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Bioethics Archives


July 10, 2014

The Perils of Surrogate Parenting

Here are two celebrities, a couple who conceived a child with the father's sperm and a donor's egg. Now the couple is splitting and--they don't want the unborn baby.
Discovery bioethicist Wesley Smith comments: http://www.worldmag.com/2014/07/hollywood_divorce_spat_leaves_surrogate_baby_in_limbo

April 21, 2014

How Media Justify Suicide

Wesley J. Smith of Discovery Institute exposes the template bold and clear at National Review.

March 2, 2014

When Government Rations Drugs

In an irony, the British under the last Labour government created a National Institute for Health Care Excellence, supposedly to assure that drugs were equally available across the country. Instead, NICE (the institute's acronym) is shorting thousands of Britons from obtaining medicine that could prolong or improve their lives, according to a recent article in the Telegraph.

Examples include drugs to combat kidney cancer and a common form of eye disease that is a frequency cause of blindness.

Continue reading "When Government Rations Drugs" »

January 31, 2014

Guest Article: My Predictions in Bioethics Right Again!

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By: Wesley J. Smith

Can you believe a year has come and gone since I last told you what would happen, before it happened, in bioethics? Maybe it's my increasing age, but time is passing too fast!

So, how did I do? Not as well as in years past, but still an A-. Let's take a look:

Continue reading "Guest Article: My Predictions in Bioethics Right Again!" »

January 21, 2014

It Starts as a Murmur in the Heart

The FDA can affect your life in ways you don't even suspect. Critics say that bureaucratic fear of mistakes--ones that may affect a few people--too often delay approval of procedures, medical devices and pharmaceuticals that could help many. The trouble is that the bureaucracy knows that the few people who suffer from mistakes will get lots of attention, while the many whose care is delayed will seldom even know it, let alone organize and complain.

I tend to side with the critics.

At the same time, I am an enthusiast for modern medicine and the freedoms, training and technology that enable it. Let's remember our era's debt to those who have gone before.

I'm scheduled for surgery tomorrow to replace my heart's aortic valve. All else in my heart and elsewhere seems to be in good shape, so I qualify to have a "minimally invasive" operation. (That, nonetheless, is "invasive" enough as far as I'm concerned.) It involves a five inch cut through the sternum and maybe an hour when the heart is stopped and a heart/lung machine takes over. I'll also be given a relatively new kind of treated bovine valve that requires only three sutures, enabling a shorter operation and, therefore, one hopes, a somewhat shorter convalescence. The upper body gets beaten up in any case, so I figure that recovery time is about the same as from an auto accident--six weeks. But success is likely (95%).

Continue reading "It Starts as a Murmur in the Heart" »

January 19, 2014

A German Genocide Before the Nazis

Call it a "distortion" of Darwinian theory if you like, as does author John Lewis-Stempel, but the patent genocide of Germany against its African conquests a quarter century before Hitler's regime has all the marks of eugenics science policy.

The German atrocities under The Second Reich a little over a century ago have not been well-covered in contemporary literature, perhaps because the numbers involved were small compared to the killings that took place later in Europe under The Third Reich. But the genocidal policies were notable for two things, as Lewis-Stempel's article makes clear: 1) their sadistic cruelty; and 2) the explicit racism tied to evolution that inspired them.

"The Lebensraum policy of expansion was advocated by the 19th-century German geographer Friedrich Ratzel, who distorted Darwin's theory of evolution to proclaim that migration was necessary for a race's survival," Lewis-Stempel writes in The Sunday Express.

Continue reading "A German Genocide Before the Nazis" »

January 5, 2014

Is the Body Nobody's Business?

David Gelertner, Yale professor of computer science, has taken on those in science, technology and journalism who want to undermine the sense of what Discovery Sr. Fellow Wesley Smith calls "human exceptionalism".

I especially like Gelertner's sense of the importance of the BODY.

It surprises me as a Christian to see how many Christian intellectuals, in particular, try to downplay the importance of the body. A key case is the attempt to dodge the theology of creation of the first man as a BODY--infused from the start with a soul, not just a body that evolved by an unguided process over millions of years and then had a soul dropped into it. The human body, from a theological standpoint, was unique at the very beginning and expressed with a soul.

The sacred physicality of life is supposed to be Christian orthodoxy. Christ ("the second Adam") was flesh and blood, not just spirit. His BODY went straight to heaven. According to Catholic dogma, so did Mary's. So someday will the BODIES of those he saves. For Catholics, at least, Christ's BODY is presented in the "real presence" of the eucharist. The moment of conception is sacred because the BODY and spirit are fused from the beginning. (That is one reason why a miscarriage is so grieved.) When we die, our spirit departs, but the BODY still is treated with great respect. In life we are admonished to show respect for the BODY and not to disfigure it.

Continue reading "Is the Body Nobody's Business?" »

December 4, 2013

Meet Ma and Pa

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As the Daily Mail and others are reporting, a geneticist in Georgia contends as a scientific proposition that man descended from pigs as well as chimp-like apes ("Humans evolved after a female chimpanzee mated with a pig': Extraordinary claim made by American geneticist"). Since his is only a variation on Darwinian theory, not a repudiation of it, Dr. Eugene McCarthy's notion is to be treated with professional respect. His work is to be covered seriously.

Now, if his speculation were deeper and dealt with the increasingly daunting problems with Darwinian theory and with the growing evidence of intelligent design, he would have to be ignored or attacked for positions he does not hold.

December 2, 2013

The FDR I Knew Little About

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FDR carves a turkey as his wife Eleanor looks on

Franklin Roosevelt was one of the most consummate politicians ever. Emitting charm and practical intelligence, he was the Democratic sun in the 30s and 40s. A hero of experimental and energetic big government, conservatives believe he prolonged the Depression rather than ending it and was naive about Stalin's post-World War II aims. Regardless of one's appraisal, FDR, like his wife Eleanor and his distant cousin Theodore, continues to dazzle historians.

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Film maker Ken Burns (far left)
In Warm Springs, GA recently, where my wife, Sarah, a descendant of Theodore Roosevelt, and I were involved in a family reunion of both the "Oyster Bay" (TR) Roosevelts and the "Hyde Park" (FDR) Roosevelts, visitors were treated to a screening of excerpts from a seven installment, 14 hour Ken Burns documentary, "The Roosevelts". It is set to air on PBS over a solid week next fall.

The reunion, with descendants now reaching to great-great-grandchildren, was an odd encounter, where in a reception hall holding 160 you could say, "Hey, Ted!" and a sizable share of the room's males would turn their heads. There also were small platoons of "Elliotts" and "Nicks", and even some "Eleanors" and "Franks." It was happy confusion.

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Chapel FDR built in Warm Springs, GA
Among the agreeable discoveries was the extent of Franklin Roosevelt's personal attention to development of Warm Springs, GA-- where he erected a "Little White House" as a private retreat--as home also to the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation for polio victims. In Warm Springs the political FDR recedes and the compassionate innovator and detailed planner emerges. Fighting polio and disabilities was his personal cause.

He surely didn't do it for the publicity. FDR feared, perhaps correctly, that if the public fully understood how much the Infantile Paralysis he contracted at age 39 (in 1921) disabled him his political career would be damaged. Polio terrified people at the time. He would not want to advertise his infirmity.

The media kept his wheel chair out of sight for his whole later career and FDR himself found inventive ways to appear at podiums to speak--in leg braces, often with one of his sons helping to hold him up--and to drive a car with special hand controls. What he was doing to help other polio sufferers was known, but not prominently.

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Model of Warm Springs therapy pools
Indeed, what FDR did at Warm Springs came at his own initiative and at risk to his personal fortune. Yet it had his devoted attention. In the mid 1920s he purchased a small spa in Bullochsville, Georgia south of Atlanta known for its warm, supposedly restorative mineral waters and persuaded the local council to rename the town Warm Springs to better showcase its main attraction. But then he found that tourist spa-goers were uninterested in sharing the waters with polio victims--it made them afraid--so he concentrated on making the facility a unique center for treatment of polio and other physical handicaps.

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Campus of Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute

Roosevelt believed that the stigma of polio would only worsen with a hospital style environment for the mostly young residents. Instead, he devised a campus-style facility, sending architects to the University of Virginia to gain ideas from Thomas Jefferson's classical columns and arcades. He wanted as much year-round color and folliage on the grounds as possible and saw to it that the eating hub of the facility was not a cafeteria, but a dining room with real tablecloths, fresh flowers and waiters in bow ties.

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An early iron lung
He found inventors and artisans to design new therapy techniques and equipment for the Institute's residents, including improved wheel-chairs and early versions of leg braces. Some patients with severe cases of polio were for greater and lesser periods placed in "iron lungs", which allowed them to breathe more easily, while less difficult cases received physical therapy, especially in the supportive warm water. The different pools the Institute developed allowed FDR and others to devise exercise opportunities and mobility unavailable on dry land. Polio sufferers could not endure cold water, but the naturally warm, 86 degree water at Warm Springs permitted the young FDR--who later was to become governor of New York, then President--to frolic with the children and teens. Physical play helping to develop upper body strength.
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The Little White House
FDR never stopped innovating. The "Little White House" a few hundred yards away from the Institute, as I told my wife, can be seen as the first Americans for Disabilities Act-compliant architecture--several decades ahead of its time. Compact and accessible for its celebrated wheel-chair bound occupant, the place was a genuine retreat. FDR arrived from Washington by train, usually without attendant press or more than a couple of aides. A cook came over from a local hotel to prepare meals.
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Pike Hazanne today, a patient in 1935
At the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute, meanwhile, Roosevelt liked to make personal rounds to meet patients, especially the young. At the Roosevelt family reunion I sat with a local Warm Springs citizen, Pike Hazanne, who was only four years old when she got polio in 1935 and became a temporary resident of the Institute--and met its illustrious founder. She remains an able advocate for the continuing services the Institute provides. The spirit of the Roosevelt Institute was cheerful, not dour, she reports.

