Oxford ethicist says parents have ‘moral obligation’ to use genetic screening: expert disputes
BOSTON, August 23, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A biological engineer at Boston Biomedical Research Institute has responded to statements by Oxford ethicist Julian Savulescu that “genetics determines” personality and character, and that parents have a “moral obligation” to use genetic screening.
Putting the moral question aside, Dr. James Sherley told LifeSiteNews.com today that Savulescu’s scientific claims are “absolutely false.”
“Our understanding of the contribution of the human genome to human psychology is not nearly advanced enough to make such a claim,” he said in an interview.
Savulescu raised a small storm of controversy this week when he said that parents should screen out undesirable personality traits and choose positive characteristics for their children. “If we have the power to intervene in the nature of our offspring — rather than consigning them to the natural lottery — then we should,” Savulescu said.
In the past Savulescu has also argued that there is a “moral obligation” to use IVF to select only the most intelligent babies.
However, while the argument is centering on Savulescu’s ethical and moral foundation, little has been said about whether his scientific claims are accurate.
One award-winning bioengineer who works in regenerative medicine, told LSN today that so many factors go into the makeup of human personality that only “fools and egotists” could think it is genetically predetermined. Dr. James Sherley is a one-time professor of Biological Engineering Division at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He said that the reality is far from such sensational headlines.
CLICK ‘LIKE’ IF YOU ARE PRO-LIFE!
“Since my genome has been sequenced, if he were correct,” Dr. Sherley continued, “I would now know all about my own psychology. Such characteristics were not even considered during the scant evaluation of the ‘meaning of my genome’ that is currently possible.”
“Even if the genetics of human psychology were sufficiently advanced,” he continued, “given the vast diversity of human existence and experience, only fools and egoists would profess that they know better than Nature which traits are ‘positive’.
“When fools and egoists makes such statements, their sources should be demanded and reviewed with extreme scrutiny.”
Asked if current genetic sciences are close to such levels of precision, he replied bluntly, “Not a chance.”
Dr. Sherley’s work has been in precisely the field for which Savulescu and other proponents of the New Eugenics have made their claims. His work, however, has steered away from the use of embryos and focused on the molecular and biochemical mechanisms of adult stem cells. He has been a vocal opponent of embryo research. In 2010 Dr. Sherley launched a suit challenging federal funding of embryonic stem cell research that succeeded in halting much of the research on embryos formerly funded by the National Institutes of Health.
In his article, Savulescu names specific genes that have been discovered, he claims, to control an array of personality traits. But Sherley said that his take on the science is mechanistic and unsophisticated.
“His mistake is in thinking that linkage equals causation and prediction,” he said.
“I’m not familiar with these particular genes, but there are many gene loci in which variants are statistically associated with certain human disorders and perhaps even human ‘traits’.
“But that does not mean that we are any position to genetically manipulate these loci by either genetic engineering or trait selection with any level of confidence in predicting what the outcome would be.”
He added, “For complex traits like cognition, behavior, or even skin color for that matter, suggesting that we can determine human characteristics by either manipulation or selection of single gene loci is completely unfounded. It’s science fiction.”
Asked if it is even possible to “splice” specifically selected genes into an existing embryo, Dr. Sherley said that gene splicing is being investigated but not yet used on human subjects. “The technology does exist for mouse embryos.”
“Exclusion of embyros with known deleterious gene mutations for specific disorders is practiced in some IVF clinics now. However, I’m aware of no groups engineering human embryos by incorporating exogenous gene sequences.”
There is “no doubt” in his mind, he added, that the public is being misled into an overly deterministic view of the science of genetics by these kinds of assertions.
“The inherent uncertainties of genetic determinism are difficult to understand even by scientists.”
‘Little miracles’: Mom gives birth to naturally-conceived quintuplets after refusing ‘selective reduction’
AUSTRALIA, February 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- A 26-year-old Australian mom has given birth to five healthy babies, all conceived naturally, after refusing the doctor’s advice that she must abort three of them in order to give the remaining two a better chance at life.
