GRG Editorial: White House Snow Flakes in May?
May 25, 2005; Washington, D.C. Trey and Tracy were one of 21 families invited to the White House among those who delivered babies from embryos that were donated by another family that created them for the purposes of IVF but were never needed after being frozen in liquid Nitrogen. Normally, following ovarian hyperstimulation, there would be a surplus of fertilized eggs, since a woman who creates a dozen eggs or more eggs would never have more than three of four placed back into the uterus. The surplus eggs are frozen for safekeeping just in case the pregnancy doesn't take on that particular round of IVF. Thawed eggs could be used in future rounds of IVF that would be much less expensive than starting from scratch. These adopted embryos are now being called "snowflake" babies, since after they were thawed, they could be implanted in a genetically-unrelated surrogate mother and brought to term.
Snowflake infants highlight the human potential of the in vitro fertilization (IVF)
industry's vast and growing pool of spare fertilized eggs.
So what is our opinion of this photo-op? We categorically repudiate this photo. Here follows a random list (not even alphabetical) of adjectives that one could use to describe the motives of those who conceived of this slick masquerade photo as a scam...
reprehensible, detestable, repugnant, repulsive, despicable, revolting, odious, pretentious, righteous, sanctimonious, hypocritical, patronizing, fraudulent, perjurious, perfidious, mendacious, evil, iniquitous, arrogant, belligerent, adversarial, pugnacious, intimidating, hostile, cynical, pathetic, hideous, heinous, putrid, stinking, vulgar, profane, obscene, blasphemous, lewd, perverted, sordid, licentious, prurient, salacious, malicious, nefarious, loathsome, repellant, creepy, decadent, fatuous, abhorrent, insipid, pernicious, insidious, appalling, shameless, scornful, disdainful, contemptible, slanderous, meretricious, perverse, provocative, atrocious, horrible, ghastly, wretched, corrupt, abominable, lunacy, apologistic, rebarbative, mutilative, obliterative, grotesque, monstrous, outrageous, infuriating, chilling, foolish, stupid, sappy, ludicrous, preposterous, puerile, irrational, excoriating, futile, cheap, tawdry, ignominious, humiliating, opprobrious, contumelious, excruciating, obdurate, insulting, atavistic, egregious, pious, unrepentant, stunning, astonishing, freaky, mutilated ... [We hope we included your favorite pejoratives.]
But, why this long string of invectives to describe something that superficially looks so innocent as a 'politician hugging a baby'? Because this photo is a contrived sham and swindle. Don't get me wrong. We wish to make it perfectly clear that we have nothing against snow-flake, adopted embryos per se. After all, babies are babies. And, our agenda is neither pronatalist nor anti-natalist. To the contrary, we consider IVF to be a rather cool technology, and frozen embryos in a surrogate mother is a particularly sweet variation on the basic technology. But here are some facts from Prof. Arthur L. Caplan, Ph.D., Emanuel and Robert Hart Professor of Bioethics and Director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He explains that there were only 81 snowflake babies ever born in history, of which 21 were assembled at the White House on this particular day. But what is the total number of frozen embryos sitting now in liquid Nitrogen in IVF clinics around the country accumulated for more than fifteen years? Answer: Approximately 400,000 frozen embryos! So what is the ratio of 81 to 400,000? Let's figure it out. It's not, as the photo is disingenuously meant to suggest "This is the American way --- representative of how things should be done in our nice clean-living land in which all sons are handsome and all daughters are beautiful (and are never caught drinking under age)." Indeed, snowflakes do not represent the typical case, nor the majority, they merely are a singular existence proof that it's possible. We are not off by a factor of 10 (20 percent) or a factor of 100 (2 percent) or a factor of 1,000 (0.2 percent) but a factor of 10,000 (0.02 percent), i.e., snowflakes are four orders of magnitude off the norm! This is like holding up a red herring and saying, look here, see, "all herrings are red!" Or holding up a black swan and saying, see, "all swans are black!" Hello! This contrived photo-op for the benefit of the media was orchestrated as a fantasy for evangelical conservatives. Did the media notice? Yes, they did. Two days later The Los Angeles Times  wrote a sarcastic Editorial exposing this hypocrisy by a President whose wife admits that he can't pronounce the word nuclear, even though she can. In his defense, his staff explained that "saying nookular" [sic] is simply a "regionalism," and other presidents have said it that way too (e.g., President Carter), so it must be right. (Sigh!) [We apologize for the ad homonym argument which has nothing to do with the issue at hand. Furthermore, consider that it doesn't matter whether the President himself is smart or stupid. He is a coached by an extremely bright team (with a hidden agenda), capable of profound calculation, and if you want to go up against him, you better marshal you forces to deal with his adversarial team, and it doesn't matter if you can win one debate after another one-on-one, if you still lose the war. Debates don't count. In this country, the war is over who gets elected. And persuading the electorate is an exquisitely complex business, filled with the task of pandering to irrational delusions held sacred by ordinary people who go to church every Sunday without fail.]