Most Thanksgiving holidays for two decades FDR managed to come to Warm Springs to carve the turkey in the dining room. Then, standing in his braces at the door, he greeted each resident as he or she exited. It was his way of showing personal interest, and also giving the clear message: If I can do this kind of thing, there is certainly hope for you. The Ken Burns documentary undoubtedly will demonstrate that, as with Theodore Roosevelt and with Eleanor, FDR's determination in life was strengthened by the hardships he overcame.

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FDR's favorite chair
On the afternoon of April 12, 1945, a few days before the end of the war in Europe, Roosevelt suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage in the combined living and dining room at the Little White House and died soon after. The previous day, a Sunday, he worshipped, as usual, in the chapel he had erected on the Institute grounds. That chapel is still in use by Institute residents and staff.

The whole environment in Warm Springs speaks of sturdy American simplicity. The Little White House, for example, is a modest cottage. It becomes a republic, not an empire. Regardless of politics, you cannot witness what this shows about FDR without serious respect.

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FDR swimming with other Polio patients
October 5, 2013

India's Wombs for Westerners' Babies

Some women tell our Sr. Fellow Wesley J. Smith that they "would do anything for a baby." One feels sympathetic, at least until one considers what "anything" might entail.

Smith has an article at First Things today that describes some of the options.

Continue reading "India's Wombs for Westerners' Babies" »

September 3, 2013

Don't Want the Twins? How About a "Reduction"?

For "Things Are Going to Hell in a Hand Basket" file: the crass calculation of a contemporary couple that is unhappy they are having twins. Maybe, it is suggested, they might have a "reduction". Such a choice: which twin doesn't make the cut? Won't it be fun to explain it someday to the surviver?

Slate describes the unhappy plight of the parents who only wanted one more child: The anonymous couple 'considered a reduction for about 30 seconds,' Dad says, but ultimately decided the procedure was too 'Machiavellian' to undertake without reason. Still, they privately hoped that doctors would locate some socially acceptable justification for them to undergo a reduction, like genetic anomalies in the twins. Sadly, 'none came'."

I don't feel sorry for the parents. I feel sorry for their kids.

Continue reading "Don't Want the Twins? How About a "Reduction"?" »

May 9, 2013

A Hard Choice for the Pro-Choice

The way to trouble the pro-life advocate is to ask what he or she would do in the case of "rape or incest". That question tripped up at least two U.S. Senate candidates last fall and led to their defeats.

In a similar fashion, pro-choice advocates have a terrible problem with a question about late-term abortions. That difficulty has become especially acute now that the Gosnell trial has revealed the existence of after-birth abortions, an idea that literally was only the stuff of satirical invention a couple of decades ago. But in 1997 "ethicist" Steven Pinker of Harvard more or less defended the practice in an article in the New York Times. That helped break the taboo among some, though hardly all, progressives.

Regarding Gosnell, it is said that the disgusting conditions of his clinic, the insensitive, even cruel treatment of women there and the readiness to "snip" the spinal cords of babies born alive after an abortion attempt shows the need for better facilities under nicer conditions.

Continue reading "A Hard Choice for the Pro-Choice" »

May 2, 2013

Okay to Kill Babies After Birth?

The uncomfortable subject of infanticide can be obscured by academic rhetoric and by changing the subject, such as to costs to the parent(s), costs to society, legal "rights", etc. Let's tut-tut about those. Of course, the same used to happen when the subject was a black person's ability to vote or the ante-bellum issue of slavery. There always are excuses; the human imagination is resourceful.

Continue reading "Okay to Kill Babies After Birth?" »

March 29, 2012

Mr. Obama's Hobbesian Health Care

It's a war of all against all. See the Daily Caller article below by Discovery Sr. Fellow Wesley J. Smith:

By seizing control of health care benefits and coverage, the Obama administration set primal forces into motion that will soon have us fighting each other like a pack of hyenas battling over a small carcass. Indeed, by creating a system in which we perceive that the money our neighbors spend on medical care reduces the resources available for our own, Obamacare has sown the seeds of cultural discord and cracked the foundations of societal comity.

As in nature, resource shortages usually hurt those least able to protect themselves. Thus in the United Kingdom's socialized National Health Service, invidious rationing is already a way of life. Indeed, repeated exposes in the U.K. media have shown that the elderly and disabled are often denied efficacious treatments in order to pay for those deemed more deserving based on "quality of life."

But that is just the beginning. Some now want to punish the obese too. For example, Cristina Odone, the former editor of the Catholic Herald, recently mounted a decidedly un-Christian attack against "the fat" at the Telegraph, opining that they should be forced to the back of the health care line:

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Center on Human Exceptionalism, a consultant for the Patients Rights Council, and a special consultant for the Center for Bioethics and Culture.

Continue reading "Mr. Obama's Hobbesian Health Care" »

February 10, 2012

"Bioethics," the New Term for Organ Harvesting

Your tax dollars already are being used to promote the idea that it should be legal to harvest the organs of severely disabled people--and kill them in the process. Watch out when you hear that "bioethicists" are providing advice like this, advice that is so contrary to Judeo-Christian ethics (real ethics) and to the Hippocratic Oath.. The term has developed into a description of people who are hired to rationalize the killing of sick or disabled patients. In the account by our Sr. Fellow Fellow Wesley J. Smith, it seems that the National Institutes of Health are all on board with this latest advance. This is the same federally funded organization, headed by Francis Collins, that also advocates embryonic stem cell research.

February 9, 2012

"Religious Liberty" or "Access to Contraceptives"?

Progressive groups, including most of the media, describe the latest Obamacare order as guaranteeing "access to contraception" for American women.

The conservative media, such as it is, describe it as a requirement for church-related hospitals, clinics and other institutions "to provide all contraception, including abortion-inducing drugs, in their health care plans. (LifeSiteNews)." It is, in reality, a compulsory subsidy. Since the order forces religious groups, especially the Catholic Church, to violate their religious principles, evangelical leaders such as Southern Baptist Dr. Richard Land also regard it as an intolerable attack on "religious liberty."

Meanwhile, many liberal Catholics, such as commentator Mark Shields, have criticized the order. As for the clergy, Discovery Sr. Fellow Jay Richards quips, "President Obama has done something even the Pope couldn't do: unite all the Catholic bishops!"

So, is the Obamacare order really only about women's "access" to contraceptives? Or is it about compelling churches to choose between social services and their religious conscience?


January 31, 2012

Opposition Grows to Obama Ruling on Hospitals

The Health and Human Services Department's decision to force Catholic hospitals either to close down or provide contraception and abortion to patients is provoking a surprisingly fierce opposition from the Catholic Church--111 bishops have spoken out--and friends of religious liberty generally are bestirring. See Discovery Wesley J. Smith's article.

The issue has the feel of one where opposition is likely to grow, not diminish, and to involve a wider and wider circle of organizations and faiths. Catholics are not the only religious denomination affected, and even some who don't share the Catholic views on contraception and abortion nonetheless will recognize the breathtaking new effort to expand government's control of religion.

Worst of all for the Obama Administration, the HHS ruling is a manifestation of ObamaCare. Now there is another argument--and a volatile, very understandable one--against the government's health care program.

November 7, 2011

Darwinism and the N.C. Eugenics Scandal

NBC has shown a valuable program on eugenics and the price paid by women, many young and completely unaware, who were sterilized by the state.

The story is playing out as a racial issue, though there were many white victims, as well as blacks. What is not mentioned is the Darwinian theory that made eugenics a popular cause in the first place. Darwinians would like to ignore this past, but it is unavoidable....except, apparently, on network TV. Here it is a morality tale seemingly without a moral.

October 3, 2011

"Ecocide" Can Put you in Jail

It turns out that "Ecocide" is not wanton destruction of the environment, but merely, say, drilling for oil. It is another former of progressive loathing of Western society. Discovery Fellow Wesley Williams describes.

July 27, 2011

Laws Are Made to be Twisted

Sr. Fellow Wesley J. Smith correctly describes the latest ruling on embryonic stem cell research as an example of a judicial system that bends the law to meet political needs. Why bother passing the laws at all if they don't mean what they say?

June 3, 2011

Dr. Kevorkian Death was "Natural"

No "assisted suicide" for the doctor who promoted it for others--some of whom, autopsies showed, were not even ill.

Our Sr. Fellow Wesley J. Smith reports at National Review.

May 20, 2011

Is the White House Above the Law?

What do you do when your policy preferences are different from those established by law? If you are the Obama Administration you frequently try to twist the law around to your purpose. An excellent case is the Administration's insistence in conducting research on embryonic stem cells. The National Institutes of Health, under Francis Collins, leads the effort.

Discovery Sr. Fellow Wesley J. Smith takes up the issue today at First Things.

April 13, 2011

Big Phony News on Embryonic Stem Cells

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Dr. Theresa Deisher, after testifying before Congress last September against funding embryonic stem cell research

Discovery colleague David Klinghoffer has a fine article today at National Review Online about the constant media mistake--a mistake made so often it must be intentional--in conflating embryonic stem cell cures, which don't exist, with cures that come from adult stem cells. Be sure to read it.

The latest story describes Timothy J. Atchison, 21, who was treated, we are told, with embryonic stem cells. So, was it successful? The news media accounts don't say.

Continue reading "Big Phony News on Embryonic Stem Cells" »

March 9, 2011

Now, Eugenics Selection for Intelligence

Eugenics is the ugly stepchild of Darwinian evolution. Today some Darwinists wish to disaffiliate from the past history, but, in fact, eugenics is making a comeback. Wesley J. Smith discusses the latest "brite" idea: screening babies for intelligence.

January 22, 2011

'Single Payer' is Explanation for 'Death Panels'

The death of an Arizona man after Medicaid ran out of funds to pay for a liver transplant for him has raised the charge of "death panels", but from the left. Are they right? Discovery Fellow Wesley J.Smith says, no. Here's why.

