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March 24, 2005


All this talk of bioethicists speaking out on behalf of Bushes raises the mystery of the barking dog ("But there was no barking dog, Holmes," said Watson. "Precisely," Holmes said.) Why haven't we heard anything from George Bush's pet puppet bioethicist Leon Kass?

If Kass -- the U.S. bioethicist laureate, essentially, and a sock puppet for Bush's positions, most notable on stem cell research -- has said anything, he did it in a forum that is immune to my googlepower. 'cuz I can't find squat.

I see an article in the National Review where someone else quotes Kass talking about the Holocaust and makes it in regard to Schiavo, but it doesn't appear the original material was in that context.

I see some other blog noting that Kass has been notably silent on the matter, as of Monday.

And I did run across a nice story about yet another honor being awarded Liz Blackburn, a luminary scientist and former colleague of mine of sorts, whom Leon Kass fired from the President's Council on Bioethics because she would not fall in line on stem cells (her being one of the only if not the only actual scientist on the panel may be more than coincidental to her views or expertise on the issue).

But I don't see a thing about Kass being trotted out in defense of force-feeding a woman to live against her wishes. And now as you point out, Jeb has lifted up enough rocks to find this neurologist of such great renown that no one's ever heard of him.

So in all of this, where's Leon? Could the Christian right-wing have gone so fringe on this one that they left even him behind??

...separating sexual union in the flesh from procreation ...

Hmmmm. So they're apparently not opposed only to oral contraception but the whole shebang.

Medical ethics aside, in a world of 6 billion, I'm not such a huge fan of in vitro fertilization. Not that I think it should be banned, but until we've got a better record in adopting already living children, it seems to me almost self-indulgent to spend thousands of bucks just to have a baby with one's very own DNA. I know that my lack of sympathy for infertile couples - gay and straight - will bristle some people's neckhairs. And I know some economist demographers will chew me out for undermining future retirement programs because we won't have enough new bodies to pay for the pensions of the aged. Sorry, I'm not easily swayed by either.

Ahhh, Leon Kass.

I wondered the same thing. And I did see that he's speaking at a conference on "genetic and reproductive ethics" sponsored by CBHD in July.


forgive my saying so, but I think your views on IVF are rational arguments for personal responsibility. So the question would be, do you think IVF ought to be made illegal?

that is to distinguish your comments from those DHinMI ascribes to the CBHD, which are Biblical arguments for moral absolutism. I'm guessing their answer to the question would be an avowed "Hell yes, and amen."

So as in the abortion debate, I'd suggest separating the argument into "would you do yourself" and "would you arrest those who do". Really different questions.

DHinMI, that CBHD conference you linked to is really something (I can only wonder about "movie night"... Silent Scream, or Million Dollar Baby?) Everything looks about as it should except standing out like a sore thumb is Francis Collins! He's one of the good guys, and should not be associating with these types.

Francis Collins is a long-time well-known researcher who headed the public effort to sequence the human genome (in that case he really was the head of the "good guys", the open-source side if you will, competing against Ventner's private industry effort. They called it a draw and published at the same time, in the end). He's a totally stand-up, normal academic scientist who has moved somewhat more towards public policy issues as his stature has grown (as many scientists do) but is by no means a politician or a shill. He and Ventner are near-guaranteed to share a Nobel prize in the next decade or so.

So what's he doing on the list? It's one thing to face your foes head-on and be the voice of reason in a den of fools. But I'm afraid his appearing there does more to lend credibility to the group than to refute it.

I'd strongly suggest you drop an email to him ([email protected]) and just politely be sure he's aware of the ideology of this group, and their political motivations. I'd suggest not asking him to do anything, but just express surprise at seeing him on the list & wanting to be sure he knows what they're about. He's a smart guy and can make good decisions for himself -- and hopefully, he will.

(I'll email him too; just conflicted about writing anonymously vs. with credentials.)

As I noted, I don't think IVF should be banned. These are personal choices, and I'm diehard libertarian on such matters. But when we have tens of thousands of orphans languishing in institutions or foster care, IVF strikes me as exceptionally short-sighted.

MB--let me point out just one reason your position is far superior to that of the crazies at CBHD--your point about kids languishing in foster care and orphanages is a good one, but the crazies don't mention it. Instead, they're urging people to adopt embryos. Thus, they abuse civil liberties, and still do nothing to improve the lives of those kids already born but in need of a family.

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