Obama allows doing anything to embryos except clone them

President Obama went further than anyone thought in lifting the restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Not only did he allow funding for research using existing stem cell lines made from embryos and making new stem cell lines from embryos set to be thrown away. Our taxpayer money may now be used to engender new living embryos just so they can be experimented upon and killed!

President Obama, however, said at the signing ceremony, that he does NOT believe in and will see that the government does not allow human cloning. He said, “It is dangerous, profoundly wrong and has no place in our society or any society.”

Well, good. But why does he call opposing human embryo experimentation being hostile to science and interfering with the progress of scientific research, while his opposing human cloning is OK? Why is he for one kind of embryo engineering but against another kind? Might not grinding up human embryos in an attempt to make medicine for adults also be ” dangerous, profoundly wrong,” deserving “no place in our society or any society”?

To me, it seems that human cloning is LESS wrong than harvesting embryos. With cloning, you at least get life. With embryo experimentation you kill life. Of course, cloning procedures usually generate many embryos that are later “disposed of.” So I am against cloning also. But I am struck by how repulsed many people are at the very thought of cloning, considering a clone some kind of soulless monster that should be killed. But if you are cloned, what you would end up with is just an identical twin. Who is also your sibling. “Profoundly wrong,” yes, but what the president has just allowed is “dangerous.”

Stem cells from regular skin

In another breakthrough, scientists have found a way to make cells from ordinary skin revert back to stem cells. No embryos were harmed in the making of this experiment. I like this comment:

“Stem cell research that requires destroying embryos is going the way of the Model T,” Richard M. Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said. “No administration that values science and medical progress over politics will want to divert funds now toward that increasingly obsolete and needlessly divisive approach.”

Nevertheless, the advocates of fetus harvesting to make medicine for adults keep demanding that right.

Erasing bad memories

Scientists are developing drug treatments that would erase bad memories. See this article. So far, the experiments hardly match the hype. But what if that could be done? Would that be good or bad? Would it damage our very identity?

Virtual depravity

Amazon will no longer sell a computer game called Rapelay:

In Rapelay, gamers direct a character to sexually assault a mother and her two young daughters at an underground station, before raping any of a selection female characters. . . .

Rapelay was developed by the Japanese production house Illusion, which makes a number of sexually violent games for the domestic market. Their other titles include “Battle Raper” and “Artificial Girl”.

A spokesman for the company said: “We believe there is no problem with the software, which has cleared the domestic ratings of an ethics watchdog body.” . . .

Rapelay, which was released in 2006, encourages players to force the virtual woman they rape to have an abortion. If they are allowed to give birth the woman throws the player’s character under a train, according to reviews of the game. It also has a feature allowing several players to team up against individual women.

Reducing rape and abortion to a game, a mere fun diversion, is monstrous, a sign of an inward depravity that is staggering. I would remind gamers that, according to Jesus Himself, fantasizing about sinning is sin and deserves a horrible judgment (Matthew 5:21-30).

Rights for Machines

Yesterday we had a post about an ethical movement to treat not just animals but now plants with “dignity” (with a strange indifference to treating human life with the same deference). Now I read about a movement to grant rights to machines. From Do Humanlike Machines Deserve Human Rights?, in “Wired”:

The perennial concern about the rise of robots has been how to keep them from, well, killing us. Isaac Asimov came down from the mountaintop with his Three Laws of Robotics (to summarize: Robots shouldn’t disobey or hurt humans or themselves). But what are the rules for the humans in this relationship? As technology develops animal-like sophistication, finding the thin metallic line between what’s safe to treat as an object and what’s not will be tricky. “It’s going to be a tougher and tougher argument to say that technology doesn’t deserve the same protection as animals,” says Clifford Nass, a Stanford professor who directs a program called the Communication Between Humans and Interactive Media Lab. “One could say life is special—whatever that means. And so, either we get tougher on technology abuse or it undermines laws about abuse of animals.”

It’s already being considered overseas. In 2007, a South Korean politician declared that his country would be the first to draw up legal guidelines on how to treat robots; the UK has also looked into the area (though nothing substantial has come of it anywhere). “As our products become more aware, there are things you probably shouldn’t do to them,” says John Sosoka, CTO of Ugobe, which makes the eerily lifelike robot dinosaur Pleo (also tortured on Web video). “The point isn’t whether it’s an issue for the creature. It’s what does it do to us.”

HT: First Things

Preparing for the next god

Google and NASA are collaborating to start Singularity University, an institute that will prepare the way for the time when, in a few decades, computers will become smarter than human beings and will start solving the world’s problems on their own:

Google and Nasa are throwing their weight behind a new school for futurists in Silicon Valley to prepare scientists for an era when machines become cleverer than people.

The new institution, known as “Singularity University”, is to be headed by Ray Kurzweil, whose predictions about the exponential pace of technological change have made him a controversial figure in technology circles.

Google and Nasa’s backing demonstrates the growing mainstream acceptance of Mr Kurzweil’s views, which include a claim that before the middle of this century artificial intelligence will outstrip human beings, ushering in a new era of civilisation.

To be housed at Nasa’s Ames Research Center, a stone’s-throw from the Googleplex, the Singularity University will offer courses on biotechnology, nano-technology and artificial intelligence.

The so-called “singularity” is a theorised period of rapid technological progress in the near future. Mr Kurzweil, an American inventor, popularised the term in his 2005 book “The Singularity is Near”.

Proponents say that during the singularity, machines will be able to improve themselves using artificial intelligence and that smarter-than-human computers will solve problems including energy scarcity, climate change and hunger.

Yet many critics call the singularity dangerous. Some worry that a malicious artificial intelligence might annihilate the human race.

Note the millennial, messianic hope AND the apocalyptic fear this is engendering, both of which are fundamentally religious. We are constructing our god, and soon he will take over. But why is NASA involved in this? A governmental agency whose purpose is space travel? I guess the agency is filled with fans of the movie “2001: Space Odyssey” who want to create HAL.