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News: “U.K. Scientists Given Green Light To Edit Human Embryos” | IFLScience

http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/uk-scientists-given-green-light-edit-human-embryos

Cute. We’re assured that it’s still illegal to implant these “edited,” engineered embryos – but until now, it wasn’t legal to edit them! See the pattern?

The experiments are only supposed to only  use “surplus” embryos conceived by in vitro fertilization. Next will come the argument that embryos should by designed “from scratch” as a couple’s right (or group marriage partner’s rights.

The only embryos that will be helped as a result of this line of experimentation wold be extracorporeal embryos that are to be edited, themselves! Job security for the experimenters, perhaps.

We can be sure implantation will happen, moving closer to “designer babies.” Lots of science fiction has often dealt with the good and bad, the intended and unintended consequences of “editing” the humans or transhumans we conceive.

The unintended consequences can’t be known, but we can know that they will occur. And yet, that child of tomorrow can’t consent, his or her contemporaries can’t consent and their off spring certainly can’t consent.

The nascent  human once again unquestionably becomes the means to another’s end, rather than an end in himself.

Yes, someone will point out that  many or even most parents may have children for their own purposes other than to truly become one with their spouse or to reproduce and pass on their genes. The mere fact that anyone can contemplate “spare” or “excess” human beings is proof of that. (And don’t forget the “unwanted” child the abortion advocates constantly remind us of.)

Will there be a money-back guarantee for the “failed” comodified child?  Will those future generations think better of us than we regard past efforts at breeding a better human? Let’s hope that if we live among them, they tolerate us!

Jihadist courage

Bioethicists and transhumanists – and I – have long speculated on the ability and usefulness of drugs to enhance performance. However, assassins, murderers and the subgroup that are the jihadists, have a completely different goal for their “enhancement.”

“Captagon — a synthetic amphetamine-based pill — is considered the drug of choice for Islamic State fighters in Syria, Iraq and, now it seems, Paris.

‘When French police raided a hotel room at Alfortville, south-east of Paris, last week they found a stash of syringes, needles and plastic tubing.”  (from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-24/captagon-the-drug-that-kept-the-paris-attackers-calm/6970464 )

Hat tip to BioEdge

Cloned human embryos announced

Cell SCNT diagramTachibana May June2013If we can still believe scientific journals, Cell reports in the June 6, 2013 issue indicate that  scientists have succeeded in cloning human embryos.

The term used for cloning by the group is “reprogramming” fibroblasts using somatic cell nuclear transplantation. However, there’s no longer an attempt by the authors or members of the scientific press to create a new “unfertilized blastocyst” or pre-embryo: the embryos are called embryos, morula, and blastocysts.In recognition that these are not quite the same as embryonic stem cells derived from embryos produced by direct fertilization, the stem cells derived from the cloned blastocysts are designated as “Nuclear Transfer Embryonic Stem Cells” or NT-ESC.

Tachibana’s group obtained well over a 100 oocytes from women who underwent ovarian stimulation and transvaginal retrieval.

The growth of four embryos to the blastocyst stage resulted in NT-ESC, after differentiation into a blastocyst with a trophoblast (precursor of the placenta) and the inner cell mass (the part that will develops into the actual body of the human). These embryos were destroyed to harvest the ICM.

The report details years of research to find the optimum technique for cloning human embryos. It was found that the mitotic stage of the oocytes, MII, is critical. The researchers further developed a protocol utilizing caffeine and electrical stimulation to induce activation of the fused nucleus from the skin cell and donor oocyte. In addition, the authors found that “higher quality oocytes,” those more likely to form viable embryos, resulted when the ovarian stimulation yielded fewer than ten oocytes. If larger numbers of oocytes were produced due to the ovarian stimulation, somatic cell nuclear transfer was less likely. In fact, the first four clones that developed far enough to produce NT-ESC came from one woman who donated eight oocytes in one cycle, resulting in the production of five cloned embryos.

There are several ethical problems which surround this research.

First, as strongly noted by the Center for Bioethics and Culture, the ovarian stimulation risks abuse of women who might be placed at risk due to the hormones administered to induce ovulation. As noted in the paper,

“In the context of generating patient-specific pluripotent stem cells, reproducible results with various patient-derived somatic cells and with different egg donors are a necessity.”

