Saturday, February 28, 2004

Bush admin further Kassifies bioethics board, advances transhumanist agenda through NBIC

Bush Replaces Advisers on Cloning, Medical Issues

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush reshuffled his advisory council on cloning and related medical issues on Friday, adding a prominent neurosurgeon known for his work on conjoined twins and two conservatives who have spoken out strongly against cloning.

He replaced one of the most prominent scientists on his Council on Bioethics, cell biology expert Elizabeth Blackburn of the University of California San Francisco. The Australian- born Blackburn has spoken in favor of so-called therapeutic cloning in which cloning technology is used for medical and biological research. He also replaced William May, a prominent Christian bioethicist and a former president of the American Academy of Religion, now at the University of Virginia.

The new members of the panel are Dr. Benjamin Carson of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, a pediatric neurologist; Peter Lawler, a government professor at Berry College in George; and Diana Schaub, a political scientist at Loyola College of Maryland.

...supporters of therapeutic cloning said they were stunned by the move and said it showed the White House was not interested in hearing neutral scientific advice.

Earlier this month 60 leading scientists and philosophers, including Nobel laureates, backed a Union of Concerned Scientists report that accused the Bush administration of distorting scientific advice to fit ideological goals.
Ordinarily I would be in full lather about Bush's further Kass-ification of the PCB, but I just attended a session of the National Science Foundation's program on using "Nano-Bio-Info-Cogno (NBIC) Convergence to Improve Human Performance" in NYC, and I'm back in an optimistic mood about the revolutionary nature of the bourgeoisie. (I'm preparing a fuller report for Betterhumans.)

The NBIC is a spinoff of the Nanotechnology initiative, and is led by Mihail Roco and (sociologist) William Bainbridge. For the last two years it has been bringing together researchers with people from business, federal agencies and the military to talk about things like creating neural prostheses with direct computer-to-brain connections by using nanofilaments grown by genetically modifying extremophile bacteria, cemented in with gene-tweaked stem cells and neurotrophin factories... Etc. The NBIC report reads like a very technical transhumanist manifesto, without ever acknowledging the "t word". Humans will be smarter, faster, and more long-lived in a couple of decades, and the cross-fertilization and convergence of the domains is expected to multiply the exponential rate of progress.

At yesterday's meeting speaker after speaker obliquely dismissed Kass and the Luddites, and the lunch time keynoter was the Undersecretary of Commerce for Technology, Philip Bond, who again said that we had to address the ethical issues and concerns, but that Luddism and fear were the wrong way to go since these new technologies would create American jobs.

Kass and his silly PCB are a shame, but in this wonderfully complex Kapitalistaat of ours it is quite possible to have one wing of the Repuglican state helping to advance the transhumanist agenda of human empowerment and enhancement via NBIC, because of the billion dollar profits and military advantages they promise, while another wing of the Repuglican state gives the PCB to the Christian Right as a symbolic sop to ensure they deliver their opiated working-class vote in November.

Paul Root Wolpe was there and spoke on bioethics and the NBIC issues, and Wrye Sententia from the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics pitched their wonderfully crafted program and perspective (privacy and self-determination for our brains).

Very significantly, the NBIC has been joined by the new "Converging Technologies Bar Association," a league of dozens of attorneys dedicated to clearing the path for NBIC convergence and human enhancement. Bioethicist Linda MacDonald Glenn (author of the provocative "Biotechnology at the Margins of Personhood" in JET) is involved in that, and Art Caplan is on their advisory Board.