“After my initial ultrasound I was told I could consider the selection method to give 2 babies the best chance in life,” wrote mom Kim Tucci in a Facebook post last September.
“I watched a YouTube video on the procedure and I cried. I could never do that! Was I selfish for not giving two the chance of 100% survival? All I knew is that I already love them and that every heart beat I heard I connect with them more. For me life starts when a heart starts beating and all I know for sure is that I will do whatever it takes to bring them into this world healthy,” she wrote.
Last Thursday Kim and her husband Vaughn welcomed the five new members into their family — one boy and four girls —increasing the number of their children from 3 to 8. The babies were born at 30 weeks, 10 weeks early, due to insufficient space in Kim’s womb. They weighed on average about 2.5 pounds.
The quintuplets’ story began last March, after Kim and Vaughn had been trying for six months to conceive just one more child for their family. Due to health complications, Kim wondered if she would ever become a mother again.
After what she thought was an extra long cycle, she decided to take a pregnancy test.
“I was feeling tired and a little nauseated and thought I would take a pregnancy test just to get the ‘what if’ out of my head. To my shock and utter excitement it was positive,” she wrote on a Facebook post.
The parents got the shock of their lives when doctors confirmed in an ultrasound examination that there was not one baby, but five.
“After a long wait for the ultrasound we finally went in. The sonographer told me there were multiple gestational sacks, but she could only see a heart beat in two. I was so excited! Twins!”
“I was moved to another machine for a clearer view and had the head doctor come in and double check the findings. She started to count, one, two, three, four, five. Did i hear that correctly? Five? My legs start to shake uncontrollably and all i can do is laugh. The sonographer then told me the term for five is ‘quintuplets,’” Kim wrote.
Even though Kim began to feel stretched to the limit with all those human lives growing inside her, she chose to focus on her babies, and not herself, referring to them as “my five little miracles.”
“It's getting harder as each day passes to push through the pain, every part of my body aches and sleeping is becoming very painful. No amount of pillows are helping support my back and belly. Sometimes I get so upset that I just want to throw my hands up and give in.”
“Sometimes my pelvis becomes so stiff I can barely walk and my hips feel like they are grinding away constantly. I'm finding it hard to eat as I basically have no room left in my stomach, and the way it is positioned it's pushed all the way back with the babies leaning against it.”
“My skin on my belly is so stretched its painful and hot to touch. It literally feels like I have hives! No amount of cream helps relieve the discomfort. I have a lot of stretch marks now. Dealing with such a huge change in my body is hard.”
“Is it all worth it? Yes!!!! I will keep pushing through,” she wrote in one Facebook post days before the babies were born.
The newborns' names are Keith, Ali, Penelope, Tiffany, and Beatrix. They were born at King Edward Memorial Hospital in Subiaco, Western Australia. Mother and babies are reported to be doing well.
UN rights chief tells Catholic countries to legalize abortion over Zika virus: bishops and cardinal react
GENEVA, February 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- The United Nations, following the lead of international abortion activists, is now urging Latin American countries hit by the mosquito-borne Zika virus to lift restrictions on abortion for pregnant women who have contacted the virus and whose pre-born children may be at risk for birth defects, including having smaller than normal heads.
The UN human rights office said today that it is not enough for South American countries to urge women to postpone pregnancy without also offering them abortion as a final solution.
“How can they ask these women not to become pregnant, but not offer… the possibility to stop their pregnancies?” UN spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly told reporters.
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said that governments should make available contraception and abortion services.
“Laws and policies that restrict (women’s) access to these services must be urgently reviewed in line with human rights obligations in order to ensure the right to health for all in practice,” he said.
But Brazil’s bishops strongly asserted yesterday that efforts should be made to eradicate the virus, not the people who may be infected by it.