January 5, 2011

Death Panels: Fear of Rationing

If you have insurance, America's health care is probably the best in the world. Even if you don't, it's up there with the second tier. What you also have is a certain amount of patient control, an ability for you and your family and your doctor to shape your care. At worst, if an insurance company refuses to pay for some procedure, you can pay for it yourself. In many socialized systems, you can't do that. In order to make the system work, private citizens are stripped of the option to buy their own health treatments.

That is why rationing is so feared by Americans. At some point, the government, lacking money for comprehensive coverage, decides who gets treatment and who doesn't. At an extreme, the government encourages old and very sick people to stop fighting the odds and make an end-of-life plan that eases a medical decision to cut off care--and save the government money. A "living will", sadly, seems to be sensible mainly when one signs it, but not necessarily so sensible (as my late mother found out) when emergency care is needed. In my mom's case, she was intubated after a heart attack, even though her living will said she shouldn't be. She was greatly relieved later that the living will had not been consulted; the oversight saved her life.

Wesley Smith, of our Center on Human Exceptionalism, blogs today at First Things about the latest decision of the Obama Administration to pull the plug on what seemed to be another try--administratively--to adopt what Sarah Palin dubbed "death panels."

Continue reading "Death Panels: Fear of Rationing" »

January 4, 2011

True Grit, and Animal Rights

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Paramount Pictures

Wesley J. Smith reviews True Grit, Academy Award nominee for Best Picture, making the sage observation that while the movie stealer in the original was John Wayne, the movie stealer in the remake is Hailee Steinfield, the female lead. More than that, Smith notes that the film raises a moral issue that undoubtedly will get lots of comments: a horse is ridden to death to save a human life. Is that defensible?

To the animal rights crowd, maybe not. Fortunately, the film takes another view.

January 3, 2011

Death Panels in State Health Plans

by Wesley J. Smith (posted originally at National Review Online's "Corner")

Norman Ornstein had a piece in the Washington Post railing against "death panels" in Indiana and Arizona, both of which involved Medicaid budget limits. He omitted the death panel in Oregon -- perhaps because it is a liberal state? -- which has explicitly rationed care under Medicaid since being allowed to conduct rationing under the Clinton administration. In Oregon, Medicaid has a list of over 700 procedures, and will cover only the number permitted by their budget, usually in the low- to mid-600s. All those procedures on the wrong side of the line are not paid for by Medicaid.

The point of Oregon's experiment was to expand coverage at the expense of cutting off the sickest people. For example, double organ transplants have been refused. That hasn't worked, but the state has kept its rationing scheme anyway. As a consequence, many poor Oregonians have, over the years, been denied potentially life-extending treatments. In 2008, two late-stage cancer patients were denied chemotherapy that could have extended their lives by Medicaid -- but were offered payment for their assisted suicides!

What is the common thread that connects the death panels in these three states? Medicaid is a single-payer system in which budgets are limited. When the money runs out, people's options shrink. See also, the U.K.'s NHS and, increasingly, Canada's national health-care system, in which life-extending chemotherapy has also been restricted in some places.

Many Obamacare supporters see the ACA is a necessary step to the ultimate goal, a federal single-payer system. But those who are attracted to this option should learn from Indiana, Arizona, and Oregon: Government can get away with treatment restrictions that would never be countenanced within a market-based system in which regulators would be on the side of the patients, rather than the government funder. In other words, if you like death panels -- as Norm Ornstein points out, although he probably missed his own message -- single payer is the way to get them.

-- Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center on Human Exceptionalism

December 27, 2010

Maybe Not "Death Panels," But Getting Close

The Obama Administration is trying on several fronts (FCC, EPA) to accomplish by bureaucratic executive fiat what Congress would not approve. And they are doing it during Christmas holidays, probably to prevent a bigger public--and Congressional--outcry. The latest example is the institution of end-of-life advice for senior citizens. Discovery Sr. Fellow, Wesley J. Smith, points out at National Review's "Corner" that having doctors seek directives of elderly patients on end-of-life or emergency care is innocuous on its own, but sets the stage for the kind of "death panels" and care rationing that Sarah Palin vividly described.

Continue reading "Maybe Not "Death Panels," But Getting Close" »

California's Latest Budget Buster

It is not enough that the State of California is nearly insolvent and headed into inevitable crisis; the state may be on the verge of another multi-billion dollar boondoggle that has nothing to do with serving the normal and necessary functions of state government and everything to do with runaway ambition, wishful thinking and waste. Wesley J. Smith, Discovery Sr. Fellow on Human Exceptionalism, writes about it in the San Francisco Chronicle.

December 14, 2010

The Legal Challenge to Obamacare is Serious

Discovery Senior Fellow Wesley J. Smith , among his other credentials, is an attorney with a long background in public policy law. As such, he is capable of a keen interpretation of the recent ruling against the Obamacare provision requiring each private citizen (adult) to purchase health care insurance. He has, indeed, provided such an interpretation at the online version of the journal First Things. Other websites are picking it up, too. The reasoning is fascinating. In sum, the legal issues are a lot more consequential than the mainstream media are suggesting.

November 10, 2010

President Bush Cites Wesley J. Smith in New Book

By Executive Director Steve Buri

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It is sometimes difficult for think tanks to connect political decisions to the research of their scholars--thus demonstrating the effectiveness of their efforts. Occasionally, however, the influence on the thinking of policy makers is undeniable. Witness, for example, the impact on President George W. Bush of Discovery Institute Senior Wesley J. Smith's embryonic stem cell arguments. In his new book, Decision Points, Bush highlights Mr. Smith's work on page 111, quoting him from a 2001 article in National Review. Mr. Smith wrote there:

"Embryonic stem cell research takes us onto a path that would transform our perception of human life into a malleable, marketable natural resource- akin to a cattle herd or copper mine- to be exploited for the benefit of the born and breathing."

Given the President's decision just two months later to limit stem cell research only to existing stem cell lines, it is clear that Wesley J. Smith's arguments impacted his decision.

Wesley Smith co-directs Discovery's Center on Human Exceptionalism. If you'd like to support this vital, but underfunded program, click here.

September 22, 2010

Phony Biology Claims Back Embryo Research

Discovery Institute senior fellow Wesley Smith, who co-directs our Center on Human Exceptionalism, is on top of the continuing effort to obscure just what is at stake in human embryo research. Since they are not getting very far in arguing that only human embryos can yield productive stem cell medical advances (because experience doesn't back up that claim), the proponents are reduced to misrepresenting the biology.

Continue reading "Phony Biology Claims Back Embryo Research" »

September 5, 2010

Human Genome Triumphs? Oh, Never Mind

When the Berlin War was brought down (thank you Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and John Paul II) a naive person might have expected the peace marchers who banged and clanged their way across the world stage for three decades to return to the streets and dance for joy. Peace had arrived. No more threat of a nuclear war with the Soviets.

Or maybe they would start marching in support of efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation in rogue states like North Korea and Iran.

Fat chance. The peaceniks' reply to the collapse of the Soviet system was a terse "No comment"--as they revised their signs to protest use of oil and gas, save the whales, etc.

So do great enthusiasms of the left and its media voices terminate once history overtakes them.

These days we see it in the dawning acknowledgement that the 2.7 billion dollar Human Genome Project was over-sold. Remember how it was going to cure everything from cancer to corns? President Clinton said it was not only the most important thing in science, it was the biggest thing of any kind, ever, or something like that. Ah, sweet mystery of life, at last we've found you!

Now, however, we have stories like this one in the Chronicle of Higher Education that simply shrug: well, yes, the Human Genome project "failed to deliver what it promised--a code book in which we could identify the genes responsible for many diseases", but--hey!--there are lots of other cool ideas we can get grants for!

August 25, 2010

False Panic Over Embryonic Stem Cells

The New York Times, as usual, leads the attack on the federal court ruling Monday against US Government funding for embryonic stem cell research (mainly through the National Institutes of Health), and as usual the reporting is tendentious.

"This decision has the potential to do serious damage to one of the most promising areas of biomedical research," says Dr. Francis Collins, director of NIH.

In a companion article ("The Two Plaintiffs at Center for the Ban on Stem Cell Use"), the Times employs innuendo to raise personal questions about the lead researchers who brought the case, Dr. James L. Shirley and Dr. Theresa Deisher. It is one of those stories that sounds worrying until you read it again and realize how empty the charges are. (Basically, the plaintiffs have had disputes with colleagues. Big surprise.) In other words, just because the Times runs a negative article about someone doesn't mean there is any content to the charges. The truth is that the scientists who are plaintiffs have put their careers at risk by taking on the Government and especially the likes of powerful funders at NIH--not to mention biased journalists. They are, in short, very courageous.

In a third article, "Stem Cell Biology and its Complications," way down the page, long after we read how people with diabetes and other ravaging diseases are distressed by possible funding cuts for cures, the Times admits, "Yet despite the high hopes for embryonic stem cells, progresss has been slow--so far there are no treatments with the cells." (Emphasis added.) After all these years and who know how much much money: "no treatments with the (embryonic stem) cells."

Finally, the Times leaps in with a fourth article, an editorial deploring the decision, "Wrong Direction on Stem Cells." Expect attacks by columnists to follow.

The plaintiffs would have no chance against that kind of stacked journalistic deck. Fortunately, they apparently have a better case in court.

Ideology is largely responsible for the insistence on embryonic stem cell research to the relative exclusion of other stem cell approaches. It is another case of Big Science and its journalists enablers acting like Big Brother.

August 24, 2010

Huge Victory for Social Conservatives

The news about the court victory for critics of embryonic stem cell research is huge, though it is not being played that way. You can be sure it would have been a bigger story if the case had been won by the government.

Nonetheless, it is in the first section of most papers and even on page one of the Wall Street Journal (above the fold). Theresa Deisher of Seattle is one of the plaintiffs who sued the Obama Administration over the matter. She kindly sent us a copy of the ruling, found here.

Obviously, the Administration will appeal. But they have been called out and the pro-life issues now have a legal force lacking before. It is amazing and grand that Deisher and company have shown what citizens can do--on the right side.