We should also point out that the frozen embryos are the ones that didn't look excellent to the infertility-gynecologist's eye under the microscope, while some of the good-looking ones were implanted back in the IVF-mother-to-be, so one could not imagine that the frozen ones, that are no longer fresh, would have the same yield [percentage of healthy babies going to term] for two reasons: (1) they didn't look as good to start with; and (2) they were subjected to the stresses of freezing and thawing (we don't know which is worse, but you've got both insults working here).
Finally, hardly anyone ever mentions that 50 percent of all fertilized eggs die (of natural causes, usually uncovered after the fact to be at the chromosomal level with ectopic chromosomes, inverted-segment chromosomes, or polyploidy whose incidence increases exponentially with the age of the mother after age 25 and less rapidly with the age of the father) even before they implant in the miraculous, natural womb (meaning that God is ruthlessly indifferent as to this quality-control aspect of producing successors to carry on in the next generation; and He is really profligate in the case of other species and their chances for individuals in a particular cohort to reach reproductive maturity, like frogs, for example, in comparison with humans). For every child born, and then some, the mother-to-be has her monthly period, never realizing that she just "murdered a human child" (God's 'will' be done), while she goes on about her business without the slightest pang of personal guilt (or even being stigmatized as a sinful killer by the elders of the church hierarchy).
So what does this all mean? Simply, that this photograph is a lie -- not just a an innocent, unintentional, counterfactual statement -- it's a deliberate falsehood of sneaky disinformation with full intent to deceive, consistent with an absolutely repulsive political agenda -- " this country has a mandate, indeed an obligation, to adopt all 400,000 of these frozen embryos and bring them to term as wonderful American citizens." (Gasp!) Such a logical conclusion is rightfully incomprehensible, once you make it explicit in writing, even forgetting the monetary cost of carrying out such an absurdity.
Parting Blast: Staging this photo-op with the 21 families with Christian mothers wearing T-shirts emblazoned with slogans like " This embryo was not discarded," was quite a coup for the White House staff, we imagine, and one might reasonably ask who paid for their travel expenses? Was it The Nightlife Christian Adoption Agency by any chance?
-- Steve Coles
1. Michael Kinsley, "Bioethicists Fiddle as Patients Die: Mr. Bush, Don't I matter More Than Tiny Clumps of Cells?" The Los Angeles Times, p. M5 (May 22, 2005).
"Prof. Leon R. Kass, Chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics [The New York Times (May 20, 2005)], greeted the thrilling news [of the recent South Korean cloning accomplishment] with his usual fatuous call for a 'moratorium' on the research that produced it, presumably so that bioethicists could be allowed the time needed to beaver away toward a moral breakthrough in this area. Delay on the grounds of a looming 'slippery-slope' could have been used to abort every technological advance since the invention of the wheel... Ethicists tend to look for interesting problems. The more of them you put to work on a given problem, the more you end up with still more problems, even without a resolution to the original problem... It's amusing to think of scientific breakthroughs sitting on hold while someone works his way through the arcane ethical mazes of their own devising. Or it would be, if it weren't being done with my money and my time."
2. Bernard Wysocki, Jr., "House Vote Eases Stem-Cell Limits, Ignores Veto Vow," The Wall Street Journal, pp. A1, 3, 8 (May 25, 2005).
