which contains all the genetic information of the patient) for the nucleus of a donated egg that has not been fertilized. In cell culture, this customized egg is then coaxed with an electronic or chemical catalyst to develop into a zygote as if it had been fertilized. The zygote begins cell division and develops into a ball of cells called the morula and then into the blastocyst at approximately five days. The inner cell mass of the blastocyst is then removed to generate a pluripotent stem cell line. After the inner cell mass is removed, the blastocyst is no longer capable of further development.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[2]<!–[endif]–>

At least they indicate what the product is (zygote). Unfortunately, most people will not know what that is. And rather than calling it an embryo after the one-cell stage, they refer to it as a morula. It appears that they are trying to avoid the word “human” and “embryo” at all costs.

 

And don’t miss the euphemism for killing: “no longer capable of further development.”

 

The most disingenuous quote is when answering the question, “Can SCNT be used to clone humans?” They answer:

 

No. The purpose of SCNT is to find cures and therapies to treat human disease. SCNT awakens the natural capacity for self-repair that resides in a person’s genes. While SCNT has been the technique used to clone animals like “Dolly” the sheep, there is no evidence that it could also successfully clone a human due to the increased complexity of the human organism. The overwhelming consensus of the scientific and medical communities in the United States is that human reproductive cloning should be banned.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[3]<!–[endif]–>

What a mess of a statement! In one sense they are right. Current technology has not advanced to the point where a human has been successfully cloned, but people all over the world are trying to do this very thing! But they contradict themselves. They say SCNT can’t be used to clone humans, and yet they say cloning humans should be banned. Why do so if SCNT is incapable of doing so? Obviously it can.

 

To say the purpose of SCNT is to find cures is absolutely false. The purpose of SCNT is to create new human beings asexually. What the creator of those human beings does with them afterwards is irrelevant to what the purpose of SCNT is in itself.

 

On their “Facts & Myth page” they answer the supposed myth that “cloning is cloning is cloning. It’s all the same.”

 

FACT: Not all cloning is the same. According to the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR), scientists do many kinds of cloning every day, most of which is commonly accepted. Cloning has allowed scientists to develop powerful new drugs and to produce insulin and useful bacteria in the lab. It also allows researchers to track the origins of biological weapons, catch criminals, and free innocent people. There’s a world of difference between reproductive cloning- something that should be banned right away – and therapeutic cloning, also known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). Therapeutic cloning is the transplanting of a patient’s own DNA into an unfertilized egg in order to grow stem cells that could cure devastating diseases. Reproductive cloning is the use of cloning technology to create a child. GPI, along with leading scientists and most Americans, oppose reproductive cloning.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[4]<!–[endif]–>

What exactly is the “world of difference” between reproductive and therapeutic cloning? There is none! It’s the same process, the same result. The only difference is what the scientist does with the clone once SCNT is complete.

 

They go on to tackle this supposed myth: “Therapeutic cloning is a slippery slope that leads to reproductive cloning. There is no dividing line between the two forms of cloning.”

FACT: Therapeutic cloning produces stem cells, not babies. With therapeutic cloning, there is no fertilization of the egg by sperm, no implantation in the uterus and no pregnancy. Dr. Harold Varmus, the former head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and a Nobel laureate, says there is a profound distinction between cloning with the intent of making a human being and research cloning to help understand and treat life-threatening diseases and conditions. Implantation into a womb is the clear, bright line that divides reproductive and non-reproductive technologies. Without implantation, no new human life is possible. This is where society can and must draw the line.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[5]<!–[endif]–>

This is laughable! There are so many word games being played here I don’t know where to begin. The MCSCRC recognizes that most people use “baby” to refer to a post-natal human being. By choosing to use that word they can say cloning does not produce babies. But they know that’s now what people are concerned with. People are concerned that cloning produces a new human being. And they should be because it does! Besides, therapeutic cloning does not produce stem cells. It produces human zygotes who begin to develop in the same way every one of us developed at that stage in our lives.