The Journal story says the ruling "was cheered by some Christian groups as a defense of human life" (imagine that), but "denounced by scientists who called it a major setback for medical research."

But it is not a setback for science. Deisher is a scientist in the field and Wesley J. Smith, senior fellow of Discovery Institute, has pointed out repeatedly that you don't need human embryos to get scientific progress using stem cells. Furthermore, evidence suggests that human embryos are bad candidates for research in the field.

Embryonic Stem Cells are wonderful candidates, of course, for the effort to pit human life defenders against people who long for medical advances. Judge Royce Lambert of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. has thrown a monkey wrench into that strategy.

July 28, 2010

Richard Dawkins, Human Exceptionalist!, Calls Us, "Earth's Last Best Hope"

By Wesley J. Smith

Well, I'll be cornswaggled! Richard Dawkins disdains the moral implications of human exceptionalism-for example, he yearns for the discovery of a human/chimp hybrid species that could interbreed with us to "break the species barrier."But even though he might prefer to tear it down-probably because HE can be seen as supporting religion-Dawkins clearly believes that human exceptionalism is an existential reality.

In 2007, Dawkins strongly asserted in a debate that we are unique and unprecidented in the history of life on the planet, indeed, that we have moral duties and imperatives to escape selfish Darwinian impulses and act in an explicitly "anti Darwinian" fashion as "earth's last best hope." From Dawkins' opening statement in the New Scientist/Greenpeace Science debate of 2007 (statement full at the YouTube video above):

Far from being the most selfish, exploitative species, Homo sapiens is the only species that has at least the possibility of rebelling against the otherwise universally selfish Darwinian impulse...If any species in the history of life has the possibility of breaking away from short term selfishness and of long term planning for the distant future, it's our species. We are earth's last best hope even if we are simultaneously, the species most capable of destroying life on the planet. But when it comes to taking the long view, we are literally unique. Because the long view is not a view that has ever been taken before in whole history of life. If we don't plan for the future, no other species will...

Wow. That's pretty darn exceptional. Indeed, I could have said it! In fact, I have, in other words, said precisely that.

But why would we do that? Why would we care? Because we are the earth's only moral agents. And that means, Dawkins is saying, that we should act morally:

Continue reading "Richard Dawkins, Human Exceptionalist!, Calls Us, "Earth's Last Best Hope"" »

July 21, 2010

New Republic Reviewer's Strange Caveat

It is great that The New Republic , in an article called "Animal Spirits", has reviewed Wesley J. Smith's A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy, and even better that the reviewer credits Smith's reporting on the extremism of the animal rights movement. But the reviewer feels a need to condescend to Smith, upraiding him for failure to emphasize that a key demonstration of the exceptionalism of human beings is the understanding we have that humane care for animals is part of our stewardship of nature.

Reviewer Michael David suggests, "Though we have an obligation as the only moral creatures that care for the welfare of animals, Smith might also have discussed the inverse. Does mistreating animals diminish our humanity?"

The trouble is, Smith addressed this issue straight on right at the beginning of his book, even using almost the exact words--"diminishes our own humanity":

Writes Smith (on page 3), "I am very well aware that these positions--once nearly universally accepted--have, in recent years, become intensely controversial. Indeed, few issues generate such intense emotionalism or fervent support by its adherents as does "animal rights." Thus, I want to make it very clear at the outset--as I will throughout the book--that I love animals and like most people, I wince when I see them in pain. Moreover, I believe strongly that as enlightened people, we have a profound moral and ethical obligation to treat animals humanely and with proper respect--a core obligation of human exceptionalism--and by all means, to never cause them to suffer for frivolous reasons. I also strongly support laws against cruelty to animals and support strengthening them when appropriate. Indeed, I believe that animal abuse is a terrible wrong, not only because it causes the victimized animal to suffer, but also because cruelty to animals diminishes our own humanity."

Smith also praises the work of animal reform advocates such as Dr. Temple Grandin, who has helped promote more humane forms of animal slaughter.

Smith is all for "animal welfare." We all should be. He believes, however, and argues persuasively, that what has become "animal rights" is another critter altogether.

June 24, 2010

Death Without Dignity in Oregon

The 19th century travel saying about Italy was, "See Naples and die." That is, when you've escaped the cold rain of England, say, and savored the Mediterranean sun, you will feel you've experienced all of the joy available in this life.

Now, it's "See Oregon and Die." The meaning is changed. These days you can hire a company to help you dispatch yourself, or help a "loved one" to do so. It's legal, it's probably a profit-center for someone, and they are even holding fashionable lunches at El Gaucho to advertise the exiting service.

El Gaucho is famous for great food. You might want to change your mind after dining there.

March 25, 2010

A NICE Situation We Find Ourselves in Now

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Wesley Smith of Discovery Institute is one of the few "bioethicists" who actually argues for a traditional, invariably high, valuation of human life. Many of the others, unfortunately, are now parts of the machinery of hospital panels convened to deliberate on end of life treatments. The reason this is unfortunate is that the people that pay the bioethicists' salaries are usually plagued by budgetary pressures that subtly, or blatantly, compel rationing of care.

A disturbing recent family situation persuades me that this pressure already operates under Medicare--a government program. It may well be the future for everyone under ObamaCare, when each of us, effectively, will be in competition with others for scarce, government-controlled treatment dollars.

Think not? Look at NICE in Britain, as Wesley Smith describes it in connection with ObamaCare.

March 11, 2010

Animal Wrongs

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Wesley J. Smith's book, A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy, is gaining traction. Here is an excellent interview of our senior fellow in bioethics at Frontpagemag.com. As with so many issues, the opposition to Smith's views create a straw man about it, holding that Smith is insensitive to animal welfare--the humane treatment of animals from pets to ranch cattle. The opposite is true, as Smith makes clear.

Radical animal rights is part of the utopian leftism that depreciates human exceptionalism--those qualities that make us distinctly human.

March 8, 2010

Attack on Wesley J. Smith, and a Response

Former Bush speechwriter Matthew Scully penned a tough review of Wesley J. Smith's book in National Review last week. This week, Wesley took his turn to respond. The latter article appears in the March 22 edition of National Review.

February 13, 2010

Remember, Animals are People, Too!

There have been so many film cartoons now--from Bambi to Babe--that imagine animals that talk and behave just like people that some people seem to believe such stories reflect truth.

In England, a school teacher has been sacked for helping a class raise a lamb and then sell it for meat. Some parents apparently were horrified. The London Telegraph writer Charlie Brooks has the right angle on it, of course. Animals are part of God's creation, and we are their stewards. They are not our counterparts, however.

When I hear sentimentalists suggest that we should not eat animals, I often ask, Why not? They eat each other, don't they?

Which reminds me, Discovery Senior Fellow Wesley J. Smith's book, A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy, is now out from Encounter Books. It will tell you all you need to know about animal welfare versus "animal rights." The former should be our concern as humane, civilized beings. The latter is a tendentious invention.

February 3, 2010

Study Locates Conscious Minds Locked in Appearance of "Vegetative State"

"Distressing" is not an adequate word to describe a study by Cambridge University neuroscientist Adrian M. Owen that proves that many people in supposedly vegetative states actually are quite aware of what is happening around them and have opinions and views about it all. There may be thousands of such people in the U.S. alone.

The implications are hard to bear and yet demand action. Can you imagine anything much worse than being completely unable to communicate with others and yet affected by them? Anyone who has suffered an injury that impairs even a small function knows how frustrating that can be. But this is almost like being buried alive. With this difference: the patient is aware of people's conversations and can, at least in his mind, respond. But no one in the presence of such a person--until now--has found a way to "listen" and therefore to converse.

This study adds force to the anti-euthanasia arguments made in cases like that of Terri Schiavo. It also calls in the name of human compassion for greater efforts to engage such conscious minds encased in unresponsive bodies and to give their lives some scope for vigorous interaction. It also calls for greater scientific and technological efforts to break the physical chains binding such people.

A colleague of Dr. Owens sees a number of immediate practical uses of the new way of communicating with conscious, but immobilized persons. "This technique could be used to address important clinical questions. For example, patients who are aware, but cannot move or speak, could be asked if they are feeling any pain, allowing doctors to decide when painkillers should be administered."

But another urgent need is to find ways to communicate more directly than is possible now. In their study, the Cambridge team used MRI technology, which is expensive and obviously hard to arrange on any regular basis.

January 13, 2010

Setback for Assisted Suicide

The New Hampshire legislature has turned down a bill that would have permitted assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. The support for such bills that seemed so strong only a year ago seems to be (pardon the expression) dying out.

The United States is not the socially liberal place that many imagine. Those who want to compromise principles to appease a leftward tendency would seem to be making a mistake.

January 4, 2010

"Palliative Sedation" at the End of Life

The Co-Director of Discovery Institute's Center on Human Rights and Bioethics, Wesley J. Smith, has the lead letter on "palliative sedation" at the New York Times this morning. It's well worth reading and pondering, as are the other letters that respond to a long article the Times ran over the holidays. The article's author isAnemona Hartocollis.

Given a chance to confuse and manipulate readers (as The Times does on some other cultural topics), Hartocollis' special report was remarkably sensitive and constructive.

There are two great dangers on the issue of end of life treatment: 1) that advocates of euthanasia will use confusion about pain management as an excuse to insinuate active killing of a patient, sometimes a patient who is only hurting or depressed; and 2) that well-meaning and ethical people will forego the medical attention that is totally ethical and really can alleviate suffering as the end comes. This last concern is the one that The Times article most successfully addresses.

In practice, confusion among many in the public and in medicine contributes, unfortunately, to building support for active euthanasia. In that regard, the Times article was a help for all who traditionally care about "what it means to be human."