3 . Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, "House Defies the President on Stem Cells: Despite a Veto Threat, a Bipartisan Alliance Votes to Ease Federal Funding Curbs on Embryonic Research. Bush Stands His Ground in Remarks," The Los Angeles Times, pp. A1-15 (May 25, 2005).
4. Editorial, "Stem Cells and Bush's Hypocrisy" The Los Angeles Times, p. B12 (May 27, 2005).
This Editorial beautifully points out the exquisite irony that an "embryo-adoption drive" wouldn't save the embryos that die in other stages of the process, both earlier and later. "The recipients of donated fertilized eggs also generally have several (of the best looking) embryos implanted in the hopes that at least one will survive." The risk of multiple births: twins, triplets, etc. is not so much of a problem, despite the undesirable side effects from the point of view of obstetrical complications. The problem is that only a minority of these embryos successfully implant in the uterus and form a placenta (for reasons that we don't really understand), resulting in a (hormonally) detectable pregnancy, and of those about 20 percent are 'still born' (a miscarriage, premature termination of pregnancy for reasons unknown, otherwise known medically as a spontaneous abortion, as distinguished from a therapeutic abortion [a D&C or Dilatation and Curettage] deliberately performed to safeguard the health of the mother, neither of which is a gratuitous abortion, as my be considered the case for some sorts of "morning- after" pills that simply block implantation. Of course, the language of abortion (by trimester) is a mine-field of confusion (with overlapping medical terms, legal terms, pro-life terms, and pro- choice terms all prevailing in different communities-of-interest; one of my favorite sources of ambiguity comes from the pro-life phrase "Partial Birth Abortion" for which the corresponding medical term is D&E [Dilatation and Extraction], curiously, one of the most well-known Gynecology and Obstetrics teaching books around (Williams) universally used by residents-in- training, doesn't even make mention of it, the term (and the procedure) are so little used, making you wonder why this procedure was elevated to the attention of legislatures in a number of states; not-so- strangely, pro-lifers would speak of a post-partum fetus born dead as a dead baby (i.e, to be mourned and maybe even buried with a ceremony) while the corresponding medial term is "Product of Conception," which I was always trained to abbreviate as "POC," pronounced "pock"; no wonder we have a hard time communicating, we don't even speak the same language.) before they achieve a full-term delivery (at least [ 25 - 30] weeks with proper prenatal care and C-section or normal uterine delivery at [30 - 40] weeks). So, "in effect, the donations necessarily results in the deaths of more frozen embryos that wouldn't die if they were merely kept frozen. Therefore, putting several pre- implantation embryos in the uterus may produce: (1) multiple births (parity>1); (2) a singleton birth (best outcome); or (3) none at all (the worst outcome). What are we, as thoughtful, compassionate gynecologists, to do? It seems that "selective reduction" of multiple births (in order to free up real estate in the womb) carries its own risks for the remaining fetus(es). Nevertheless, this lucrative business for infertility doctors (usually on a cash basis), involves the creation and knowing destruction of many embryos, meaning that the President's policy is illogical: he tolerates IVF (as practiced in this country for 27 years), indeed celebrates it as a pro-family policy (correctly) but which unavoidably involves creating embryos and (unintentionally) destroying many of them (ostensibly immoral, according to the religious establishment). Give me a break!
5. Michael Ramierez, "Political Cartoon: Fertility Clinics, Inc.," The Los Angeles Times, p. M5 (May 29, 2005).
6. Joel Pett, "Tough Cell," The Los Angeles Times, p. M2 (May 29, 2005).
7. "Margaret Carlson, "Op-Ed Piece: A Storm Over 'Snowflakes'," The Los Angeles Times, p. B13 (June 9, 2005).
8. Ronald Brownstein, "On Filibuster and Stem Cells: GOP Bears Pain of Compromise," The Los Angeles Times, p. A16 (May 30, 2005).
9. Stem Cells and Bush's Hypocrisy," The Los Angeles Times, p. B12 (May 27, 2005).
10. "Human Embryo Research: All Sides to the Dispute" by ReligiousTolerance.org has a well balanced approach to the arguments on both sides.