 

The fact that there is no fertilization involved in cloning (by definition) is irrelevant. Both fertilization and cloning produce the exact same product: a human zygote. The fact that scientists fail to implant the clone into a uterus does not change what it is. And to say “without implantation no new human life is possible” is simply false. Obviously the embryo from which the scientists are extracting stem cells are alive, and their genetic signature identifies them as human. In fact, that’s why scientists are interested in their stem cells.

 

 

 

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>1<!–[endif]–>Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research & Cures, “Facts &amp; Myth”; available from http://www.stemcellresearchformichigan.com/faq-somatic.html; Internet; accessed 22 September 2006.

2Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research & Cures, “Facts &amp; Myth”; available from http://www.stemcellresearchformichigan.com/faq-somatic.html; Internet; accessed 22 September 2006.

3Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research & Cures, “Facts &amp; Myth”; available from http://www.stemcellresearchformichigan.com/faq-somatic.html; Internet; accessed 22 September 2006.

4Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research & Cures, “Facts &amp; Myth”; available from http://www.stemcellresearchformichigan.com/factsmyths.html; Internet; accessed 22 September 2006.

5Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research & Cures, “Facts &amp; Myth”; available from http://www.stemcellresearchformichigan.com/factsmyths.html; Internet; accessed 22 September 2006.


<!–[endif]–>

 

 

Congressman Meisner from the state of Michigan introduced House Bill 4900 to amend sections of the public health code dealing with embryonic stem cell research (http://www.rtl.org/html/legislation/prolifeleg/pdf/EthicsTechnology/1998-SB864.pdf). It is being sold by Rep. Andy Meisner as a bill that will both permit embryonic stem cell research and prohibit human cloning. As with the Missouri and federal proposals, this bill legalizes human cloning while pretending to ban it.

 

It is similar to the other bills in that it:

 

  1. Avoids using the word “embryo” as much as possible (the MI law currently contains the word, but Meisner’s bill proposes to replace all but one occurrence with “fetus”)
  2. Prohibits human cloning by falsely defining human cloning as implanting a cloned embryo in a womb to gestate through birth.

 

Regarding the second, the bill boldly states, “A licensee or registrant shall not engage in or attempt to engage in human cloning.” Sounds good! I guess this means MI will not engage in research involving cloned embryos. But wait! That would be the proper conclusion if words meant something, but in the Meisner bill words don’t mean anything at all. Words mean whatever Meisner says they mean. He defines human cloning, not scientifically as the asexual creation of a human zygote through somatic cell nuclear transfer, but rather as “creating or attempting to create a human being by using the somatic cell nuclear transfer procedure for the purpose of, or to implant, the resulting product to initiate a pregnancy that could result in the birth of a human being.”

 

As with the other bills, Meisner’s bill claims to ban human cloning by redefining the term. Rather than defining “human cloning” in terms of the process involved, and the resultant product of that process, Meisner defines human cloning in terms of what a scientist purposes its creation for. If you use somatic cell nuclear transfer to create a human being for the purpose of implanting it in a womb and gestating it through birth, that is considered “human cloning” and is illegal. What about using somatic cell nuclear transfer to create a human being asexually for the purpose of destructive research? According to Meisner that is not cloning. Why? Is it a different process from the one he described? No. Was the product of that process different? No. So why is one considered human cloning and the other not? Because Meisner says so!

The fact of the matter is that what one purposes to do with the product of “somatic cell nuclear transfer” does not make it, or fail to make it a clone. A clone is a clone regardless of what we do with it. Intentions do not create reality. Reality is what it is apart from what we purpose. The fact of the matter is that the act of cloning is complete at somatic cell nuclear transfer. What one decides to do with the clone (gestate it through birth, kill it for research) subsequent to the act of cloning does not change the fact that the entity itself is a human clone. But that doesn’t matter to those like Meisner. It’s much more convenient to just define cloning in such a way that it has nothing to do with cloning, ban the pseudo-form of cloning, and then go on about your cloning business all the while affirming your opposition to cloning! Wouldn’t it be funny if someone stole Meisner’s car, get apprehended, and then tell Mr. Meisner that they did not “steal” his car because they did not intend to sell it. When Meisner protests they can explain to him that “theft is the taking of someone else’s property without their permission for the purpose of selling it.” Since they had no intentions of selling it, it is not stealing. I don’t think Meisner would be persuaded. Neither should we be persuaded by his disingenuous bill.