November 6, 2009

Suicide Enabler Hits Washington State Tomorrow

By
Wesley J. Smith

Voters in Washington State approved assisted suicide in a vote last year, but now they are being pushed still further down what suicide opponents have warned is a "slippery slope" to outright euthanasia--to advocate for suicide, not just permit it. This Saturday, November 7, Australia's internationally famous suicide promoter, Philip Nitschke, will bring his suicide seminar to Bellingham's--appearing, ironically, at the "Sustainable Living Center." He is prepared to teach all comers how they can make themselves dead, whether employing animal euthanasia drugs from Mexico or a plastic bag and helium.

But shouldn't there be limits to assisted suicide activism? Not according to Nitschke, who bluntly takes assisted suicide advocacy to its logical conclusion. If we each own our bodies, he says, and if self-termination is an acceptable answer to human suffering, then assisted suicide shouldn't be restricted to limited "subgroups" such as the terminally ill. Indeed, in 2001 interview with National Review Online, Nitschke asserted that "all people qualify, including the depressed, the elderly bereaved, the troubled teen." He even envisioned suicide pills available in supermarkets.

Nitschke has put his nihilistic beliefs into action. When the Australian Northern Territory legalized assisted suicide, he created a computer program that released deadly drugs into the user's blood stream at the push of a keyboard button. Four people died in this manner before the law was overturned by the Australian government. Until it was made illegal in Australia, he distributed custom made plastic "Exit Bags" along with instructions on its use in association with a barbiturate overdose. He concocted the "peaceful pill," in actuality, a toxic recipe made from common household ingredients, for use in suicide so that people would not have to rely on doctors for deadly drugs. He also sells a drug testing kit to help the suicidal ensure that an intended overdose will do the job.

In 2002, a woman named Nancy Crick caused a media frenzy in Australia after announcing publicly that she was being counseled by Nitschke due to terminal cancer. After months of equivocating, she finally killed herself in front of a group of awestruck euthanasia advocates, who reportedly, applauded when she took the drugs. (Nitschke was not present.)

When the autopsy showed that she was not terminally ill, Nitschke admitted that he and Crick knew it all along. However, rather than apologize, he argued that the non-terminal nature of her condition was "irrelevant" because she was "hopelessly ill" with a painful digestive problem.

Some assisted suicide advocates will say that Nitschke's activities illustrate why assisted suicide should be legally regulated. But why would that stop him from "counseling" people who would not qualify for assisted suicide under such a law? Indeed, that is precisely what is happening in Washington, where assisted suicide is legal for people with terminal illnesses.

More importantly, if society comes to broadly accept a "right" of the dying to receive assisted suicide--currently legal in three states--what would prevent legal access to terminal prescriptions from expanding eventually to people with serious disabilities and chronic diseases, the elderly, and the existentially despairing--who, after all, may suffer far more profoundly and for a longer time. That is precisely what has happened in the Netherlands and Switzerland, after assisted suicide became popularly accepted. Indeed, the Supreme Court of Switzerland declared a constitutional right to assisted suicide for the mentally ill.

Yes, Philip Nitschke appears to be on the radical edge of the assisted suicide movement. But he's really just more candid. Indeed, he is often invited to speak at international euthanasia society gatherings. Should assisted suicide mentality sink into the bedrock of American culture--which alas, Washington voters made more likely last year--the question will not be whether its practice will expand to accommodate Nitschke's dark vision, but rather, how long that process will take.

(Wesley J. Smith is a Senior Fellow in Human Rights and Bioethics at Discovery Institute.)

September 8, 2009

The Creeping (and Creepy) Culture of Euthanasia

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Discovery Senior Fellow Wesley J. Smith has the cover story this week in National Review, "The Creeping Culture of Euthanasia." If you suppose that this is a side issue, think again. Despite all the keening denials, the health care legislation being discussed in Congress absolutely sets the nation on the path to rationing care at the end of life to save money. Where else, after all, are they going to save billions?

And, as Smith makes clear, this reality is not something he alone is asserting. "Compassion and Choices," the latest euphemism for the pro-assisted suicide organization previously known as The Hemlock Society, is taking credit for this development in the health care bill.

"Health care" has become yet another euphemism.

Smith's article deserves wide distribution and National Review great credit for running it.

From Fat to Smart in One Easy Operation (or Two)

All of us who have a little spare tire that we would like to dispose of, and all of us who would like to reverse the tide of dying brain cells, not to mention replace injured knee cells, must rejoice in the news that Stanford scientists have found a way to convert yesterday's over-indulgence at dinner into tomorrow's cause for a Nobel Prize or Olympic Gold Medal. Eventually, as Dr. Joseph Wu suggests, you may be able to trade in your fat for whatever you need elsewhere, including brain cells.

America is to fat what Saudia Arabia is to oil. It is one of our most abundant resources and the one natural deposit that just keeps increasing. Give our unprecedentedly fat bodies over to the Stanford folk and we soon can become history's smartest and most fit people as well. Who knows what genius and agility are locked in our meandering midriffs and marbled thighs?

Meanwhile, the real news is that science is killing the argument for the necessity of embryonic stem cell research. That pathway is not only immoral, but also a dead end.

Stanford University is in California, of course, the state that is so broke it can't pay its employees. Yet the Golden State governing class set aside several billion dollars for embryonic stem cell research. If the fat in their heads had been converted into brain cells, maybe they wouldn't have made such a blunder.

August 27, 2009

Libertarian Examines Cost Control Case for Care Rationing

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Peter Singer speaks for rationing of health care, especially at the end of life, and it has become a quiet cause of many on the Left who support expanded government health care. There has to be control of costs at some point under that system, and the way to do it is to deny care to the terminally ill. Another name for this is euthanasia.

But some right wing libertarians apparently also think there is a case for rationing. This is described by Cato's Will Wilkinson in The Week.

It's an important point he makes, even if he gets it wrong. There already is cessation of care in many, if not most cases of terminally ill patients. Even the Catholic Church does not require care to continue if it is invasive and will cause more suffering than it will alleviate. We all die, after all. If people want to minimize medical care, other than pain relief, as life winds down, that is their business.

The thing is, decisions about cessation of care now are not really made very often by insurance companies, let alone by the government, nor should they be. They are made by the patients themselves, their families and their doctors, all of whom tend to err on the side of life. When they decide to call off further treatments, it is their choice, not some bureaucrat with another agenda.

With the government health care "reforms" under consideration, the decision is bound to be influenced by the government's own need to save money. That is an entirely separate and invidious issue and should not be inserted into the life and death process. In the Netherlands, many old people resist going to the hospital because they know that they might not be cared for in a way that elongates their lives, but shortens it instead.

There is a cold, callous rationality to the likes of Singer and also, apparently, to some variations of libertarianism on this subject.

August 21, 2009

Holland as a Health Care Model? Watch Out!

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Wesley J. Smith had the same reaction I did when the President identified the Netherlands as a country the United States should emulate in the provision of health care. That country has gone farther down the euthanasia path than any other.

August 19, 2009

"The Public Option" and "The Final Option"

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Some commentators are indignant over the charge that "the public option", and, indeed, the bulk of the ideas loosely aggregated in the House and Senate as "health reform", would lead to rationing. It infuriates them also that the bill is criticized for end-of-life counseling for senior citizens. After all, the provision--still in the bill in several of its forms--would be "voluntary."

Our senior fellow, Wesley J. Smith, repeatedly has explained how "voluntary" in law can get translated into "mandatory" over time in the tender care of government bureaucrats writing implementing regulations. Anyone who has read C. S. Lewis' idea novel, That Hideous Strength, remembers the lovely-sounding government organization, "N.I.C.E.", the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments, that takes the therapeutic approach into the realms of compulsion and, finally, catastrophic evil.

What protestors to ObamaCare know at some level, whether they are articulate it or not, is that many older people already feel useless and unwanted. Some are clinically depressed. It doesn't take much to appeal to their self-sacrificing instincts and to elicit the sentiment, "I don't want to be a burden." Working with that concern, and also with the concurrent fear of pain, it isn't hard to get old people to sign documents that will shorten their lifespan when "the burden" becomes too great. In prospect, it seems the responsible thing to do.

We all face the end-of-life treatment choices, either because of someone we love, or, ourselves. Families, doctors, hospitals all do the best they can and situations vary. But when the government is involved and has built-in cost-cutting incentives, there is a tremendous incentive to warp the decision-making process and make it a financial triage issue. That is what President Obama was hinting at in several of the comments he has made in the past about end-of-life care. He thinks that the government cannot afford to take care of all the old and terminally ill and still give full care to the young and fit.

As I say, this subject is tough enough when it really is about voluntary decisions. But when one of the decision-makers--the one that writes the checks--is in the room and has another interest--a financial one--the whole story of life in all its gritty reality becomes a horror movie.

Smith is having a major influence on this topic. Civil liberties activist Nat Hentoff writes of it in the Jewish World Review. I myself encountered it in discussion with a Catholic priest last weekend at a christening. The word is getting out.

Congress and the White House should not imagine that the public outcry is manufactured by right wing groups, let alone the Republican Party. The blunt truth is that the Republican Party usually can't get 30 people out to attend its meetings. Right wing non-profit groups are great at riding a wave created by someone else. Likewise, talk radio.

No. The wave is being generated by ordinary people who are terrified that one of the most private parts of their lives, and one of the most important, is going to be invaded and controlled by the federal government. They don't think that the government, however benign it claims to be (and maybe especially when it claims to be benign), can be trusted. Not to really control costs without serious rationing. Not to keep new equipment and treatments coming. Not to handle patients with even the modest bedside manner provided under the current system. In fact, nothing has made the present system look better than the government's attempt to take it over.

It seems that the past weekend's hope that the Obama Administration was going to drop the public option (the nationalization option) was in vain. The struggle for public support goes on.

August 11, 2009

What's in the (Non-Existent) Health Care Act?

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Whenever anyone complains about a provision they think is in the proposed health care reform, they are told that the bill isn't even written yet (except in the House). But then why the furious rush to get something passed right away?

Even backers of President Obama are beginning to get queasy over certain innovations that may or may not be in the bill. They are not paranoid, they are noticing that some of the most radical social engineers in America are involved in this project.

