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The future of life.

Leon Kass's anti-cloning slogan, "Shallow are the souls that have forgotten how to shudder" ("Bioethics, Bush Style," by Nina Siegal, May issue), invites this reply: Narrow are the souls that cannot comprehend that different souls shudder at different things.

I shudder at the thought of being denied life-saving technology because it violates Kass's particular conception of dignity.

Felicia Nimue Ackerman

Providence, Rhode Island

Rather than debate whether the ideas of Leon Kass on embryo cloning support the progressive agenda or not, Nina Siegal resorts to a McCarthyist form of guilt by association. She assumes that Kass's ideas must be opposed because some right-wing groups like them or because he talks to conservatives.

Well, some of us progressives support some of what he does, too.

Today's biotech barons are attempting to enclose the global commons of life.

They want exclusive control of plants, animals, and now even human genes and human embryos and their stem cells. Like railroad barons, they lobby their friends in government to get them to turn over our common resources. They seek patents and government funding to help them in this new enclosure of the commons. They even argue that their theft is progress.

Progressives should not move into the "technological change=growth= progress" camp, and The Progressive should not endorse technologies without examining their effects on justice for all groups and the future of life itself.

When biotechnologists with an economic stake in these technologies make exaggerated health claims, progressives must question their claims as much as we question those of plant and animal genetic engineers. Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, Inc., should be viewed with the same suspicion as the CEO of Monsanto or Wal-Mart. He has a strong economic interest in his claims. His company needs investors and holds patents that would control this research.

We should not dismiss these claims outright, but we should examine the claims and see if they hold up, see if they support a more progressive position, not swallow them whole and fund them with public funds.

Siegal accepts Lanza's assertion that embryo cloning will cure a variety of diseases, including Alzheimer's--when no animal data suggests that a cure for Alzheimer's will be found through embryo cloning. Human embryonic stem cells only were isolated in 1998.

Siegal also quotes bioethicist Arthur Caplan's excitement, but not his warning that in this research we should avoid past mistakes related to genetic research.

And Siegal declares that Massachusetts Governor Romney is opposed to embryonic stem cell research when he actually opposed not embryonic stem cell research, but the cloning of embryos. In effect, her article is a sideways defense of embryonic cloning, not stem cell research per se.

As progressives, we should not debate in code, but with the whole truth.

Jaydee Hanson

Director for Human Genetics Policy

International Center

for Technology Assessment

Washington, D. C.
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Author:Hanson, Jaydee
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Jul 1, 2005
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