Thursday, November 04, 2004

Left bioLudds to meet in NYC Dec. 9

The Center for Genetics and Society is the leading left-wing bioLuddite lobby group.

They are planning the meeting below as a strategy session for left-wing opponents of human biotech.

I plan to be there, and I'm kind of miffed that they still don't think having at least one progressive non-Luddite would expand their discourse

Any radical cyborgs want to come and expand the progressive discourse around human biotech with me? Let me know -> jhughes @


The Center for Genetics and Society, the Graduate Center CUNY, the Nation Institute, and the New York Open Center

invite you to

The Next Four Years, the Biotech Agenda, and the Human Future:
What Direction for Liberals and Progressives ?

A Post-Election Symposium

Thursday, December 9
7:00 - 9:30 pm

The Graduate Center
City University of New York

365 Fifth Avenue at 34th Street
New York City

Admission Free

Registration Requested - See below

The new human biotechnologies pose some of the most controversial and divisive political challenges of our time. Although many applications promise new ways of preventing and curing disease, others encourage new forms of discrimination, racism, and exclusion. Still others could open the door to a high-tech consumer eugenics that could radically alter the nature of humanity and undermine the foundations of civil society.

Meanwhile, the biotech industry has moved rapidly to frame public debate in its favor and build influence within the political parties. With the conclusion of the November elections, liberals and progressives need to consider deeply the implications of the new human biotechnologies for social justice, equality, and democracy.

Join noted academic, political and civil society authors and leaders to consider what is at stake and what needs to be done:

- Marcy Darnovsky, Ph.D., Associate Executive Director, Center for Genetics and Society

- Sheldon Krimsky, Ph.D., Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy & Planning, Tufts University; author, Science and the Private Interest:
Has the Lure of Profits Corrupted Biomedical Research?

- Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) [tbc]

- Dorothy Roberts, J.D., Kirkland & Ellis Professor of Law, Northwestern University; author, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty

- William Saletan, Chief Political Correspondent, Slate; author, Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War

To register, and for more information: call 212-817-8215, or go to


Good News Already: Moderate Repugs to Push for Stem Cell Funding

According to Reuters, moderate Congressional Republicans are going to urge Bush to relax restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. Already 58 senators and 206 House of Representatives members have signed letters urging Bush to lift the restrictions on ESC funding, including Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch.

Debating the Cyborg

Today I attended a conference on cybernetic organisms held at the University of Quebec in Montreal. The guest speaker was Ian Hacking, a world-reknown philosopher and historian of scientific concepts, who surprised me when he started his speech on the career of the Cyborg by giving the audience a short introduction to transhumanism and the WTA!

Despite often repeating how skeptical he is towards the most outrageous claims made by some transhumanist thinkers, Hacking confessed to being in favour of using technology to help the disabled overcome their biological limitations.

During the question period, I took the opportunity to reveal to him and the audience that I am the local representative of the WTA (which, not surprisingly, created some buzz) but also introduce them to the concept of the Fyborg, a term coined by Alexander Chislenko to differentiate between the man-machine creations of science fiction and the everyday ways that we extend ourselves using technologies such as contact lenses, hearing aids, and mobile phones.

The lesson I learned from this and many other experiences with the public is that openly displaying your capacity to be critical of your own beliefs will earn you the respect of some of your most staunch critics.

International Opinion

From the UK Mirror

Green groups refuse to discuss nano-safety regulation

From Nature magazine care of Green groups balk at joining nanotechnology talks: Leading environmental groups turned down invitations to join the International Council on Nanotechnology (ICON), set up to drive open discussion about the benefits and pitfalls of the nanotechnology.

BoingBoing maps out strategy

Americans: Don't Move to Canada.

Long-term Strategy 1: Work for North American Unification

Long-term Strategy 2: Redraw the map.

Short-term Reality: Its still pretty close where most people live (as opposed to the black hole centered in Utah). In most states we can win still back the House in 2006. The country is really purple, not red and blue.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

California Bets Big on Stem Cell Research

By voting yes on Proposition 71, Californians have sent a clear message to the US and the world: they value human life more than abstract ethical arguments, and support scientific research and the development of new powerful therapies to reduce human suffering.
Proposition 71 was supported by the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative and endorsed by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

On today's press:

Scientific American: Californians voted resoundingly on Tuesday to borrow $3 billion to fund stem cell research over the next 10 years, with 59 percent of the population voting to support Proposition 71. The state plans to target research for which federal money is not available, such as developing new lines of embryonic stem cells (ESC).

A diverse coalition, including people against the research on moral grounds and those who felt that the plan was irresponsible for the financially troubled state, opposed the California initiative. But its proponents, including prominent medical researchers, raised millions of dollars to convince voters to endorse the spending to create the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which will oversee distribution of the funds.

Stem cells can differentiate into any other cell type and may be especially useful for treating diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's and some heart problems in which a single cell type is defective. But although stem cells can be extracted from bone marrow, umbilical cord blood and other tissues, the most versatile cells are ESCs, taken from embryos a few days old.

Mercury News: "This is a historic victory for the people of California and for the millions of families suffering from disease or injury", said Robert Klein, co-chair of the Yes on 71 campaign. "There is no doubt in my mind that the mission Californians accepted today is a critical first step in changing the face of human suffering forever."

Nature: By insulating the research funding from the vagaries of politics, the crafters of Proposition 71 hope that researchers and companies will be drawn from around the United States and the world to California. The resulting economic stimulus will help pay off the bonds, they say, and could produce a significant return, depending on the success of the research.

Several opposition groups are also worried about the lack of clear ethical guidelines in the measure, given the moral concerns surrounding the work. Now that the Institute for Regenerative Medicine has the green light, those groups plan to be vigilant, says Marcy Darnovsky, associate executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society in Oakland. "We'll be keeping an eye on what they do," she says.