 

Since this bill is the amending of an existing law it is important to look at what Meisner wants to take out. The law currently reads: “A person shall not use a live human embryo or neonate for nontherapeutic research….” Meisner proposes to delete “human embryo” and insert “fetus” in its place. It’s obvious why he wants to swap “fetus” for “embryo.” It’s hard to justify killing embryos when the law says you can’t. By changing the language to “fetus,” experimenting on humans up to 8 weeks old becomes legally justifiable.

 

But what about the deletion of “human”? Why delete that word? Is a fetus not human? Yes it is. Is it scientifically inaccurate to call it human? No it’s not. Then why delete the word? It is being deleted for political purposes, not clarity or scientific accuracy.

 

Thankfully the Michigan congress is controlled by pro-life Republicans, so currently the bill is going nowhere. Let’s pray it stays that way.

This is one month old news now, but I’m sure some of you heard about a new technique created by Advanced Cell Technology that allows researchers to extract a single cell from an embryo, and successfully grow a stem cell line without killing the embryo. The news story appeared on the front page of the nation’s most prestigious news papers. What didn’t appear on the front page, however, was the fact that hardly a lick of it was true. The vice-president of the company, and its chief ethicist lied on several occassions about what they did and did not do.

 

Check out two articles by Wesley J. Smith, lawyer and bioethicist, regarding this scam (here and here). It is really sad how corrupt and politicized science has become. They have a political agenda, and will stop at nothing–including outright deception–to accomplish it.

 

And for the fun of it, watch pro-life Catholic, Richard Doerflinger, confront ACT vice-president, Robert Lanza about his misrepresentations of his company’s research. He squirms, he evades, and tries to change the subject to put Doerflinger’s personal views about embryonic stem cell research in general on trial.

The BBC News reported on a British-Austrian study whose goal was to determine whether a mature cloned human being would consider himself to be an “individual.” What did the researchers conclude? They concluded that a cloned human being would consider himself to be an individual. Wow! It’s a good thing we did this study! I mean, who would have guessed it!?!?!

 

How did they come to this amazing conclusion, you ask? They interviewed identical twins (a.k.a. natural clones) to see how they perceived their individuality given the fact that they are genetically identical to their sibling. To everyone’s utter amazement they discovered that twins see themselves as two different individuals! (I thought they wore the same clothes because they thought they were the same person…silly me!) Since clones are little more than “delayed twins” it stands to reason that clones would see themselves as individuals as well.

 

Was this study really necessary? Did we need a study to know the answer to this question? Were the personal interviews really required? Does anyone doubt that twins see themselves as individual persons, and function as individual persons? I am being a little sarcastic here, but this study deserves the ridicule. I find it troubling on a couple of levels.

 

First, it demonstrates how study-happy we are. Dennis Prager often remarks that “studies say” is the liberals’ equivalent to religious conservatives’ “the Bible says.” It is the secular Bible if you will. He also notes how our culture (particularly the college educated) puts more faith in studies than common sense. For example, studies apparently show that a mom and dad are not necessary for optimal child development, and yet this contradicts common sense. While studies are valuable in many areas, they are not always needed before drawing conclusions. This is one of those areas. Our common experience and knowledge is enough to answer the question at hand. We no more needed this study to determine whether cloned human beings would consider themselves individuals than we need a study to determine if human beings enjoy pleasure. I don’t need to interview 1000 people to know they do. It is common sense.