Although the donation is called voluntary and anonymous, the women were compensated for their “time, effort, discomfort, and inconvenience associated with the donation process.”    I can’t help but wonder about how long the anonymity will last for the one woman whose oocytes yielded those first four successful clones and NT-ESCs or for the two women whose oocytes yielded the clones confirming the reproducibility of their method, in the second stage of the research. Or how much pressure they will face to continue to donate “voluntarily.”

The lack of concern for the women involved is revealed in this interview with the authors at The Scientist,

““I was worried that we might need a couple of thousand eggs to make all these optimizations, to find that winning combination. But it actually took just 128 [eggs], which is a surprisingly low number to make 6 [hESC] lines.””

6 NT-ESC lines were derived from 128 harvested oocytes, for a yield of 4.6% In later stages, the success rate was still 2 NT-ESC lines from 7 embryos and 15 oocytes, or 13% of oocytes.

The primary objection is that 100% of the human embryos were created in harm’s way and must be destroyed to harvest the NT-ESCs.

These embryos are delayed human twins, artificially induced. Although the first cell of these embryos began in the lab, as the result of highly technical and involved procedures, they are human embryos and near-identical twins of the somatic cell nucleus.   There is indirect acknowledgement that the embryos are twins of the donor of the fibroblasts by the reporting that tests of the chromosomes of the cloned embryos show that the DNA matches that of the donor of the fibroblasts, a patient with Leigh’s syndrome.

The sources of fibroblast nuclei raise other ethical dilemmas. The first research was carried out using female fetal fibroblasts. Later research involved creating human embryos with Leigh’s syndrome.  Leigh’s syndrome results from a genetic defect of the mitochondria, the cell “power plant,” which is inherited from the mother and only found in the cell cytoplasm, not the nucleus. Reports are already ignoring the fact that the donor’s twins were produced with the express intention of destroying them for their inner cell mass. At least one is predicting that this is a technique which can be used to create future children for mothers who have the abnormal mitochondria.

The report, Tachibana et al., “Human Embryonic Stem Cells Derived by Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer,” Cell (2013),http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2013.05.006, is available on-line and in PDF (as of today).

Why Ethics? | LifeEthics.org

If there’s no such thing as right and wrong or good and evil, why are we arguing in the first place?

If you crack the egg of a bird on the Endangered Species List, it won’t matter that the bird was a fetus or embryo. You’ve still broken Federal law. Why is the species of an (unhatched) animal so clear cut under law, but human embryos have no protection under current law? Legal follies such as this underscore our lack of seriousness and consistency when contemplating our children of tomorrow. My concern is that we are not teaching them why they should treat us kindly, much less giving them a good example.

Bioethics dilemmas and most political disputes may seem to be new problems, but they’re not. Every “new” problem is another facet of the potential to deny the existence of right and wrong or to infringe on the inalienable rights of our fellow humans. Knowledge of the basics can guide decisions and actions.

If there’s no such thing as right and wrong or good and evil, why are we arguing in the first place? These truths transcend relative social considerations and laws, including religious beliefs, ideology, or the wants and wishes of the powerful or majority. They even transcend time and space: if you take a close look at the big debates, the speakers aren’t simply talking to each other: we’re arguing with the great thinkers of the past and trying to convince people who come along after us.

The unique nature of the species Homo sapiens sapiens is the source and the definition of “human dignity,” and the reason that all members of the species and our offspring are human beings who should be valued equally, without discrimination.

And of course, we are unique, since It looks like we’re the only species having this conversation. We’re the only species that, when an individual has safety, food and sex, doesn’t just go to sleep. Our species makes art, records history, and argues about the nature of the universe. Humans seem to naturally “know” “that’s not fair,” even at 3 or 4 years old. We seek Unconditional Justice, Truth, Love, Beauty and Knowledge. And we value Unconditional Love most of all.

The Negative rights to Life, Liberty and Property are owned and endowed upon individuals; they are not the property of or gift of societies or governments. These exist in a necessary order; a hierarchy of importance and power to call on society for protection. The right not to be killed trumps the right not to be enslaved, which precedes the right not to have your property taken from you by force or fraud. If they can kill you, there are no limits on how much they can enslave you or take from you. We must be secure that others won’t take our property against our will, because earning and owning property is how we avoid enslavement to others and how we make plans and lay by the staples of life to support the lives of ourselves and our families, both immediately while we can earn, and later when we are unable to work.