The co-director of the Discovery Center for Human Rights and Bioethics, Wesley J. Smith, has been covering the topic especially well, undoubtedly because he has been on this very ground for a long time.

July 29, 2009

Does Obamacare Provide for Euthanasia?

Our Sr. Fellow Wesley J. Smith of the Discovery Institute Center for Human Rights and Bioethics is asking the question that Bill Donahue of the Catholic League and others also are raising: Is there language under consideration that could lead to "end of life care" that includes intentional termination of life? Outrageous? Well, then, the Obamacare bill should be clarified to make sure the meaning is not obscure or doubtful.

July 7, 2009

Let's Hear it for the Lords! U.K. Defeats Assisted Suicide

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The best blog on bioethics (I am modest to report) is by our Discovery Institute colleague, Wesley J. Smith. Many of his posts tell of the cruel raids the Modern Vikings are making on civilization in such areas as embryonic stem cell research or (Yoiks!) the manufacture of artificial sperm. But occasionally, the forces of ordered morality gather together on the coasts and headlands and take a stand. How encouraging, therefore (note the July 7 post), to see the British House of Lords arise in its ermine robes to repel the barbarians on the issue of assisted suicide.

June 22, 2009

Italian Paper Cites Smith's Views on Euthanasia

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Avvenire, a prominent Italian newspaper, has been following a story there of denied end-of-life care. The reporter wanted to know the opinion of Wesley Smith, Discovery Sr. Fellow, and his replies are printed here (translated):

"After Terri Schiavo, Silence"

Wesley J. Smith is the author of numerous books, most notably Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America. Mr. Smith, a member of the Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide and an advocate for Terri Schiavo and her family, was happy to chat with us about "end of life" issues. He began by saying that "no human being, even if they are in Eluana (Englaro's) condition, may be called a 'vegetable'. It is a word that is intended to dehumanize them."

What is the importance of cases like Eluana, and what is the public's reaction to them?

The country (USA) is generally unaware of the Eluana Englaro case. Ever since the Terri Schiavo media circus, I think that the attention to these issues has waned, especially if they are overseas stories --perhaps because the media think the issue has been settled.

From a legal point of view, what are the repercussions of the Schiavo case in the United States?

After Terri's death, there have been a few attempts to make it more difficult to dehydrate people with cognitive disabilities. But politicians were scared off by the media outcry against Terri's family and the "religious right", ignoring the fact that disability rights activists were also part of the movement to save her life.

The issue of artificial nutrition as a medical treatment is of very topical interest in Italy. What do American doctors think about it?

I don't think that doctors behaved differently after the Terri Schiavo case. Food and water are pulled almost as a matter of routine. Most doctors think of it as just part of the practice of medicine. It is only when families disagree that these cases go to court or make news.

What are the consequences of these definitions?

Because the tube requires a minor surgical procedure and the sustenance is specially prepared to have a proper balance of nutrients, in the United States it is defined as a medical treatment. But if it means that it can be refused as you can refuse an aspirin, then there are ethical problems, because refusing food and water will have only one possible outcome: death. So I think artificial nutrition and hydration should be in a category of its own and not so easily withheld or withdrawn.


Seeing this in context shows how hard it has become in the U.S. to stop the current slippery slide into moral relativism.

June 2, 2009

First Things Site Now Hosts Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Wesley J. Smith on Bioethics Issues


Secondhand Smoke, the popular bioethics blog of Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Wesley J. Smith, is now being hosted by First Things, the distinguished journal of religion and culture. Secondhand Smoke, described by Smith as "Your 24/7 seminar on bioethics and the importance of being human," was named a "Top Health Blog" by Wellsphere, and "One of the Fifty Best Business Ethics Blogs" by Online MBA Reviews. The American Journal of Bioethics review of Secondhand Smoke stated:

"In Smith's 'human exceptionalist' view, a great range of bioethical theory improperly undermines human rights by coupling rights not to our humanity simpliciter, but to our possession of certain capacities--consciousness, perhaps, or 'moral personhood,' or mere sentience...Thus Smith's critique runs in two directions: against those who, like embryonic stem-cell researchers and assisted-suicide advocates, use capacity arguments to justify what Smith regards as the immoral destruction of humans; and against those who, like animal rights extremists, use a different sort of capacity argument to extend rights--in his view, improperly--to non-humans, even at the expense of humans (as when People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals [PETA] activists seek to shut down medical experimentation on animals).

This core critique gives SHS an unusual combination of variety and unity."

Smith has been affiliated with the Discovery Institute since 2004 and is the most prolific contributor to the DI's Center for Human Rights and Bioethics project. He asserts that "In a time of when many newspapers and other information media are in crisis, it is vital that alternative methods of communicating about crucial issues such as assisted suicide, human cloning, and the dangers of radical animal rights ideology and deep ecology 'environmentalism' be developed and disseminated. Being part of the First Things family of blogs can only assist in that important work."

Bruce Chapman, president of the Discovery institute lauded the development, saying, "Having Wesley blogging at First Things can only increase the penetration of Smith's work among the general public and increase the visibility of the Discovery Institute's bioethics project as we develop our work in this important field in the coming years."

The blog will continue, of course, to be carried on Discovery's own site and also www.wesleyjsmith.com .

May 27, 2009

The Moral Sink-hole of HBO

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Jack Kevorkian is in jail where he belongs, a man who repeatedly killed off people in the supposed interest of assisted suicide. That Al Pacino is planning to play this man--sympathetically--in an HBO film is a sign that human degradation has become a Hollywood staple. (Please note that First Things is now hosting our colleague Wesley J. Smith's blog on bioethics, "Second Hand Smoke.")

May 10, 2009

Science versus the Radical Animal Rights Movement

Discovery Institute bioethicist Wesley J. Smith describes another brazen threat against medical science researchers. Oddly, however, when one reads about the "war against science," the culprits are people who challenge the extent of human responsibility for global warming or oppose embryonic stem cell research. Where are the protests against violence-supporting opponents of medical experiments, not to mention those who want to stop irradiation of grain to prevent disease and those who prevent the use of genetically modified crops in such hungry regions as Africa?

April 9, 2009

Bad Conscience is Bad Medicine

Guest blog by Dr. Robert Cihak:

Current civil rights laws and regulations governing federally funded programs prohibit discrimination against healthcare professionals because of their ethical stance on controversial issues. President Obama's administration proposes to rescind these regulations.

Most comments on this topic focus on the provider's rights to demur from morally objectionable activities, such as referring patients to abortion providers. I think forcing anybody to perform immoral actions is illegal under the first amendment to the United States Constitution prohibiting Congress from making any law "prohibiting the free exercise" of religion, as well as the 14th amendment prohibiting slavery.

I'm a retired physician and am now receiving medical services rather than providing them. From my current viewpoint as a patient, requiring doctors to do unconscionable things would harm me and limit my access to information.

Many doctors do not believe that all medical services are consistent with their personal beliefs; these services include chiropractic, physician-assisted suicide, alternative medicine, abstinence-only contraception, abortion, and acupuncture. As a result, they know little, if anything, about the quality of practitioners providing these controversial services. Some doctors are disgusted with some of these services.

If forced to refer a patient for such services, the doctor would not know which practitioners are competent in these areas and which are quacks. How could this doctor make a good referral? How would the doctor know which of these practitioners were even adequate to perform a given service and which not? For example, would Planned Parenthood staff know which abstinence-only practitioners were good?

The patient would suffer as a result of forcing their health professionals to do unconscionable things.

My personal choices would be restricted if every doctor and hospital was forced to provide or refer for every possible service, because providers would not be able to let patients know their personal position.

In my case, I plan to avoid doctors and hospitals providing physician-assisted suicide; if everybody was forced to refer for suicide, many doctors would be reluctant to let patients know their personal position on this question, restricting my access to this information.

Repealing the federal "conscience clause" laws and regulations would prevent medical professionals from making the best possible referral for each patient. Referrals, like diagnostic and treatment recommendations, should be based on that individual patient's needs and consistent with the moral and ethical convictions of both the patient and the doctor.

If a doctor would be forced to make a referral for what he considers quack treatment, the patient would be the loser. See Freedom2Care for additional information.

March 31, 2009

Idaho Disabled Dodge a Bullet

Bad legislation seldom gets attention unless is passes, but a dangerous bill in Idaho nearly passed and yet has received little attention. Discovery Sr. Fellow Wesley Smith is credited with alerting Idahoans with the actual content, as this astute state blog makes clear.

February 25, 2009

The Right to Die Becomes the Duty to Die

This article by Discovery Sr. Fellow Wesley J. Smith in The London Telegraph is worth noting on many grounds.

The topic itself is timely, especially given Smith's recent speaking trip to Ireland and England. But it also is interesting for the reactions it elicits in the comments section of the paper. Some are reasonable, but others simply attempt to answer reason with smears. E.g., Smith opposes assisted suicide. (Check.) He is a fellow of Discovery Institute. (Check.) But (here comes the whopper) Discovery is made up of religious fundamentalists, and therefore presumably should be excoriated, then ignored. (Whoa!)

This information about fundamentalists, we are assured, comes from Barbara Forrest, a professor in Louisiana who has studied Discovery Institute. But while Forrest may teach at a university, she is no expert on Discovery. She is a propagandist, an avowed atheist in other forums who seems to have as a mission the assault of people who are not. The "fundamentalist" smear is an example. There undoubtedly are fundamentalists who have ideas on science and, well, good for them. But the term is not at all fairly applicable to Discovery Institute. The term in this case actually seems to be code for anyone who belongs to a church or synagogue.

I don't propose that atheists should not express views on bioethics. Why then should they propose that people who happen to be Christians or Jews should not express their views?

Before we go on parsing the nonsense of comment ranters, however, notice the way the subject shifts from the actual topic--whether assisted suicide leads to a duty to die for the weak and vulnerable--to the supposed unfashionable religious motivations of somebody the author knows and associates with.

Thus is discourse coarsened. People who engage in this sort of thing should look in the mirror the next time they bemoan the declining prestige of what passes for bioethics.