 

Second, I have a hunch that these researchers knew exactly what they would “find” before they engaged in this study. The reason for the study was not to discover the answer to the question, but to provide a scientific basis (“studies say…”) and authority for alleviating people’s fear of cloning human beings. In other words, the study was intended for political, rather than research purposes. Geneticist Robin Lovell-Badge, of the Medical Research Council’s National Institute for Medical Research in London, made some comments that seem supportive of my hypothesis. He said, “Human reproductive cloning is not safe and should not be attempted with current knowledge. In my opinion, there are no strong reasons for even attempting it. But this interesting study…, although small, reveals how we should not have any prejudiced feelings about the idea of genetically identical individuals living amongst us.” That’s a big “but”! (no pun intended) In other words “we shouldn’t do it at this point in time, but if and when we do it people should not think clones are freaks.” He understands that this study is preparing us to think correctly about what is likely to come in the future.

William Neaves, PhD, former Dean of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and current President of the Stowers Institute, described cloning as follows:

 

SCNT [somatic cell nuclear transfer, a.k.a. cloning] is the laboratory procedure that can lead to long sought advances in regenerative medicine. It introduces a nucleus from an adult body cell (somatic cell) into the cytoplasm of an enucleated egg, where the genes of the donor cell are induced to recapitulate the earliest steps in development. The early stem cells produced by this procedure have the ability to differentiate into any type of cell or tissue in the adult body.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[1]<!–[endif]–>

 

While Mr. Neaves described the cloning process with great clarity, he failed to mention one very important fact: what the process of SCNT produces. Cloning produces a new human individual. Why leave that fact out? Because it does not fare well for the political agenda of the Stowers Institute. But this is just one casualty among many in his war against biological truth in pursuit of scientific advancement. The rest of his article is filled with many other misrepresentations and scientific distortions.

 

For example he writes, “Other opponents of SCNT express concern that it creates human life only to destroy it for research purposes. In fact, no new life is created by SCNT. It works entirely with the ordinary body cells of an already-living person. It no more creates human life than does growing someone’s skin cells in tissue culture.” In a certain sense he is correct: no new life is created. No new life is ever created. Life is a continuum. It began thousands, if not millions of years ago and has never ceased since. But that is not the sense in which Neaves is claiming “no new life is created.” He wants to assert that no new individual human being has been created by SCNT, but the field of embryology is definitive that it has. If the clone was placed in an environment suitable for continued growth—rather than being killed for its stem cells—it would mature according to its kind, resulting in a bouncing baby boy are girl nine months later.

 

Neaves also makes the mistake of confusing parts with wholes when he compares the “product” of SCNT to culturing skin cells. They are very different. An embryo is a person because it is a unitary whole; a “self-integrating organism capable of directing its own maturation as a member of the human species.”<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[2]<!–[endif]–> Somatic cells such as skin cells, however, are mere parts of a larger whole, unitary organism. Embryos will actively develop themselves into a mature human being if provided the proper environment to do so, whereas somatic cells can only replicate themselves for the survival of the larger organism to which they belong.

 

While both skin cells and the “product” created by SCNT contain human DNA, they are qualitatively different. The presence of human DNA—while sufficient to demonstrate that an entity is human—is not sufficient to demonstrate that it is an individual human being. Human value is not derived from the mere presence of human DNA in a cell, but to the unitary organism itself to which the cell belongs. We know something is an individual human being because it has an intrinsic ability to direct its own activity/development towards maturation. Somatic cells do not have this ability, so while they are human, they are not individual human beings, and do not possess the same moral quality as somatic cells. While somatic cells and embryos both contain DNA, the latter is qualitatively different from somatic cells because it already is an individual human being, while the other is not. As Dianne Irving wrote:

 