11. Andrea Stone, "Friendly PA Senators at Odds in Stem-Cell Debate," USA Today, p. 5A (June 30, 2005).
Sen. Arlen Specter ( R - PA in Philadelphia), recently afflicted with Hodgkin's Disease and who just underwent a regimen of chemotherapy vs. Sen. Richard Santorum ( R - PA in Pittsburgh), a strong Catholic right-to-life conservative. I'm sure you can figure out which side each is on.
12. Clive Thompson, "How to Form Stem Cells without Losing Your Soul," Wired Magazine, Vol. 13, No. 6, pp. 118-23 (June 2005).
13. Alex Barnum, "Baby 13 Years in the Making: Family's Fertility Ordeal Ends with Birth of Girl Conceived in Same Test Tube As Teenage Twins," San Francisco Chronicle (July 5, 2005).
To our knowledge, this is the oldest snowflake baby in terms of the "delta" between freezing and thawing: conception + 13 years, but there is no reason in principle why it couldn't be 100 years or more, since at storage temperature (liquid Nitrogen) there is no metabolic activity to prematurely age the embryo.
14. Bernard Wysocki, Jr., "Politics and Policy: Republicans Break Ranks on Stem Cells: Senate Is Likely to Pass Bill Expanding Federal Funds For Research, Defying Bush" The Wall Street Journal, p. A4 (July 7, 2005).
15. Editorial by Ruth Wood Cresbard (July 8, 2005).
16. Micah Morrison, "Who's Leading the Way?" Parade Magazine; Sunday Supplement, pp. 1, 4-7 (July 10, 2005).
Provides a Resarch!America Health Poll of 1,000 Amercians, representing a cross-section of the population with a +/- 3.1% sampling error with the following conclusion: 58 percent of Americans either somewhat or strongly favor embryonic stem-cell research while 29 percent of Amercians either somewhat or strongly oppose embryonic stem-cell research (13 percent didn't know). Of those who were opposed, 57 percent cited religious reasons; the balance cited "other."
17. Mary Curtius and P. J. Huffstutter, "Stem-Cell Bills Have Multiplied: Fearing the Senate Will Pass Legislation Easing Research Curbs, the White House Is Backing Up To Five Alternatives, Trying To Dilute Support," The Los Angeles Times, p. A17 (July 13, 2005).
An affirmative vote on the Bill to ease Federal-funding restrictions on stem-cell research could come in the Senate as early as next week with close to a veto-proof majority of 67 votes/100 Senators. However, five other Bills could come before the Senate (Sen. Sam Brownback (R - KA) is a sponsor of two of them) at the same time, thereby muddying the water. In such a contingency, President Bush could pick and choose the Bill(s) he wanted to veto, while still looking good in the eyes of most of the American people, ensuring that his policy of not funding the destruction of potential human life would not be compromised, despite the fact that the majority of voters disagree with him in practice. The White House is a tricky adversary that plays the game of politics with great skill. On the other hand, even if it were to pass, in our view, this Bill does not go far enough, since it only allows research on frozen embryos that sooner-or-later would be disposed of as "medical waste." It does not allow the creation of new pre-implantation embryos exclusively for research purposes, as was carried out by the South Korean scientists who published their results in Science earlier this year in attempting to create patient histocompatible embryonic stem cells.
18. Stephan Herrera, "Leaders and Laggards in the Stem-Cell Enterprise," Nature Biotechnology, Vol. 23, No. 7, pp. 775-7 (July 2005).
"Against long odds, conventional wisdom and politics, efforts to commercialize stem-cell research are underway and show signs of intelligent life."
19. David P. Barash, Op-Ed Piece by the coauthor of Madame Bovary's Ovaries: A Darwinian Look at Literature, "When Are the Souls Handed Out?" The Los Angeles Times, p. B11 (July 18, 2005).
