THE KETTLE CALLING THE POT FAKE: When is Cloning not "Cloning"? When Both Sides Play Politics - With Human Lives

Dianne N. Irving
Copyright July 27, 2004
Reproduced with Permission

"When _I_ use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less." "The question is", said Alice, "whether you CAN make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all." (Through the Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll [Charles Dodgson])

There's a brave new and very interesting piece just out on how badly science has become politicized - i.e, corrupted -- over the years, especially now with the Presidential election count-down in full swing, and with politicians jumping on whatever is the most politically correct bandwagon they can find. The article is certainly refreshing in how it manages to cut right to the core of tt right to the core of this complex problem - although in almost a too folksy and chatty way, and perhaps in a particularly one-sided way as well.

While I have to agree with the author's concerns (we'll call him Kettle) about the use of waffling and fake science in the supposed cloning "bans" proposed by the Pots, if truth be told, there's enough concern to go around for both the Pots and the Kettles. Perhaps you'd like to join me in a folksy and chatty look at Kettle's political zing at the "opposition"?

Entire Article:

The Weekly Standard (on-line)

When Is Cloning not "Cloning"?
When John Kerry proposes a ban on it.
by Wesley J. Smith
07/26/2004 12:00:00 AM

article: JOHN KERRY has a well-deserved reputation for waffling and attempting to get on every side of every issue.

Comment: If by "waffling" Kettle means that one knowingly supports a fake ban on human cloning (see conclusion of article), then there is a whole lot of waffling going on - on both sides of the aisles.[[DNI]]

article: Now, he's done it again by signing up as a co-sponsor (along with Senators Orin Hatch and Dianne Feinstein) of what could be called the Human Cloning Legalization and Legitimization Act of 2003 (S. 303).

Comment: Now Kettle has done it again. The cloning "bans" being supported in his article could likewise be called "the Human Cloning Legalization and Legitimazation Acts of 2003" (e.g., HR-534 EH, HR-234 IH, HR-916 IH, and S-245 IS). I mean, let's call a Waffle a Waffle!

No legitimate scientific references for these chatty folksy ponderings are ever given, but it sure would be comforting if they did. Otherwise how are we supposed to know when a Waffler has waffled? Nope. No legitimate scientific references - just word of mouth, from Other Kettles. Group Think doesn't have to prove anything - just ponder and meditate on Other Kettles' ponderings and meditations - and then, "waffle" - all together now... Still, I want to see those references - every single one of them - from published peer-reviewed scientific textbooks in human embryology, and in accord with the international nomenclature. Where the heck are they? Where's the beef? Why should we take the word of one Waffler over another's? The legitimate scientific references - where are they?

article: The legislation isn't really called that. Such a title would be too honest, too candid. It's given name is the "Human Cloning Ban and Stem Cell Research Protection Act of 2003," the stated purpose of which, supposedly, is to "prohibit human cloning and to protect important areas of medical research, including stem cell research."

Comment: Ditto, Kettle - for "total cloning bans" H.R. 534 EH, H.R. 234 IH, H.R. 916 IH, and S. 245 IS.

article: But, S. 303 does not outlaw the act of human cloning at all. Indeed, if passed, Hatch/Feinstein/Kerry would explicitly legalize doing in humans the very cloning procedure -- somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) -- that was used to make Dolly the sheep.

Comment: Indeed, if passed, "total cloning bans" H.R. 534, H.R. 234, H.R. 916, and S. 245 would not ban anything either - not even the SCNT cloning technique that was used to make Dolly the sheep. That's called a "no-increment" Bill, and not better than no bill at all. In a nutshell, here's why:

The legal issue is that these Bills -- like most Bills -- have a set of formal definitions that they -- and later, the courts -- go by. The definitions at issue here just happen to be scientific ones. Most Bills also have an "exception" or "prohibition" section that says that those activities not specifically addressed in the Bills are not covered by the Bills. That is, they are allowed. So if an action is (a) left out of the Bill, or (b) mis-defined in the Bill, then those actions are not banned by that Bill. We're really talking legal "loopholes" here: If you want to let unethical research slip through the legislative cracks, all legislators and politicians already know that this is how it's done - on both sides of the aisles. Not new. It's called "loopholing" - all Wafflers know how to do that dance:1

(1) Loophole #1: If a Bill mis-defines that one kind of cloning that it happens to address, then the one real kind of cloning is not banned - for "therapeutic or for "reproductive" purposes. Therefore, if SCNT is mis-defined in the Bill, then the real SCNT cloning technique used to clone Dolly the sheep is still allowed - for both "therapeutic" and for "reproductive" purposes -- especially if criminal (rather than just civil) penalties are involved.

(2) Loophole #2: If a Bill only addresses one kind of cloning, it thereby allows all other kinds of cloning. SCNT is only one kind of cloning. Therefore all other kinds of cloning are allowed - for both "therapeutic" and "reproductive" purposes.

(3) Loophole #3: If one is clever enough - like all Kettles and Wafflers are - then one can also loophole by using very selective language in the "exceptions" or "prohibitions" section of the bill - like leaving out the singular form of terms, or allowing "molecules" to be cloned in ways that only the insiders know reproduce new living human embryos by genetic engineering. All kinds of loopdie-looping going on there!

Which is all to say that, in such a Bill, NO HUMAN CLONING IS BANNED, not even, I'm sad to day, in Kettle's. Repeat, no cloning is banned - for either "therapeutic" or "reproductive" purposes. We're talking legal issues here: loop-holing!

article: SCNT is the primary method for cloning mammalian life. In a nutshell, here's how it is accomplished:

Comment: Ah - here's one of Kettle's favorite waffles: "SCNT is the primary method ... ." Which is to say, Kettle, that it is not the only method - right? Isn't that a Waffle? Nor is it "the primary method". Take a look some time at PubMed, and you'll "discover" tons of other cloning methods already used and published.2 In a nutshell, here's how waffly Kettle's "science" can get:3

article: * First, the cloner removes the nucleus from an egg;

Comment: It's not an egg, Kettle! It's an oocyte. Quoting Swiss human embryologist O'Rahilly, a world-renowned stickler for accurate biological terms: "'Egg'; best confined to the hen and to cuisine; use "oocyte".4

article: * He or she then removes the nucleus from a somatic cell, say a skin cell, from the DNA donor (whether a sheep, cow, mouse, or human);

Comment: Ah, now here's where the waffling really begins! You see, in the real world the "genome" is defined by all - repeat, all - of the DNA in a cell, not just by the DNA found in the nucleus.5 Outside the nucleus, in the cell's cytoplasm, there is lots more DNA in other chromosomes to be found - e.g., in the chromosomes that make up the little mitochondria that swim around in the cell's cytoplasm doing all sorts of important jobs for the cell. Now, you say, that's just a teeny bit of DNA - not to worry -- what possible difference could such a teeny bit of DNA make? Well, tell that to the thousands of people who die and are crippled from debilitating and lethal mitochondrial diseases every year! There are even many international websites dedicated just to these multiple and lethal mitochondrial DNA diseases!6 Believe them, it matters!

No, the total amount of DNA in a cell is what defines its genome, and identifies that cell as part of that individual person's unique genetic "self". A difference in DNA - whether nuclear or cytoplasmic - would mean a different "self".

So what does this have to do with Kettle's "description" of the "science" presented here so far? Well, any biogenetically engineered "stem cells" derived from these cloned human embryos would not be "genetically virtually identical" to the donor-patient's cells - or to any "existing or previously existing" donor anywhere anytime ever. They would be genetically unique, because they would be missing the donor's mitochondrial (and other) DNA! They would have a different genome! And that means that they will cause - among other things - painful and serious rejection reactions when injected into the patients whose cells have been cloned. And don't think for a minute, Kettle, that the other Kettles don't know that too - they do!7

But the legal point is that when "SCNT" is mis-defined in the Kettle Bills, then the Bills will not ban the real SCNT cloning technique - for either "therapeutic" or for "reproductive" purposes. Loophole #1.