January 11, 2009

Orwellian Ethics

The corruption of language continues to debase public rhetoric. The issue is euthanasia, but it could be many others. The cultural Left thinks it can prevail largely by transforming the meaning of words. We have been warned about this for a very long time. The trouble is, there are few whistle-blowers in the media. Licia Corbella of the Calgary Herald is a commendable exception.


September 24, 2008

Mother Nature's Many Litigious Children

Apes will have "human rights" in Spain and now Mother Nature can be defended by anyone in Ecuador who feels the old dear's interests have been violated. It is a perfect collusion by environmental and trial lawyer extremists. Discovery Sr. Fellow Wesley J. Smith explains.

August 23, 2008

The Banality of Euthanasia

Euthanasia cuts short more than a life, it telescopes the process by which a dying person comes to terms with death and the ways families handle it. As Wesley Smith of Discovery Institute's Center on Human Rights and Bioethics points out, it makes death seem tacky, even banal.

Death is natural, euthanasia (and assisted suicide) unnatural. One supposedly gains a momentary feeling that he is in control, when, in truth, we never are fully in control, especially at death. There is dignity in giving in to Death, but only bathos in trying to force Death's approach.

Worst of all, euthanasia often leaves scars on the living. They will not have had the kind of tender death bed scene I witnessed recently with a family member, nor, therefore, the kind of memory that, frankly, gives great comfort and consolation. Instead there may well be shooting pangs of recollection, guilt and perhaps even the horrifying sense that something perverse and absurd was done with one's own passive or active involvement.

In time one reconciles to the inevitable death of a family member or friend. There is completion in it. But death by assisted suicide or euthanasia hangs around. It haunts.

August 13, 2008

The Cure for that Tired-of-living Feeling

The Swiss, who gave us the cukoo clock (as Harry Lyme famously pointed out in The Third Man) now offer a great medical advance: death. Wesley Smith, our senior fellow on bioethics, is quoted:

July 27, 2008

Granting Apes Human Rights Comes at Cost to Humans' Rights

See Wesley J. Smith's article in today's Dallas Morning News.

June 17, 2008

Well, excuse me for living!

I heard an otherwise sensible person comment a few days ago, "It is unclear whether we human beings are a virus or a species on this planet." People are being taught to think like that. My Discovery colleague Wesley J. Smith, one of the few traditionally-minded ethicists around, tears into a piece by an Australian TV network that represents anti-humanist propaganda. It also illustrates where materialist science and philosophy meet a literal dead end.

April 8, 2008

Now They Tell Us

Embryonic stem cells hold little promise.

Other, less controversial stem cells do. But getting funding transferred from the progressively correct form to the benign and promising kind whose exploitation is entirely acceptable to us bourgeois moralists will take time. It appears that to some people stem cells lose their appeal if they do NOT entail controversy.

February 15, 2008

Juistifying Infanticide: Another Phony "Ethics" Issue

Whenever you see the title "ethicist" today you are likely to find someone attacking real ethics, at least the ethics that lean on the tradition of moral understanding that has developed over thousands of years and the Judeo-Christian worldview. Unfortunately, big money is invested in creating "ethicist" positions at various institutions that desire to justify cold-hearted utilitarian interests, some of them financial. Have someone who calls himself an "ethicist" bless infanticide or assisted suicide or cloning and that is supposed to make it just fine.

Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Wesley J. Smith's blog, Second Hand Smoke, covers this territory regularly and I commend it to readers of Discovery Blog. If we could raise the money, Discovery would expand Wesley's reach and have a number of people working in this under-cultivated field. In fact, we are working on that problem and could use your assistance and leads.

Meanwhile, read this latest article length blog by Wesley J. Smith:

Promoting Infanticide in the HASTINGS CENTER REPORT

injection-716973.jpgThe Hastings Center Report is the world's most prestigious bioethics journal. Articles published in its pages are generally in the mainstream thinking of bioethics discourse and at the heart of the process of debate within bioethics that often leads to changes in public policy--such as the discussions in the 1980s about dehydrating the cognitively impaired led to routine withholding of sustenance today.

In the last several years, Report articles have promoted a "duty to die" and a right to assisted suicide for the mentally ill. In the most recent edition, it promotes Dutch style infanticide. From the article "Ending the Life of a Newborn," (Hastings Center Report 38, 1 pp. 42-51 ) by an American bioethicist named Hilde Lindemann and a Dutch bioethicist named Marian Verkerk (no link available). The authors approve of the so-called "Groningen Protocol," under which doctors murder dying and disabled babies in the Netherlands without legal consequence. (I call it murder because that is how it is still defined in Dutch law.) The Protocol permits babies to be lethally injected if:

1: they have no chance of survival (which is sometimes misdiagnosed); 2, if they "may survive after a period of intensive treatment but expectation for their future are very grim;" or, 3 they have an extremely poor prognosis "who do not depend on technology for physiologic stability and whose suffering is severe, sustained, and cannot be alleviated."

The authors defend the Protocol from most criticisms, even to the point that they believe killing the non terminally ill is more important that terminating babies about to die:

Critics charge that the protocol does not successfully identify which babies will die. But it is precisely those babies who could continue to live, but whose lives would be wretched in the extreme, who stand in most need of the interventions for which the protocol offers guidance.

They proceed to discuss at great length the issues involved in doctors and parents determining whether a disabled baby's future life will be worth living. Here is a sampling of their murder-promoting advocacy:

Where the Dutch go further than other countries is in their shared belief that even newborns have a fundamental interest in not prolonging a life that is or will become an intolerable burden to them. This understanding is buttressed by a consensus--within the National Association of Pediatricians, for example, but also in the wider community on some criteria regarding quality of life, including the amount of suffering that is to be accepted, the capacities for communication(nonverbally as well as verbally),the capacities to live a self-supporting life, and the dependency on care institutions. It is one of the harsh realities of twenty-first-century medicine that quality-of-life judgments must be made. What we must not do is pretend that we do not already make them, and that there is somehow something morally different about doing it for a newborn baby.

One might object that even if we do make quality-of-life judgments for others, there is surely a moral difference between killing and letting die. In fact, sometimes there is, and sometimes there isn't. As James Rachels has famously argued, whether you drown your six-year-old nephew in the bathtub so that you can collect his inheritance or merely refuse to intervene as he slips and hits his head and falls face down into the bathwater, either way you are a murderer. [Me: And both are evil, just like infanticide.] We agree with Rachels that actively ending a life can sometimes be more humane than waiting for the person to die, and that in the desperate cases where death does not come of its own accord to end unendurable suffering, the morally right thing to do is to summon it.

The article assumes that guidelines will protect against abuse, but infanticide is by definition abuse. Moreover, the euthanasia guidelines for adults and teenagers have not held, so why should anyone expect that those being established in the Netherlands for legalized infanticide will? Even the authors understand that mistakes will happen and, typical of the mindset, assume that if murder of the helpless is committed in front of an open window it is somehow more acceptable:

Determining in an instant case whether the protocol is applicable will always require judgment, and because the stakes are inordinately high no matter what is decided, the judgment must be made with fear and trembling. That said, however, we believe that transparency in the deliberations concerning the ending of an infant's life--which is just as important as it is in the deliberations concerning euthanasia in adults--is adequately promoted by the protocol's requirements.

Concerning the larger question of whether the practice for which the protocol was developed can be morally justified, we think it can in the Netherlands, at any rate. When a tragically impaired infant is born into a society that is hospitable to its children, offers universal access to decent health care, and promotes an ethos among its citizens whereby they look after each other as a matter of course, we believe that the doctor's ending the baby's life could be the best, most caring response.

It wasn't many years ago that almost everyone accepted that infanticide is intrinsically and inherently wrong. No more. With personhood theory and the "quality of life ethic increasingly permeating the highest levels of the medical and bioethical intelligentsia, we are moving toward a medical system in which babies are put down like dogs and killing is redefined as compassion.

But bigotry is bigotry even if you spell it c.o.m.p.a.s.s.i.o.n. And to think, after World War II German doctors were hanged for doing precisely what is being promoted in "prestigious" the Hastings Center Report.


January 17, 2008

Part of the Reason for the "Good News for Pro-Natalists"

Yesterday I commented on the rising birth rate and birth numbers in the U.S. We are doing far better than the rest of the developed world, though we still are barely at the population replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman. (See story below.)

Today comes a report from the Guttmacher Institute that reports a decline in abortions. There were four hundred thousand fewer abortions in 2005 than in 1990. Nobody knows why, though I would give a lot of credit to ultra-sound and the word about it that has traveled among the female population. With ultra-sound you can see without question that what you are carrying is.....a baby.

Guttmacher is pro-choice in its politics, but in instances I have noted over the years, it has done creditable work on statistical matters.

Here is the story: http://news.yahoo.com/s/hsn/20080117/hl_hsn/usabortionratefallstolowestlevelindecades

January 16, 2008

More Good News for Pro-Natalists

Once again we have more people to cheer about: the U.S. produced 4.1 million babies last year, the highest number since the end of the Baby Boom. Welcome Future Taxpayers of America! http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/B/BABY_BOOMLET?SITE=FLTAM&SECTION=US

The big fuss does tend to slight the fact that the per-woman birth rate is only 2.1. That is merely the replacement rate for the current population. Still, it is an improvement. Thanks to all you parents who are taking responsibility for raising the next generation. I am serious. Having a child is one of the greatest votes of confidence one can cast in the future of society.

December 24, 2007

More Babies: A Gift that Will Keep on Giving

I have great respect, appreciation and affection for my demographer friends at the U.S. Census Bureau where I had the honor to serve as Director in the early years of the Reagan Administration. One number often discussed at the Bureau is "2.1", the number of live births per woman required to sustain a population. We in the U.S. have been under that number since the Baby Boom ended and the advent of The Pill. Now it seems we have reached it again. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/20/AR2007122002725_pf.html

That is good news for the obvious reason that it takes young people to keep the old people going, whether we are talking about jobs that need to be filled or Social Security that needs all the enrollees it can get. But it also is good news for the less obvious and immaterial reason that people are Earth's most wonderful and productive resource. Grouches like the Earth First crowd--the sort that think Nature would be better off without us--have little understanding of the true genius of humanity. It is that genius that has made it possible for literally billions of people to be added to the Earth since I was born and, simulataneously, for overall hunger, poverty and disease to decrease.