The mingling of paternal and maternal chromosomes (with "crossing-over") does not occur shortly after a sperm's penetrating the zona pellucida (and the egg's plasma membrane) by swimming through the oocyte's cytoplasm toward the maternal chromosomes. (Acrosomal enzymes released from the head of the first lucky sperm have already triggered egg-membrane depolarization, thereby blocking "polyspermy," i.e., other slower-swimming sperm insisting that they too deserve to enter and would if they could). Mingling doesn't take place until after the egg's first mitotic division in which there are already two distinguishable daughter cells each of which forms a nucleus 24 hours after sperm penetration! Indeed, it takes still another 24-hours or so before their combined influence directs the formation of a blastocyst that yields evidence of both parents. [Hey, I didn't know that, even though I passed a course in Embryology in medical school. Would knowing this make a difference in the thinking of those misguided souls who subscribe to the discredited notion that "personhood" begins at conception, whenever that is supposed to happen? I doubt it. They probably attach the notion of "ensoulment" to having a simultaneous orgasm performed in the "missionary position." The notion that an orgasm was invented by God as a way to perpetuate all mammalian species is probably disconcerting. Think of it? Even my dog can have an orgasm! "That simply has to be wrong," they might say.]
20. Antonio Regalado, "U.S. Considers Ways to Make New Stem Cells," The Wall Street Journal (July 22, 2005).
21. AP, "Sen. Frist Expected to Back Stem-Cell Bill: His Shift Would Break with the President, Who Opposes Federal Financing for Research," The Los Angeles Times, p. A13 (September 29, 2005).
22. Peter Wallsten, Maura Reynolds, Steven Bodzin, Megan Garvey, Karen Kaplan, and Warren Vieth, "Defection Bares Stem-Cell Rifts: Majority Leader's Break with Bush To Back Federally- Paid Research Provokes Angry Rebukes: Senator Thinks Science Has Outrun Policy, Aide Says," The Los Angeles Times, pp. A1 16 (July 30, 2005).
Here are two diametrically opposed viewpoints:
(1) "Frist is a hypocrite... His change of heart has nothing to do with any scientific breakthrough... What's changed is that Dr. Duplicity wants to be President." - William Donahuye, President of The Catholic League. On the other hand,
(2) Mr. Robert Klein, Chairman of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine created under Proposition 71 which was passed by a wide majority of California voters last November, implied that Sen. Frist did not go far enough in his 'about face.' In particular, he said, "A broader Federal policy would still leave a 'massive gap' that only California could be expected to fill. For example, Prop. 71 specifically funds a procedure that aims to use cloning techniques to create stem cells that match an individual's exact genetic makeup" [and would therefore be histocompatible, a methodology already accomplished by the Hwang Lab in Seoul, SOUTH KOREA.] ... "But this is equivalent to what is called therapeutic cloning... and this would not be funded under the legislation now moving through Congress." [However, it would be both legal and fundable under California law,.] "Indeed, the House of Representatives has voted twice to criminalize it." [therapeutic cloning in past few years.]
[ Editorial Remark: California will still be where the action is, if we can get our act together and dismiss the various lawsuits now filed in Sacramento by a relatively small number of our lawyer adversaries.]
23. Bernard Wysocki, Jr., "Stem-Cell Funds Get New Traction with Frist Support," The Wall Street Journal, pp. A1,2,4 (August 1, 2005).
24. Marua Reynolds, "Frist's Shift Stirs Stem-Cell Debate: The Senate Leaders's Willingness to Expand Federal Studies Might Offer Congress 'Political Cover' To Override a Bush Veto, Specter Says," The Los Angeles Times, p. A10 (August 1, 2005).
[ Interpretation: This is an astonishing turn around for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D. (Surgeon)(R - TN), a man who would-be President in 2008. Both of the above stories together lead us to believe that the Senate will vote in September, when they return from their Summer break, by passing the Bill with a filibuster-proof majority (>= 60/100) and that the inevitable veto-override process could take place sometime in October by successfully overriding in the Senate (>= 67/100) but failing to override in the House (<= 289/442). To override in the House, we would need to pick up 51 more Representatives than voted for the House Bill in the first place, something that may be nearly impossible to accomplish. Stay tuned.]
25. Editorial, "The Doctor Is ... In," The Los Angeles Times, p. B10 (August 2, 2005).
[Interpretation: A perspicacious Editorial; but consider the source - a liberal newspaper that is typically ignored by conservative fundamentalist evangelicals except to attack it as a conspiracy by the enemies of God.]