And by the way, what about human cells that are not "somatic" cells, but are also diploid8 (and thus can also be cloned by nuclear transfer) or totipotent9 (and thus can also be cloned by embryo-splitting, or twinning)? Oh, dear. but, let's not mention those - shhh - because they are the ones scientists - especially those in IVF research clinics -- really want to work with. Shhhh -- what the public doesn't know won't hurt them, right? [Pssst -- germ line cells, including primitive ones! Don't say I told you!]

article: * The somatic cell nucleus is next placed in the enucleated egg;

article: Ah, yes, -- just the somatic cell's nucleus is transferred - leaving behind all that genetic material - mitochondrial DNA - in the cytoplasm of what remains of the skin cell. And behold! The same type of DNA is also left behind in the scrambled egg's cytoplasm too when its nucleus is taken out!

What? That means that some of the skin cell's DNA is NOT transferred, and some of the scrambled egg's DNA is left behind! What a monumental mixed up mess that experimental scrambled egg is now. Let's take a DNA inventory: That scrambled egg now contains no scrambled egg nuclear DNA but does contain skin cell nuclear DNA. It does contain the scrambled egg's mitochondrial (and other) DNA, but doesn't contain the skin cell's mitochondrial (and other) DNA. Wow! That means that it definitely isn't "genetically virtually identical" to the skin cell of the donor - or, for that matter, to anything that ever "existed or previously existed" before!10 But isn't that how Kettle's Bills define the product of SCNT - as "virtually genetically identical" to the donor or an "existing or previously existing human being"?

And wow. That also means that the donor patient's body will reject such biogenetically engineered "stem cells" even more so when injected into them to "cure" diseases.11 No way is that stuff "self" - Kettle not withstanding, of course! Not so funny if you're the patient.

article: * The genetically modified egg (which now has a full set of chromosomes of the mammal being cloned / rather than the egg's usual one-half) would be subjected to an electric current;

Comment: Good grief. Where do they get their material from - the comic books? Probably Irving Weissman's webblog! Well, where to start?

First, the scrambled egg may now have "a full set of chromosomes", but they are surely not those "of the mammal being cloned"! Indeed, the scrambled egg just has its own mitochondrial chromosomes still there, and doesn't have those of "the mammal" - although it does now have the nuclear chromosomes from "the mammal". But then this scrambled egg has a different genome than the mammal's skin cell does. No way it is the same as "the mammal being cloned"! Maybe this a "full set of chromosomes" makes for Kettle - but it is certainly not "virtually genetically identical" to the full set of chromosomes from "the mammal being cloned" - and we all now know what that means to any potential mammals - uh, I mean patients - that will be injected with them .

And, please, this silly myth about scrambled eggs having only "half a set" of full chromosomes is really weird. I want to see those scientific references! Perhaps Kettle might consider by-passing his politically correct "buddies" and instead take a stroll down to his local library, find the real human embryology text books (or check the xerox copies I sent him), and sure enough he'll "discover" the real objective facts: The nuclei of scrambled eggs are diploid - repeat, diploid (having a full set of nuclear chromosomes) - until and unless they are fertilized by a sperm. In fact, they are never haploid (having only half the number of nuclear chromosomes)12, as Kettle suggests - unless he is really talking about pronuclei. [The use of male and female pronuclei is called "hemi-cloning"]. Is that what Kettle is really talking about? The only place where a real scrambled egg has "the usual one-half" of the number of chromosomes is in Kettle Land - or in genetic engineering labs.

article: * If the cloning "works," an embryo of the mammal being cloned comes into being "asexually" and begins embryonic division in essentially the same manner as a natural embryo. If implanted and gestated, and all goes well, it will result in the birth of a cloned piglet, lamb, or baby, as the case may be.