There is quite a difference, scientifically, between parts of a human being that only possess ‘human life’ and a human embryo or human fetus that is an actual ‘human being.’… A human kidney or liver, a human skin cell, a sperm or an oocyte all possess human LIFE, but they are not human BEINGS – they are only parts of a human being. If a single sperm or a single oocyte were implanted into a woman’s uterus, they would simply rot.<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[3]<!–[endif]–>

 

He continues with his misleading and disingenuous claims when he writes:

 

Some critics of SCNT ask if the stem cells generated by SCNT are no different than those created by fertilization. They worry that the blastocyst generated by fertilization is indistinguishable from the blastocyst resulting from SCNT. In fact, there is a profound difference between the two. A blastocyst formed after fertilization contains a new and unique combination of genes contributed equally by the sperm of the father and the egg of the mother. A blastocyst resulting from SCNT contains only the same genes of the person who donated the body cell nucleus used in the procedure.

 

The only thing “profound” here is Mr. Neaves ability to duck the objection. The distinction Neaves makes between a fertilized and cloned embryo is valid, but not morally relevant, and not logically relevant to the objection raised. His opponents are arguing that there is no qualitative difference between a blastocyst produced by fertilization and a blastocyst produced by SCNT. Neaves completely ignores the argument by changing the subject to genetic differences. This shift will not work because the genetic differences between fertilized and cloned embryos are scientifically and morally irrelevant. Let me address each in turn.

 

The genetic differences are scientifically irrelevant because they do not change what the “things” in question are. The only genetic difference between cloned and fertilized embryos is the source of their genes, not the kind or number. Humans produced by fertilization receive their genes from two pre-existing humans, whereas humans produced by cloning receive their genes from one pre-existing human. But the source of the genes is inconsequential to the central question: What is it? Since cloned embryos and fertilized embryos both have a full set of human chromosomes, and they both possess the intrinsic potential to actively develop themselves toward maturation as a whole human being, they are biologically equivalent. To see that a cloned embryo is just as human as a fertilized embryo one need only consider the genetic source of the cloned embryo: a human being. If the “parent’s” cell was fully human, would its clone not be fully human as well? Of course!

 

The genetic differences are morally irrelevant as well. Whether the newly created embryo is a genetic twin of an existing human being, or the creation of a completely unique human being through fertilization, it is irrelevant to their ontological and moral status as human beings. To see this one need only consider the case of identical twins. Of the two siblings, one was fertilized while the other was naturally cloned from its sibling. Would Neaves argue that the cloned sibling is qualitatively different from its fertilized sibling because the latter “contains a new and unique combination of genes contributed equally by the sperm of the father and the egg of the mother” while the former “contains only the same genes” of the newly fertilized embryo? Of course not! So how can he claim there is a “profound difference” between fertilized and cloned embryos in the lab if the only difference between natural cloning (twinning) and artificial cloning (SCNT) is the amount of time separating the creation of the clone from the fertilized embryo. He can’t. His argument is smoke in mirrors. The simple fact of the matter is that having identical genes to someone else does not make you non-human or rob you of your moral value. The “profound difference” Neaves offers is neither profound, nor relevant to the debate.

 

He goes on to say, “SCNT does not entail fertilization of an egg with a sperm. It does not involve conception of a new human life. Instead, it awakens the developmental potential in the genome of cells from a person conceived years ago.” Obviously cloning does not entail fertilization (because this refers to a specific method of producing a human being, and thus SCNT cannot be considered fertilization by definition), but what determines the presence of a human being is not how it came into existence, but rather what it is that came into existence. What comes into existence by fertilization is identical to what comes into existence by cloning. Both cloning and fertilization result in a new, individual human being. It is true that SCNT “awakens the developmental potential in the genome of cells from a person conceived years ago,” but in doing so it begins the creation of a new person.

 

Again he writes:

 

Another objection to SCNT arises from people who fear it will be misused to clone human beings. If a blastocyst resulting from SCNT were placed in the uterus of a foster mother instead of remaining in a petrie [sic] dish, it is theoretically possible that it might undergo embryonic and fetal development leading to the birth of a genetic clone of the donor of the cell nucleus used in the procedure. This is reproductive cloning, and no legitimate biomedical scientist would countenance attempting such an inappropriate act with human cells. Scientists around the world have deplored any suggestion of using SCNT to clone people.