Society and government must protect these “inalienable” rights of individuals, but only as far as to ensure equality of opportunity, not the equality of outcome. These are protections against the actions of others, not against words or thoughts. It is not protection or promotion of someone’s personal tastes and not the right to not be offended. We must be very, very careful when we tax and even more careful if we presume to force the actions of others.

Good politics and science cannot exist in a moral vacuum. The powerful, the majority, the surging mob. the man with the biggest gun or governments cannot do good when their actions infringe on the life, liberty or property of the individual. To claim that people must act or give up property indefinitely for the greater good – Utilitarianism – ends in domination without measurable or objective limits.

And yet, to function in society carries responsibilities. Extraordinary privileges like those given to lawmakers, doctors, and scientists to do good, may also result in extraordinary power to do evil through abuse of unequal power of weapons, tools, numbers or even knowledge and skill. This is where conscience and the first principle of “first do no harm” come in. The right of conscience is a function of the liberty of an individual not to be forced to act against his understanding of good and evil, right and wrong.

Medicine and science have held a unique position to advocate for the protection of human rights, at least since Hippocrates, who formalized the now 2500 year old oath to “heal when possible, but First, do no harm” Non-maleficence, or not acting in order to avoid harm, must precede and be incorporated in the desire to do good or beneficence.

Once again, we come back to that first point: all of our offspring, descendants deserve the same value and protection of their rights to life, liberty and property without discrimination. It’s possible that we already have offspring among us who are not of our species. Science has created human embryos with more than two biological parents and others who have been the subject of genetic manipulation. Also out there are is the Humanity+ or Transhumanism movement in all its permutations, along with more accessible enhancement of the human mind and body through technology, medicine, machines, and manipulation at the nano-level.

We must consider how our children of tomorrow will consider us. It is true that humans aren’t perfect, we will make mistakes, and some humans will purposefully infringe on the rights of others. However, what values and principles will the pattern of our governments and individual action reflect? Will it be our respect and love for one another? Will they respect and love us or will they look back in horror or disgust?

(I want to thank Robert Spitzer, who wrote “Healing the Culture,” one of the best Ethics books in existence.)

This is a March, 2011 post from LifeEthics. org. Why Ethics? | LifeEthics. Edited 5/10/13 to move to top of the list.

Artificial womb and the right to life

It often seems that we fight increasing de-volition of traditional human and medical ethics with new technological advances. Here’s evidence that sometimes ethics and the understanding of human dignity can or could advance.

 

hat would an artificial womb mean? Well,according to this futurist,

In immediate terms, the foundations on which a woman’s rights to choose are predicated in Roe v. Wade, namely the issue of fetal viability and the right to privacy (the right not to be pregnant), will be rendered virtually meaningless.  First, once a fetus can be safely and entirely gestated outside of a biological womb, it can be removed from its mother.  Second, ectogenesis means that viability starts with conception.

(by Soraya Chemaly, original at RH Reality Check)

I’m  reminded of a science fiction story about the need to duplicate the normal intrauterine environment  that I read in the 80’s, which ended with the advice, “Use original container.”

However, would we say that or the equivalent to a recipient of a heart or kidney transplant? Or even a diabetes patient?

The interesting argument, here, is that the extra uterine *individual* is recognized as a human being, a being with his or her own humanity.

 

“Will You Live Forever—or Until Your Next Software Release—By Uploading Your Brain into a Computer?”

Transhumanism is a field composed of many interesting mind games (pun intended) but the really great title of this Scientific American review of Connectome, a new book by Sebastian Seung on cutting edge neuroscience, the state of the science behind the Human Brain Project and the transhumanist religion that is adopting it, is what made me post tonight.

Can you remember the last update of the operating system software on your phone or the browser you’re using to read this note? Or did you buy a Windows 7 computer only to find that your year-old wireless printer was not supported? Or – horrors! – have you, like me, found that your entire computer system is no longer “compliant” and won’t be supported by your vendor after a change in Federal law?

If you have a smartphone and have installed “apps,” how many of them are due an update? That software will completely replace your old program which will be removed from your phone’s memory.
Now, just imagine that your consciousness, your whole brain full of connections and thoughts, a program that, according to a certain group of transhumanists, will think, feel and essentially be you.

The idea is to dispose of the fallible human body that inevitably degrades and dies for a program that will live forever.

My experience with technology is that it, too, decays, degrades or comes with bugs and glitches that require constant upgrades with code that may be worse than a human malignancy. And that security programs can themselves be as bad as the hacks and viruses they’re supposed to protect me from.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to beta this one.

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