Comment: Well, at least Kettle admits that human beings "come into being" by both sexual (fertilization) and a-sexual (genetic engineering, including cloning) methods. But then, why is it that in other Kettle-type legislation they insist on defining all human beings as "coming into being" at fertilization/conception only? What about "coming into being" using a-sexual methods of human reproduction - like what these cloning Bills are talking about? Which do they mean? Is this just another Kettle waffle? Well - gets confusing if you're not a Waffler, doesn't it?

article: When undertaken with human biological materials, as the President's Council on Bioethics agreed unanimously, SCNT is properly called "human cloning" because the nascent life created thereby would not be a Martian or a sheep, but rather, a fully human embryo.

Comment: Like Kettle, the President's Council was a little mixed up - different "voices", etc., you know - science by consensus of non-scientists, or at least, non-human embryologists. That is clear from the confusing definitions in their "Glossary".13 I guess none of them went to the library and looked these things up either. Why, they never even had a single real genuine academically credentialed human embryologist testify before their committee - wonder why? Plenty of them around.

But the point is, that while SCNT is properly called "human cloning", so are a dozen other experimental methods called "human cloning"!14 Which is all to say that not all human cloning is SCNT. Or to put it another way, SCNT is only one of many kinds of human cloning. This is in so many textbooks and official PubMed and other scientific sites and references that one would think that it would be downright embarrassing for Kettle to keep trying to fool all the people all the time with this silly nonsense. Putting it short and sweet, as one cloning researcher does:

[Cloning is possible by nucleus transplantation and by embryo splitting. Nucleus transplantation does not result in a genetically completely identical individual because the mitochondrial DNA originates from the ovum donor. Embryo splitting may be regarded as the artificial production of a monozygotic multiplet.15 ] (emphases added)

So, if Kettle's Bills define "cloning" only in terms of the SCNT technique, then all other kinds of cloning techniques will not be "banned" by these Bills - for "therapeutic" or for "reproductive" purposes. Loophole #2.

article: Once the SCNT procedure is completed, there are no further acts of cloning. All that remains is determining what to do with the resulting cloned embryo.

Comment: I worry that these Kettles have absolutely no Imagination. Why just look at all those already-published and peer-reviewed studies in PubMed that describe "other acts of cloning" after the first one!16 If a cell is diploid - as these cloned cells are -- then they too can be cloned, and cloned, and cloned, and cloned by nuclear transfer. And if they are totipotent - as these cloned cells are - then they can also be cloned, and cloned, and cloned, by embryo-splitting (twinning).17 Indeed, these early human embryonic cells can also be cloned, and cloned, and cloned, by pronuclei transfer, parthenogenesis, mitochondrial transfer, and tons of other genetic engineering techniques already out there and published. What is Kettle talking about? Where are his references?

article: If it is to be used in research, it is generally called therapeutic cloning. If it is to be implanted and gestated to birth, it is generally called reproductive cloning. Whichever the case, the actual act of SCNT is identical. In other words, cloning is cloning is cloning: There isn't one procedure if you want to conduct research on the embryo and a different approach if you want to bring a cloned baby to birth.

Comment: Right, Kettle - but cloning, cloning, cloning is not just SCNT - assuming it is biologically accurately defined. And if the Bill doesn't specifically address all those other kinds of cloning, then none of them are banned - for either "therapeutic" or "reproductive" purposes. Thank goodness that at least Feminists get it!

article: So, how do Senators Hatch/Feinstein/Kerry get off calling their legislation a "cloning ban"? They simply redefine the term "cloning" to give it a political meaning instead of a biologically accurate one.

Comment: Awhh, Kettle, are you going to make me have to say it all again? Those Kettle Bills can't get off calling their legislations "cloning bans" either when they too simply redefine "cloning" to give it a political meaning instead of a biologically accurate one.

article: S. 303 defines the term "human cloning" to mean, "implanting or attempting to implant the product of nuclear transplantation [e.g., the cloned embryo] into a uterus or functional equivalent of a uterus." Presto-change-o: Cloning isn't SCNT anymore; it is now the act of implantation.

