Monday, August 08, 2005

The invisible hand of necessity

I have made the case before that HB 810, or Castle-DeGette is really a stupid bill in every aspect imaginable.

First, it makes federal money available for the destruction of embryos for scientific ends. That's why most Christian pro-lifers don't like it.
Secondly, it only makes federal money available for "leftover" IVF embryos. That's why most scientists don't like it (and a few will admit as much). Of that 400,000 number that you have heard volleyed around, only about 40-60% (estimates range) could be made into viable stem cell lines. The South Koreans have proven that fresh eggs and fresh embryos make much more efficient stem cell lines.

Castle-DeGette does not endorse that per se, but it doesn't explicitly ban it either. That is what the "Frist Compromise" article in the Weekly Standard was trying to point out. If Frist wants to allow funding for IVF leftovers than he ought to make sure that embryo creation for stem cell research is banned.

But, as Elizabeth Whelan, speaking for the side that wants more funding, points out:
"If you believe that making available the 400,000 fertilized eggs now in the freezers of medical facilities around the country will give researchers what they need to forge ahead with new breakthrough technologies, then of course you would applaud Senator Frist's announcement. And you would ask for no more.
But the well-guarded secret is that access to these few hundred thousand embryos, while it may assist researchers temporarily, is only part of what is needed to keep America in competition with other nations seeking stem-cell based therapies.
What American stem cell scientists need is what is granted to scientists in countries around the world: federal funding for research that involves what is technically known as 'somatic cell nuclear transfer' (SCNT). "

Well, when your opposition is making your point for you, you ought not to stand in the way. But I can't help but add that I don't think they really need to worry. If Castle-DeGette is passed, they may not get their cloning funding right away, but the culture will become used to the idea of experimenting on embryos. Nascent human life, the origins of all of us, we come to be seen (quickly and painlessly) as a necessary commodity for the betterment of human life (that is human life that has made it past that stage). It is an easy step from there to convince people that we now need to clone embryos in order to benefit even more.

The same logic that allows us to use "leftover" embryos will allow us to clone fresh ones. So I would tell Ms Whelan. Relax, bid your time. If Castle-DeGette passes you will get your way. Science and technology tend toward efficiency by the invisible hand of necessity. Since it is possible, it will become necessary.