 

Theoretically possible? It has already been done. True, it has been with animals, but it is no less possible with humans. Humans are simply more biologically complicated than many of the animals we have cloned, which has impeded our ability to clone ourselves to date. But Neaves acts as if the possibility is science fiction, and he is only considering the logical possibility of it.

 

Neaves uses the same ploy many others do when he tries to distinguish cloning a human for the purposes of birth from cloning a human for purposes of destructive research by calling the former “reproductive cloning” (contrasted to “therapeutic cloning”). The biological fact of the matter is that all cloning is reproductive in nature. The act of cloning is completed upon a successful nuclear transfer that is then stimulated to fuse and begin growing. While scientists may intend for some clones for one purpose and other clones for a different purpose, and employ terminology to distinguish the two purposes, it is wrong to portray the difference in terminology to indicate a difference in ontology. That distinction is pure fiction, and those who perpetuate it ought to be ashamed of themselves.

 

Even his illustrated graph is deceptive. While I cannot reproduce it here, I would recommend that you access it at the link above. He shows how the early development of the “product” (he leaves it unnamed in the graph) created by fertilization, and the early development of an product created by cloning are the same. But then he says of the fertilized product: “If blastocyst is implanted into a uterus, embryonic development begins.” Of the cloned product he says: “If inner cell mass is placed in culture these cells will multiply to produce stem cells that can replace damaged cells in the body.” Both claims are false.

 

Regarding the first, being inside a uterus does not begin embryonic development. Embryonic development begins at the creation of the embryo. While embryonic development will eventually stop if the embryo is not placed in a uterus (because it will die), being placed in a uterus does not instantiate embryonic development.

 

Regarding the second, the inner cell mass consists of stem cells—it does not create them. Culturing these stem cells will result in their further multiplication, but they existed prior to the culturing.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>


<!–[endif]–> <!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[1]<!–[endif]–>William B. Neaves, PhD, “Stem Cells from Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer: Research to Unlock the Body’s Potential for Self-Repair” in Missouri Medicine, Jan-Feb 2005, Vol. 102, No. 1; available from http://www.stowers-institute.org/MediaCenter/docs/NeavesSomaticCellFeature.pdf; Internet; accessed 19 July 2006.
[2]<!–[endif]–>Patrick Lee and Robert George, “Reason, Science, and Stem Cells”; available from http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-george072001.shtml; Internet, accessed 30 September 2004.

<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[3]<!–[endif]–>Diane Irving, “When Do Human Beings Begin?: ‘Scientific’ Myths and Scientific Facts”; available from http://www.all.org/abac/dni003.htm; Internet; accessed 09 February 2005.

Stowers Institute president and CEO William Neaves said, “You are working entirely with the genes of a person conceived years earlier. “You are not creating new life. You are not causing conception to occur. You are just reawakening the developmental potential that already resides in that individual’s [donor’s] genes.”

 

The same could be said of every human being! Every human being is composed of genes from persons conceived years earlier. Would anyone say the new baby, therefore, is not a new life? Of course not!

Lawyer and bioethicist, Wesley J. Smith, wrote a short piece in The Kansas City Star regarding the true defininition of cloning. If you will remember, it is in Missouri where they are proposing a state constitutional ban on cloning that would actually create a constitution right to clone. According to Smith The KS Star has been parroting the same lies as are found in the proposed amendment, but they were gracious enough to allow him to post an opinion piece presenting the other side. It’s a good read.

