May 20, 2005

ALL THE NEWS THAT'S FIT TO SLANT (via Robert Schwartz):

Clone of Silence: Stem cells, loaded words, and the New York Times. (William Saletan, May 19, 2005, Slate)

Last week, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney proposed four amendments to a bill supporting stem cell research. The Boston Globe headlined the story, "Romney urges changes to stem cell bill—Adds amendment to prohibit cloning." The Globe's fourth paragraph explained, "The governor has echoed the hopes of many that stem cell research may one day find treatments for diseases, and he shares the conviction that the research is important to the state … But the governor has split with a large majority in the Legislature over cloning human cells." If you read the Globe, you get the impression Romney supports stem cell research but opposes cloning.

That isn't the impression you get if you read the New York Times. The Times' report on the same proposal never mentioned cloning. "New Limits Are Proposed for Research on Stem Cells," said the headline. The lede paragraph explained only that Romney proposed "excluding a type of embryonic stem cell research" (ESCR). The story never mentioned that Romney supported ESCR apart from cloning.

The difference is enormous. In a poll taken two months ago by advocates of therapeutic cloning (also known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT), 70 percent of likely Massachusetts voters supported ESCR, but 84 percent opposed cloning to produce a human birth. The word "cloning" was so radioactive that the pollsters omitted it from their questions about SCNT. They called the product of SCNT an "altered egg" and emphasized that "no sperm is used." When they asked voters to choose between pro-SCNT and anti-SCNT arguments, they left out the bottom line of the anti-SCNT argument: that cloned embryos would be destroyed. Instead, they said the argument's bottom line was that SCNT would "lead to cloning babies"—an empirical claim most voters rejected. Politically, "stem cells" is a winner. "Cloning" is a loser.

This is why the Times' terminology matters.


As Mr. Schwartz says, when even the Left is accusing you of liberal bias the wheels are really coming off.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 20, 2005 7:32 PM
Comments

Regardless of how the public feels about it right now, there is a 100% chance that humans will be cloned in the future.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at May 20, 2005 7:41 PM

And a 100% chance that someone will rape and murder a child. So?

Posted by: oj at May 20, 2005 7:45 PM

So cloning won't be illegal.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at May 20, 2005 7:54 PM

Also, comparing cloning to raping and killing a child is not only in very poor taste, it verges on the unhinged.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at May 20, 2005 7:56 PM

It will be illegal in America. Let other people degrade their societies if they choose to.

Posted by: oj at May 20, 2005 8:01 PM

Yes, I'm aware of your views on the morality of cloning, and I agree to the extent that cloning solely to bring another "me" into the world is narcissistic and almost always unwarrented.

However, illegal it shall not be.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at May 21, 2005 6:45 AM

It's no better when you do so to use it for your own purposes. It's evil.

Posted by: oj at May 21, 2005 7:43 AM

Perhaps we have different definitions of cloning.

What do you perceive cloning to be, and for what purpose will it be used ?

Not the ol' "spare parts" howler, I hope.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at May 21, 2005 7:57 AM

Artificial creation of a human being for any purpose other than his own existence.

Posted by: oj at May 21, 2005 8:02 AM

My (perhaps idiosyncratic) position is that actual cloning (Mini-me cloning) doesn't bother me, while therapeutic cloning should be banned.

For an infertile couple, cloning one of the partners seems an understandable wish. In any event, whatever the expectations of the parents, the clone will be its own person.

Therapeutic cloning is anathema. The fact that it is probably unnecessary just makes it worse. It's as if modern plantations used slaves rather than combines just to make a political point about slavery.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 21, 2005 10:24 AM

All wishes are understandable, even evil ones.

Posted by: oj at May 21, 2005 11:04 AM

Sure. Now show that this particular wish is evil.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 21, 2005 7:26 PM

Actually, I have no idea why I said "sure", as I can think of plenty of evil wishes that I can't understand, but still the real question is why is cloning evil? Unless your position is that IVF is evil, in which case cloning would necessarily be evil.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 21, 2005 8:28 PM

Yes, IVF is wrong, though not evil per se.

Posted by: oj at May 21, 2005 8:39 PM

If reproductive cloning is evil, and IVF isn't, then what's the difference that makes a difference?

Posted by: David Cohen at May 22, 2005 12:16 AM

Artificial creation of a human being for any purpose other than his own existence.

Then you should have no problem with the clones of the future, although of course using that definition, the actual research necessary to perfect human cloning would be evil.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at May 22, 2005 4:09 AM

Clones are objects, not subjects.

Posted by: oj at May 22, 2005 9:07 AM

David:

IVF is indeed a societal evil, but on a personal level stems solely from a desire to have a child of one's own, which is hardly evil, though not a desire that we should satisfy.

Cloning is never about the child himself.

Posted by: oj at May 22, 2005 9:09 AM

Well, that seems like a little bit of a rush to judgment, as cloning doesn't actually exist yet.

Posted by: David Cohen at May 22, 2005 11:01 PM

David:

Its motivations do.

Posted by: oj at May 23, 2005 7:07 AM
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