Among the babies being born right now are the future inventors, entrepreneurs, scientists, poets and philanthropists. They will help us all. Speaking personally, it was very satisfying at our recent Discovery Institute Open House to see all the families. I am only partly joking when I say that our employment policy is "pro-natalist". It seems that hardly a month goes by without the announcement of a new marriage or a new birth among our fellows, staff and members. That gives me hope because I know the fine quality of these people.

Darwinists, Malthusians, materialists of all stripes and dimensions don't get it. They also don't understand the reason Christians this night in the year are filled with joy to learn again of a newborn baby in a Bethlehem stable. It is because his birth is telling us that life is not finite, life is infinite.

How can one be angry with anyone today, even our adversaries? If they cannot accept a "Merry Christmas" greeting, may they still know that we wish them well.

November 23, 2007

The Death of a Left Wing Wedge Issue: What are the Ethical Responsibilities of Scientists?

Richard Hayes, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society in Oakland, explains in an admirable Los Angeles Times article
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-hayes22nov22,0,340355.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrailthat many scientists who opposed embryonic stem cell research on various grounds were reluctant to say so until now: they didn't want to be seen helping President Bush politically. Hayes' candor is commendable, but the scientists' motives it perhaps unintentionally betrays are craven. It is, in truth, an indictment of the current politicization of science.

This is a serious matter. We can all be thrilled that new technology seems likely to make the use of human embryos an unnecessary source for stem cell production in research. It is a victory for human life and for common sense in laboratory science. Politically, it takes off the table an issue that hurt conservatives and that the materialist Left has been using as part of an attack on pro-life forces, whom they represent as "anti-science." It was slated to become a major theme in the 2008 elections.

But politics should not trump everything else. If scientists who were skeptical of embryonic stem cell research remained silent for essentially political reasons or were influenced by the big bucks that were behind efforts in California and Missouri to use taxpayer funds to support embryonic stem cell research, they should be chagrined now. They let their politics take precedence over their calling as scientists.

Politics was definitely at play in Missouri, for example, where the issue of stem cells on a state ballot measure was used to defeat conservatives. It was a real "wedge" issue. You can understand why the Left deployed it; polls showed 2 to 1 public acceptance of embryonic stem cell research. But that doesn't let scientists who knew better off the hook, does it? It is appalling that some scientists privately opposed embryonic stem cell research on what they might regard as liberal grounds--such as the program's exploitation of poor women for their eggs--still were guided chiefly by political correctness and kept their peace. Some others surely would have spoken out if the media had asked them. But most of the media, too, are P.C., of course.

So, on how many other issues are dissenting scientists holding their fire because they don't want to be seen helping President Bush or social conservatives? How about end of life issues? How about Darwin's theory of evolution, the sacred writ of materialism?

In some periods of history courage is demanded of statesmen, or military men, or even economists. In our period, we need scientists to show the courage of their private convictions on the whole range of issues that pertain to human dignity and distinctive worth.

November 19, 2007

Stemming the Tide on Stem Cells?

We had a "heads up" yesterday from Senior Fellow Wesley J. Smith to expect a breakthrough on the issue of embryonic stem cells and now he has published on it.

Apparently, it has become possible to obtain embryonic-like stem cells from adult stem cells. If that is so, the air may go out of the campaign to get federal and state financial support for using human embryos -- human lives at their beginning -- for research on disease. If the same benefits can be obtained without exploiting incipient human lives, what excuse remains for the kind of embryonic stem cell research we have been fighting over politically?

The answer, regrettably, is ideology and politics. There are people who like the issue more than the solution. But they are going to have a harder time now.

As usual, Smith is on top of the issue.

October 9, 2007

Chimps Aren't People After All

Discovery Institute senior fellow Wesley J. Smith's fine blog contains a report today on a study with the breathless conclusion that chimps don't really have a human sense of fairness. Oh, but how can that be? Don't we have 97 percent the same DNA?

Well, yes, but so what? We have much the same DNA as a mouse, too, or a tulip, for that matter. DNA is not destiny. Genes are not blueprints, but building material. Efforts to make us seem like little more than complicated apes are less about elevating the animal world than lowering the stature of human beings.
If humans are just animals, then the whole panoply of liberal views apply to the question Pope John Paul II strategically asked, "What does it mean to be human?"

Smith himself offered a timely way of posing the issue in a now-famous message that Starbucks picked up and used on several million paper coffee cups a year or so ago: "The morality of the 21st Century will depend on how we respond to this simple but profound question: Does every human life have equal moral value merely because it is human? Answer yes, and we have a chance of achieving universal human rights. Answer no, and it means that we are merely another animal in the forest."

Not that there is anything wrong with that.

July 16, 2007

Anti-Humanism Gaining Traction

We Have Identified the Problem with the Environment--and it's Your Existence!

I have to share the following from Second Hand Smoke blog of my colleague, Wesley J. Smith (see original post for images):

Here we go again. Newsweek reports--in surprisingly positive terms--on the movement to rid the earth of the vermin species--us:

Environmentalists have their own eschatology--a vision of a world not consumed by holy fire but returned to ecological balance by the removal of the most disruptive species in history. That, of course, would be us, the 6 billion furiously metabolizing and reproducing human beings polluting its surface. There's even a group trying to bring it about, the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, whose Web site calls on people to stop having children altogether...And "four out of five" of the people he's told about it, he estimates, thought the idea sounded wonderful. Since we're headed inexorably toward an environmental crash anyway, why not get it over cleanly and allow the world to heal?

Over time, though, Weisman's attitude toward the rest of humanity softened, as he thought of some of the beautiful things human beings have accomplished, their architecture and poetry, and he eventually arrived at what he views as a compromise position: a worldwide, voluntary agreement to limit each human couple to one child. This, says Weisman--who is 60, and childless after the death of his only daughter--would stabilize the human population by the end of the century at about 1.6 billion, approximately where it was in 1900. And then, perhaps, more of the world could resemble Varosha, the beach resort in Cyprus in the no man's land between the Greek and Turkish zones, where, Weisman writes, thickets of hibiscus, oleander and passion lilac grow wild and houses disappear under magenta mounds of bougainvillea.

The anti-human movement--lets call it anti-humanism--is clearly gaining traction when an MSM outlet of the caliber of Newsweek reports positively about the "intriguing thought experiment" of doing away with all people. To me, respecting such notions--even if in a bemused manner--is a disturbing symptom of a view that evolves all too easily from the abandonment of human exceptionalism.

Besides, if all the people were gone and earth did return to an alleged paradise: What difference would it make? Only human beings give meaning to the beauty of nature. Only human beings appreciate the grandeur of fauna and flora. Only human beings have stepped sufficiently outside of nature to be able to look back at it as something apart. Indeed, were we to disappear, the remaining denizens of the meaningless planet would just go on and on, suffering through the brutal and desperate tooth and claw struggle for survival utterly indifferent to the awesome beauty that our elimination would bequeath.

May 7, 2007

The Solution to the Nagging Problem of Over-Population

It is the view of Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society that mankind acts like a "virus" that is threatening the planet. Accordingly, the present world population, he proposes, should be reduced from the current 4.5 billion to under one billion. Mr. Dan Gainor, Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow at the Business and Media Institute, is indignant about Mr. Watson's platform.

Fortunately, there is a simple cure for this conflict. All critics of over-population, such as Mr. Watson, should stop having children. They should have none.

That way, within another generation the conflict will disappear and we won't have to deal with it any more.

April 18, 2007

Chimp Off the Old Block

Our colleague Wesley J. Smith is perhaps America's leading critic of the "Animals are People, Too" argument. The proposition is too preposterous to warrant the interest of leading media--at least not yet.

But, as Smith shows, the attack on human exceptionalism is actually organized to undermine the dignity of human life more than to elevate our animal friends. No one doubts that part of our nature is animal or that certain animals are better designed for certain purposes than are human beings. But as Smith would say, So what? Human exceptionalism is so much more.

Click here to read more from Wesley on the chimp paper that the media has been discussing.

April 11, 2007

Leon Kass' Important Article on Human Exceptionalism

Our colleague Wesley J. Smith has called to my attention an outstanding article by the noted ethicist Leon Kass in the new issue of Commentary. I commend Wesley's blog and the article by Dr. Kass.

February 26, 2007

The Truth about Left Wing "Choice"

I can't add anything to Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Wesley J. Smith's excellent post (from First Things). Why it is all right to coerce the consciences of doctors and nurses who oppose abortion on moral and ethical grounds?

January 15, 2007

Human Rights for Non-Humans?

You--unenlightened as you probably are--may think that human rights for non-humans is oxymoronic, or just plain moronic. But there is a growing academic movement to assign such rights in a rather promiscuous manner to lower animals, robots (if it walks like a human being and talks like a human being, it must be a human being, right?), as well as your favorite tree in the front yard. At the University of Washington some of the most strident defenders of Darwinism are also the most ardent "transhumanists", advocating the mixture of human beings and animals into new kinds of creatures. We are not talking about transplanted organs here, but hybrid creatures. If we can clone people someday soon, why not create hybrids of people and animals.

If you think I am pulling your foreleg, catch this web entry that decries People who Like People (in preference to cows or onions or satyrs or R2D2) as "human racists." Get it? You are now some kind of racist if you think people of all kinds are more worthy of special care than various non-humans.

Of course, the net product of such leveling inevitably is not so much to improve the treatment of animals (and robots), but to justify the denigration of "what it means to be human," as Pope John Paul II termed it.

It gives me satisfaction that the "transhumanists" are critical of our "human exceptionalist," Discovery Senior Fellow Wesley J. Smith.

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