The disease is “no justification whatsoever to promote abortion,” they said in a statement, adding that it is not morally acceptable to promote abortion “in the cases of microcephaly, as, unfortunately, some groups are proposing to the Supreme Federal Court, in a total lack of respect for the gift of life.”
Honduras Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga has also come out strongly against the notion of “therapeutic abortions” as a response to the problem. Unlike Brazil where abortion is legal in the case of rape or health of the mother, abortion remains entirely illegal in Honduras.
“We should never talk about ‘therapeutic’ abortion,” the cardinal said in a homily at a February 3 Mass in Suyap. “Therapeutic abortion doesn’t exist. Therapeutic means curing, and abortion cures nothing. It takes innocent lives,” he said.
While the World Health Organization (WHO) declared an international public health emergency February 1 on account of concerns over the virus, critics have pointed out, however, that not one death as resulted from the virus. Even on WHO’s own website the virus is described in mild terms.
“It causes mild fever and rash. Other symptoms include muscle pain, joint pain, headache, pain behind the eyes and conjunctivitis. Zika virus disease is usually mild, with symptoms lasting only a few days,” the website states. “To date, there have been no reported deaths associated with Zika virus,” it added.
Critics suspect that the crisis is being manipulated to advance an anti-human agenda on the pre-born.
“Is Zika, actually, a hideous virus that threatens to spread uncontrollably across the world creating an army of disabled children with tiny heads and low IQ’s? Or might this be a willful misinterpretation of the scarce data to manipulate public opinion and legislatures?” wrote pro-life critic Mei-Li Garcia earlier this week.
“It becomes very clear that the publicity surrounding this story has a very little to do with medicine and a lot to do with a convenient crisis that is being used by those pushing for the legalization of abortion around the world,” she wrote.
Hillary’s litmus test for Supreme Court picks: They must ‘preserve Roe v. Wade’
DERRY, NH, February 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - Hillary Clinton has a litmus test for Supreme Court nominees - several, in fact. At a Democratic event on Wednesday, Clinton unveiled her criteria in selecting a judge for the nation's highest court.
“I do have a litmus test, I have a bunch of litmus tests," she said.
"We’ve got to make sure to preserve Roe v. Wade, not let it be nibbled away or repealed,” she said.
That echoes her recent call to arms speech before Planned Parenthood last month, when she stated that taxpayers must fund abortion-on-demand in order to uphold the "right" of choice.
“We have to preserve marriage equality,” Clinton said, referring to last summer's Obergefell v. Hodges case, a 5-4 ruling that redefined marriage nationwide. “We have to go further to end discrimination against the LGBT community."
Her views differentiate her from the Republican front runners. Ted Cruz has called the court's marriage ruling "fundamentally illegitimate," and Donald Trump told Fox News Sunday this week that he would "be very strong on putting certain judges on the bench that I think maybe could change things." Marco Rubio has said he won't "concede" the issue to the one-vote majority.
All Republican presidential hopefuls say they are pro-life and will defund Planned Parenthood.
Her husband, Bill Clinton, raised the makeup of the Supreme Court early last month in New Hampshire, saying it receives "almost no attention" as a campaign issue.
On Wednesday, Hillary said "the next president could get as many as three appointments. It’s one of the many reasons why we can’t turn the White House over to the Republicans again.”
Clinton said her judicial appointees must also reverse the Citizens United ruling on campaign finance and oppose a recent decision striking down a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In 2013's Shelby County v. Holder, justices struck down Section 4(b) of the act, which said that certain states and jurisdictions had to obtain permission from the federal government before changing their voting laws.
At one time, most politicians frowned upon any "litmus test" for judicial nominees, emphasizing the independence of the third branch of government. "I don't believe in litmus tests," Jeb Bush told Chuck Todd last November.
But with the rise of an activist judiciary in the middle of the 20th century, constitutionalists have sought to rein in the power of the bench.