26. Constance Holden and Jocelyn Kaiser, "Stem-Cell Politics: First's Support Raises Odds for Passage of Stem-Cell Bill," Science, Vol. 309, No. 5736, p. 858 (August 5, 2005).
27. Letter to the Editor by Michael van der Hoek of Anoka, MN, "Human Embryos Are Human Life," The Los Angeles Times, p. B12 (August 6, 2005).
van der Hoek asks the rhetorical question, "What are human embryos, if they are not human life?"
Well, this is a problem with the English language that is dealt with in greater detail below. It is categorically true that human embryos are a form of human life. But, so what? What is important is that pre-implantation embryos are not people. They are potential people. They become people at a certain point when incubated for nine months in the warm, wet environment of a mother's womb. And it is people (sentient persons) who are endowed with the moral rights and legal privileges of personhood, not "potential" people. If that were so, then it would be immoral or illegal or both not to get married and have as many children as possible following puberty, and that would be a story for fantasy island, wouldn't it? People are not "decanted" in a laboratory a la Alduous Huxley's Brave New World.
The reason that this is a problem with the English language is that English is a lazy language, missing all the technical jargon needed for professional discourse among the OB/GYNs who routinely deal with a class of interventions necessary to overcome the diagnosis of infertility, with all its subtle embryological discriminations that have not been necessary in the history of human natural languages until about 50 years ago, when it actually made a difference. But the nice thing about English is that it serves as its own meta language, and one can, with proper training, append any technical vocabulary to it, including acronyms as necessary, as long as you provide a dictionary or glossary for the uninitiated. However, why would one hire a random off-the-street, non-credentialed person to function as an interpreter for this technical jargon to provide you with endocrinological therapy needed to overcome infertility? Such people are not players. Indeed, it would be illegal for anyone to practice medicine without a license. However, it is not illegal for doctors to try to educate the general public about what they are doing or attempting to do, once the public expresses an interest sufficient to cause legislators to make it a celebrated cause for criminalization. And that is what we are attempting to do on this website.
28. Two Letters to the Editor, "Frist Shows Leadership on Stem-Cell Research," The Los Angeles Times, p. B10 (August 2, 2005).
29. First Is Not Invited to Evangelical Rally," The Los Angeles Times, p. A18 (August 3, 2005).
Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, said that "Frist's stem-cell stance reflected an unwise and unnecessary choice both for public policy and for respecting the dignity of human life."See the Family Research Council's professionally-executed website, where they chastise Frist for being a physician who doesn't understand the alleged promise of Adult Stem Cells.
30. "First Was Snubbed for His Shift in Favor of Lifting Stem-Cell Curbs by the Christian Group That Lionized His Anti-Filibuster Plan after the Schiavo Case," The Wall Street Journal, p. A1 (August 3, 2005).
31. Margaret Carlson, "Let's All Hug Bill Frist," The Los Angeles Times, p. B13 (August 4, 2005).
32. Mario Mechael Martini, M.D., "Life Begins Before the First Breath," The Los Angeles Times, p. B12 (August 5, 2005).
33. David Gelernter, "Crossing the Stem-Cell Line: Why Would Anyone Oppose Bill Frist's New Position? Because Americans Can't Let Human Life Be Created Just To Use It and Then Kill It," The Los Angeles Times, p. B13 (August 5, 2005).
This Op-Ed Piece by one of my former computational-linguistics artificial-intelligence colleagues from Yale University is a panopoly of errors, regarding slippery slopes toward "ghastly next steps." He fails to distinguish between moral judgements associated with "opportunity costs" or "unrealized potentialities" and the immorality of actually destroying someone else's existing work. Although he uses the poetic example of a flowering plant that first buds and then blooms into a blossom (catch the alliteration) which subsequently wilts (sorry, no alliteration), I prefer to sharpen the argument with a non-biological example: Let's say that I had a very large pile of say one million (identical) bricks, a whole bunch of masons ready to work, as well as some architectural blue prints for various types of structures. Now, it would certainly be wrong to illegally tear down (without permission) an existing cathedral built by others. But let's say that, with my bricks, I could have built a cathedral but chose instead to repair a mundane shopping center. Furthermore, let's say that everyone who shops at my new center is a happy shopper, and I, as a business man, and my masons succeed over the coming years in getting rich in the process. Should I be morally chastised by someone for failing to build a cathedral instead of repair an old shopping center? Gelernter would say, "I am holier than thou! You should have built the cathedral. I warn you that your failure to properly employ the bricks that were under your jurisdiction, will lead to burn in hell (in a 'lake of fire') for all eternity." I think not! People like shopping centers.