Back on August 9, 2005 I sent an e-blog regarding the proposed and so-called “Human Cloning Ban Act of 2005” of the U.S. Senate. I pointed out how the proposed law did anything but ban cloning. Through an obfuscation and redefinition of basic biological and scientific terms it will do the exact opposite of its title: it will make human cloning legal throughout the United States. The only thing it will ban is a particular use of clones. While researchers are able to kill them for their stem cells, they are not allowed to insert them into a woman’s womb and allow them to be born nine months later. There’s nothing more outrageous than requiring the death of a tiny human being, all the while making it punishable by law to allow it to live! The moral monstrosity of this state-sanctioned creation and murder of human beings is outdone only by the deception through which it is being presented to the American people.

Well, the U.S. Congress is not alone in this move. The state of Missouri has proposed a bill of its own. It is called the “Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative.” (I guess they figured a nearly identical title worked for CA, so they might as well try it too) It also proposes to ban cloning, stating that “no person may clone or attempt to clone a human being.” But like the federal legislation, it does anything but prevent cloning. The obfuscation and deception involved in this bill far surpasses that of the federal proposal. I will quote several portions of the proposed legislation, followed by my comments in blue which detail the nature of the obfuscation.

Statement 1—“No human blastocyst may be produced by fertilization solely for the purpose of stem cell research.”

I wonder why it is that they use “blastocyst” rather than “embryo”? Is it because people will know what an embryo is, but not a blastocyst?

Furthermore, why is it that an embryo cannot be produced by fertilization for the purpose of stem-cell research, but an embryo can be produced by cloning for stem-cell research? The product is the same. The means by which the product was created does not change what it is, and does not change the moral issues surrounding embryo research.

Statement 2—“Human blastocysts and eggs obtained for stem cell research or stem cell therapies and cures must have been donated with voluntary and informed consent….”

To “donate” a blastocyst requires that it be produced by natural fertilization. So it’s alright to kill an embryo produced by fertilization so long as it was not created solely for that purpose, and it was not the research scientists who created it? This is a rather meaningless moral distinction.

In the definitions section we find the following obfuscation of terms:

Definition 1—“ ‘Blastocyst’ means a small mass of cells that results from cell division, caused either by fertilization or somatic cell nuclear transfer, that has not been implanted in a uterus.”

That may be the way they are using it in this section, but a blastocyst is what it is whether it is implanted into a uterus or not.

Definition 2—“ ‘Clone or attempt to clone a human being’ means to implant in a uterus or attempt to implant in a uterus anything other than the product of fertilization of an egg of a human female by a sperm of a human male for the purpose of initiating a pregnancy that could result in the creation of a human fetus, or the birth of a human being.”

The wording here is a little confusing. What they are trying to communicate is that cloning refers to implanting into the uterus anything other than an embryo (the “product”) that was produced through natural fertilization (wherein an egg is penetrated by a sperm, producing a new human organism), and which may result in the birth of a human being. Since the real process of cloning does not involve male sperm, and since the researchers have no intent of allowing the clone to be implanted into a womb and gestated to full-term (because they want to kill it for its parts), according to this definition of cloning they don’t have to call it cloning. How convenient that they define cloning in such a way that it has nothing to do with cloning, ban the pseudo-form of cloning, and then go on about their cloning business all the while saying they are not cloning! Can you imagine if we defined stealing like that?: Stealing is when I take something from your house that belongs to you. Since I am taking something from your car that belongs to you I am not stealing. Ridiculous!

The fact of the matter is that their definition of cloning is an out-and-out lie, and they know it. Cloning does not refer to where we put the so-called “product of fertilization,” or any other product for that matter. Cloning refers to the process of creating a new human being who is genetically identical to another human being. That new human being is called a clone. A clone is a clone regardless of where it is, or what we do with it. Where a (cloned) human being is does not change what it is.

The way this paragraph is worded it leaves room for researchers to implant a cloned embryo into a uterus and gestate it for up to 9 months, so long as it is not allowed to be born (just like in New Jersey). How? Because it only states that a “product of fertilization” cannot be implanted into a uterus and be birthed. “Anything other” than a “product of fertilization” does not apply. A clone is not the product of fertilization, and thus it could be implanted into a womb and gestated to near birth, only to be killed prior to that event.

