Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Matt Ridley writes that the Raellian clone could be reproductive techonlogy's Chernobyl:

Against these benefits, the disaster of one sick child produced by the premature use of reproductive cloning might seem to be a small setback. But public debate does not work that way. It takes benefits for granted and makes a massive fuss of costs. The principal victim of the backlash to Eve will be stem-cell research.

Of course this cuts both ways. Cloning's advocates rarely admit that cloning might not produce great benefits, or that other less troubling avenues of research could produce the same benefits.
With the latest cloning news, lots of folks are once again coming out saying that they would never favor reproductive cloning like the Raelians claim to have accomplished, but they support theraputic cloning. This is an easy position to take when the face of reproductive cloning is the Raelians, and the face of theraputic cloning is cuddly celebrities and kids with horrible diseases.

But as Will Saletan points out, this is a logically ridiculous position:

The first cloned baby—Eve or whoever comes after her—won't be fertilized. If fertilization is a prerequisite to humanity, as Hatch and Feinstein suggest, that baby will never be human. You can press the pillow over her face and walk away.

If Hatch and Feinstein don't want to live in that world, they'd better find another way to explain why it's OK to clone a human embryo to give it death but not to give it life.

I responded on the Fray. My prediction is that this "theraputic but not reproductive" argument will continue to be discredited, especially if there are any successful cases of thereaputic cloning.

It's an interesting irony. Thereaputic cloning and reporductive cloning come from the same technology, yet their futures are diametrically opposed. The success of one will likely mean the failure of the other. Given the choice, I'll root for reproductive cloning, which would likely be used less, and at least doesn't doom the embryos.

I'm not excited about either one, though.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Merry Christmas, everyone! As a special gift, I think I've finally repaired my archives!

Friday, December 20, 2002

Amy Welborn applauds a monsignor's decision to keep Governor Davis from playing Santa at a Catholic children's home since he is pro-choice.

You know, this is the type of thing that gives us pro-lifers such a bad name. Is it good that Gray Davis is pro-choice? No. Does that mean we can't work with him on other things? Absolutely not! This isn't a case of having Anna Quindlen or some other pro-choice advocate doing a commencement speech at college graduation. This is a chance for kids to meet the governor and get some gifts. But no! We must stand in our self-righteousness and pat ourselves on the back about how we told Gov. Davis what he can do with his pro-choice views! We'll show him!

And that's really all they're doing. It's not like this little stunt has any chance of changing Gov. Davis's views on abortion. This is an exercise in cheerleading that will not save one unborn child from abortion.

There's something really distasteful about using children as the battleground for adult discussions. I can't help but think there would be better ways to let Gov. Davis know that we think he's wrong on abortion. Maybe ask him some tough questions about his position while he was there. Maybe organize protestors at the home.

I also have to ask we're truly following the example of Jesus, who dined with taxpayers and prostitutes. Did Jesus make these people sign a letter promising to amend their ways before He would let them into His life? I don't think so.

Instead, we look like a bunch of self-righteous prigs willing to ruin poor children's Christmas in order to grab a few headlines for our cause. I hope and pray that we're better than that.

UPDATE: Amy has written me that she did not mean to "applaud" the monsignor's action, just point it out to her readers. I apologize for the mischaracterization.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

For a while now, Mark Shea's been writing that the Holy Father has kept Law and others in their positions in part so that they are forced to endure the suffering and shame of the scandals, and that that is their cross to bear. Some have replied that the rest of the American Church has had to suffer because of this as well, and that's not fair. Mark answers that the blame for the scandals is not wholly on the bishops, so it's appropriate for us to shoulder our share as well.

I agree with the sentiment, but I think it misses an important point. Even if only the hierarchy were to blame, it would still be appropriate for the rest of the American Church to take up its cross for redemption. Our salvation was earned through the suffering and death of one who was utterly and completely blameless -- Jesus! What makes us think we should somehow be immune from suffering?

In a way, these arguments prove Mark's point -- our culture never sees suffering as a redemptive act, only as punishment for those who did wrong. How quickly we forget who we are, and how our salvation was earned!

Friday, December 06, 2002

Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus, and Jack Shafer, among others, have been documenting the New York Times's transformation from the "paper of record" to a publication out to pursue whatever crusades Howell Raines wants them to.

First of all, Howell Raines can run the paper anyway he and the other folks in charge of NYT want to. If they want to devote the paper to pressuring folks to do their bidding, that's their perogative. The market will decide if that's a viable direction.

Of course if that's what they want to do, it's important that we know what's going on, which is why it's appropriate for Kaus and Sullivan to point it out loudly and often. What I think bugs Kaus and Sullivan so much is that Raines is borrowing from NYT's repuation as the "paper of record" to advance an agenda. The price for doing this is damage to the reputation, which is what's happening now.

It occurs to me that this opens up the possibility for another publication to fill the void NYT is leaving. Who is positioned to do that? Of the top of my head, I can think of the Washington Post and the USA Today. One way these papers could differentiate themselves would be to eliminate unsigned editorials.

Or maybe not. Maybe changes in the news marketplace have made the concept of a "paper of record" obsolete. Maybe NYT's shift isn't a result of Raines getting out of control, but a savvy business decision, and there's a bigger market for people wanting to look down their noses at Hootie Johnson than reading balanced news coverage.

It seems unlikely that when future generations study early 21st Century history, they will be poring over microfilms of editions of the New York Times. They might look at them, but they'll also look at TV news, magazines, and maybe even web logs. So maybe the days of the New York Times, or any other publication being the "paper of record" are long gone.
A writer to Andrew Sullivan's webiste hilights one of my pet peeves about bloggers in general and Sullivan in particular -- using "gets it" as a synonym for "agrees with me." The writer is correct -- this device betrays an unseemly arrogance. This was used a lot in regards to the Catholic Church scandals, and I'd be happy to see it not used again.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

I actually corrected my spelling in reponse to an a Nihil Obstat post. While I could think of better uses of time than pointing out my many typos, that feeling is tempered with the flattery that someone is bothering to see if I've written anything, despite my sparse posting lately. Or maybe I'm just a rich source of material for him or her. I'm not going back to fix the archives, though...

I do have to figure out why my links aren't working...

Monday, December 02, 2002

Am I the only one who is ready for the Osbournes to go away? I watched the show a few times last year, and it was amusing to see how they (dys)function. But now it seems every awards ceremony is punctuated by an Osbourne sighting, and they're all over everything. I'm tired of them, and wasn't aware that yelling at the other people in your family was such a marketable talent.

I'm predicting that the Osbournes themselves will be much more self-conscious this season now that they're all celebrities, and the show's ratings will plummet, and there won't be a third season.

Or maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part.