There is another failure in the use of language underlying Gelernter's argument. If <subject> kill <object>. is syntactically correct for all subjects and objects, it is certainly not semantically correct (nor pragmatically correct) for all subjects and objects. Presuppositional logic informs us that the verb "kill" is semantically (and pragmatically) restricted in its range of objects. "human life" (i.e., the presence of human cells containing human DNA) is not a sufficient basis for being a valid object of the verb "kill." If I pluck out one of my hairs, containing a follicle or simply spit on the ground (and saliva does contain human cells), I can not speak of killing my hair or my spit (sic); that simply wouldn't make sense. It would be like saying I killed a stone (sic), when what I actually did was to destroy a stone by crushing it, say. So the subject and the object must be living. Furthermore, it is personhood (or animalhood or maybe even planthood as in "killing a tree") that is the semantic token required as an object of the verb "kill." In particular, failing to distinguish between a potential human being in the form of a "fertilized oocyte" (a conceptus or a blastocyst or a pre-implantation embryo) and a sentient human "person" (even if it's not yet a fetus) is a deliberate misuse of language and therefore a failure of critical thinking. One cannot kill a pre-implantation "blastocyst" which has no nervous system any more than you can kill your "hair" (sic) or your "finger-nail clippings." (sic) Once a post-implantation embryo achieves the status of having a Central Nervous System, however, then we have a completely different "kettle of fish." Indeed we have a real "person," not just a "potential person." So therefore, the rules of the ethical/legal game change dramatically. But embryologists have learned a thing or two since the days when Aristotle informed us about when a nervous system first develops in a human embryo (322 B.C.). (By the way, it's well after 14 days post conception, which is the normal time of implantation in the uterine lining accompanied by the formation of a placenta.)
So, in conclusion, we should applaud Dr. Frist, Republican Senate Majority Leader, for having the courage to change his mind and reject the false logic of politicians or computer scientists who persist in misusing language for the sake of inherently religious arguments.
34. Megan Garvey, "State Fights Federal Bill on Cloning: California Officials Denounce Effort to Ban the Procedure, Saying It Would Slow Research. Villaraigosa Joins the Bipartisan Move," The Los Angeles Times, pp. B1,6 (August 24, 2005).
The Federal Bill being referred to here is Senate Bill S.658 (The Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2005) co-sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback (R - KA) and Mary Landrieu (D - LA) which matches a companion Bill passed twice by the House. This legislation seeks to criminalize the behavior of any scientist or stem-cell researcher who would engage in any form of cloning whether intended for reproduction ( reproductive cloning) or research ( therapeutic cloning). Obviously, were this law to pass (it is expected to come up for a vote in the full Senate sometime next month [September] with Sen. Bill Frist (R - TN) Majority Leader dictating the schedule), it would trump Prop. 71 passed by 59 percent of California voters. An alternative Bill co-sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D - CA) and Sen. Orrin Hach ( R - UT) would ban reproductive cloning while encouraging therapeutic cloning. It is unclear at this time whether both of these Bills (along with some others that are in the works) will be introduced for voting by the Senate on the same day, so we can get a clearer sense of how "veto-proof" these measures will be. President Bush has promised to veto any Bill (the first veto of his two administrations) that permits any form of cloning whatsoever. A veto-proof 2/3rds majority in both houses would be needed to over-ride a Presidential veto and allow a Bill to become law despite the President's veto. I suspect that this sort of event is exceedingly rare in American history. I am sure that many talking-head experts on various cable news channels will look this statistic up and tell us if it ever becomes a real possibility.