February 16, 2004

If There Wasn't a War On

...and if I were a little more of a single-issue kind of guy, this fact alone might put me in the Kerry camp this November:

Many people, like President Bush, want to stop all human cloning, even for research, because of a moral objection to destroying embryos and a fear that maverick fertility doctors might adopt researchers' tricks to create babies. A bill that would ban all cloning has bogged down in Congress, and a similar ban has faltered in the United Nations. That's because other folks--including Sen. John Kerry, the likely Democratic nominee for president--want to permit research cloning while forbidding baby making.

Read the whole article, which once again — true to form — spends more time on reproductive cloning than therapeutic cloning, even though the Korean researchers were specifically working on the latter and are opposed to the former.

As I said, there's a war on and we have to keep our eyes on the prize. But I resent the fact that four more years of Bush means four years of getting further behind in an area that is so central to human progress.

Posted by Phil at February 16, 2004 10:46 AM | TrackBack

As I point out, the cost of delay in regenerative medicine is pretty much 55 million lives a year. Not this year, of course, but that last year before we can create arbitrary organs on demand, a decade or so away, or that last year before the technology becomes cheap enough to be deployed worldwide, twenty or thirty years from now. Those dates will still be delayed by those four or five extra years that another round of the Bush administration.

Are you really thinking that a quarter of a billion lives lost, over a timescale of decades, is an acceptable cost?

Nothing the Bush administration is doing is causing as much damage as their medical policies. These policies have already doomed many more people than Stalin and Hitler put together.

Founder, Longevity Meme

Posted by: Reason at February 16, 2004 01:21 PM


Comparing purposeful genocide under Stalin and Hitler with potential deaths many years from now seems just a tad heavy-handed.

I also disagree with Bush's policy. The Kass position seems more of a death fetish (the older generation sacrificially laying down their lives for the new generation) than scientific.

But after watching the Sage Crossroads "Is Aging a Disease" debate this weekend I'm beginning to believe that cumulative serendipitous discoveries will be as important for life extension as any Apollo-like government project.

When you're talking about going to the moon, you know that a big government project is the only way. No matter what you discover here on earth, you're not going to just magically appear on the moon without building a big expensive vehicle to take you there.

This is not necessarily the case with life extension. Radical life extension could be built brick by brick of small discoveries by scientist that aren't even thinking about senescence.

I believe we may have already passed a point of no return. Regardless of what the government's policy is (or even the desires or goals of the scientific community) life extension is on the horizon.

Last week you said that the Korean achievement should have happened in the U.S. several years ago. You're probably right, but my point is that it did happen - in spite of the government ban on embryo research.

- Stephen Gordon

Posted by: Stephen Gordon at February 16, 2004 03:44 PM

Heavy handed is all relative: it comes back to the point of whether preventing research is morally equivelant to preventing a sick man from buying an available cure.

I agree with your view of Kass' death fetish, if not the precise form of that fetish. I think he's caught up in the (screwy, false from my point of view) nobility of drawing a line under one's life and totaling the score.

I also sympathise with your view of practical life extension as the product of many small discoveries: but that doesn't prevent people who deliberately set out to block the advance of science from being responsible for the deaths of those who consequently died before therapies became available.

I think there's a tendency for people to just throw large numbers of casualties out of the window. 250,000,000 lives, not worth talking about. It's a problem, because those consequences are very real - you can't just ignore them because they are large numbers. Heavy handed or not, I am deliberately setting forth the position that Kass, Bush, et al, in their deliberate and successful attempts to block progress towards regenerative medicine, will have as their legacy more death than all the wars and dictators of the 20th century. You can't wave that away just because it's horrific, or the numbers are large.

Founder, Longevity Meme

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