One final thing to point out in this paragraph was the statement that implanting the “product of fertilization…could result in the creation of a human fetus,” as though the fetus is something that is created at a later stage in the pregnancy. “Fetus” is a term biologists and embryologists assign to a human being in utero who is between the age of 8 weeks and birth. It describes a particular stage of development of a human being, in the same manner as “newborn, infant, toddler, adolescent, teenager,” and “adult” describe stages of development in ex utero human beings. In the same way we would not say of a newborn that he/she could result in the “creation of an adult,” neither should we say an implanted embryo could result in the creation of a human fetus. Nothing new is being created. The tiny human being is simply maturing according to its kind.

Definition 5—“ ‘Human embryonic stem cell research,’ also referred to as ‘early stem cell research,’ means any scientific or medical research involving human stem cells derived from in vitro fertilization blastocysts or from somatic cell nuclear transfer.”

“Early stem cell research” is a term I have just begun to hear in this debate. The reason it is becoming the euphemism of choice is because it lacks the word “human” and “embryo,” both of which humanize the object of medical experimentation, and both of which stir up people’s moral sensibilities. That is why they want to avoid them.

Proponents of the bill have also created a website fact-sheet to supposedly set the record straight regarding what the initiative does and does not do. This also contains several bits of intentional misinformation.

They write:

“FACT #3: The Initiative clearly and strictly bans human cloning.

Opponents of stem cell research claim that making stem cells in a lab dish is the same thing as ‘human cloning.’ Scientists and most other people disagree with that view and understand that ‘human cloning’ means creating a duplicate human being – not making stem cells in a lab dish.”

First, embryonic stem cell researchers do not make stem cells; embryos make stem cells. The researchers simply harvest them, which requires that they kill the embryo.

Secondly, the location of the embryos has nothing to do with human cloning. Human cloning is a process of creating a genetic copy of another human. Whether the “product” of the cloning process is in a lab dish or in a womb, it is still a human, and the means by which it was created was that of cloning.

Thirdly, to say “scientists and most other people” think making stem cells in a lab dish is not cloning means nothing. For one, by not qualifying “scientists” they give the false impression that all scientists agree with this statement. Not true. For another, what “most other people” believe is irrelevant, even if it were true that most people believe what they say they believe. It is the science of biology and embryology, not the general populace, that determines whether or not making stem cells (by making an embryo) asexually is the same as human cloning.

“FACT #4: Early stem cell research does not involve abortion.

Early stem cell research does not involve or harm an embryo or fetus in a pregnant woman’s uterus – and it does not involve abortion. And, nothing in the Initiative changes or conflicts with Missouri’s abortion laws. The two basic sources of ES cells are: (1) leftover fertility clinic embryos that will not be implanted in a woman’s uterus and would otherwise be discarded and destroyed; and (2) the Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) process, which uses stem cells made in a lab dish with a patient’s own cells and an unfertilized, donated human egg.”

True, it does not involve or harm an embryo or fetus in a “uterus,” but it does involve and harm an embryo. Why is its location morally relevant? How does where it is change what it is? Furthermore, how can we use its location to redefine the meaning of the process that brought it into existence? Saying an embryo created by SCNT that is implanted in a womb is a human being, while an embryo created by SCNT that is in a lab dish is not is like saying an embryo created by fertilization that is implanted in the womb is a human being, while an embryo created by fertilization that is in a lab dish is not. Oh wait…they said that as well!

Saying that SCNT uses “stem cells made in a lab dish with a patient’s own cells and an unfertilized…egg” is false. The process of SCNT does not involve stem cells. It only involves a somatic cell and an enucleated egg. The embryo that is produced through SCNT produces stem cells, but stem cells are not used for the process.

I’m so glad the proponents of this constitutional amendment cleared up the misinformation out there! Hardly! The have added to it.

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