Comment: And the Kettle Bills define the term "human cloning" to mean just "SCNT". Worse, they mis-define even that cloning technique. Presto-change-o: Cloning is only "SCNT", and only as ridiculously mis-defined in the Kettle Bills. Thus presto-change-o, no human cloning is banned by the Kettle Bills. For either "therapeutic" or "reproductive" purposes. Get it?

In one of the Kettle Bills it's even worse - indeed, sounds eerily just like it came off of Irving Weissman's webblog:

PROHIBITION.—None of the funds made available in any Federal law may be obligated or expended to conduct or support any project of research that includes the use of human somatic cell nuclear transfer technology to produce an oocyte that is undergoing cell division toward development of a fetus.18 [H.R. 916 IH]

WHAT?? The product of SCNT is "an oocyte, that is undergoing cell division toward development of a fetus"??? The product of SCNT is now just a "cell" - a scrambled egg? How can a scrambled egg become a fetus? I'd like to see those references! Presto-change-o: the darn cloned embryo's gone, disappeared - the whole thing! Presto-change-o: Cloning isn't SCNT anymore; it is now just ‘reconstructed oocyte' research" - straight out of Irving Weissman's webblog.

article: At the same time, the legislation explicitly permits maintenance and development of the "product of somatic cell nuclear transplantation," which is renamed "an unfertilized blastocyst," for "no more than 14 days from its first cell division." Thus, rather than banning human cloning, the measure explicitly legalizes it, but pretends not to.

Comment: Wow, a whole lot of pretending going on here - the question is, which side is out-pretending which?

The Kettle Bills explicitly "permit" (that clause I told you about) the use of "nuclear transfer" - e.g., SCNT and GLCNT (oopppps! sorry, shhhh!) -- as well as "all other kinds of cloning techniques" (!) to clone "molecules of DNA, cells other than human embryos, tissues, organs, plants, or animals other than humans.'"

Hmmm - that sure sounds like a whole lot of genetic engineering (including human cloning) is going to go on. Look, Kettle -- genes are mostly composed of "molecules of DNA", and thus so are chromosomes. In fact, what is a "nucleus" but a bunch of molecules of DNA? What is a "gene" but a bunch of molecules of DNA? A male or female pronucleus is also just a bunch of molecules of DNA. And what about those molecules of DNA that they use in recombinant-DNA gene transfer, especially using germ line cells –OOPPPPPPPPS! SO SORRY! We wouldn't want the eugenicists to worry - right Kettle?

And I just don't understand why these Kettles absolutely refuse to include the singular form of the word "cells" in these "explicit permits" - you know, like the word "cell"? Ohhh, I get it - all that genetic engineering published on PubMed is done using only "a single cell" - either a sperm, a scrambled egg, or the single-cell human being called a zygote (or reconstructed oocyte!) Yes, that must be it! These "explicit permits" explicitly permit tons of human embryos to be reproduced using tons of genetic engineering techniques! Genetic engineering, you say - what's that? How brilliant! And guess what - the researchers will still be able to get patents for each and every one of their big biotech "discoveries". Loophole #3.

article: Perhaps, we shouldn't be surprised that the junior senator from Massachusetts prefers a phony human cloning ban to the real one proposed by Senators Sam Brownback and Mary Landrieu (S. 245) that would outlaw all human SCNT. After all, by supporting S. 303 and opposing S. 245, Kerry can tell the American people that he voted for a human cloning ban -- before he voted against it.

Comment: Aughggggggg! Chokkkkkkkk ... gaspppppppp .... Cheezh. I never did like sticky gooey Wafflers - no matter which side of the aisles they're on.

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. His next book, Consumer's Guide to a Brave New World, will be published in the fall.

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