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On the Uselessness of Bioethics

Of all the useless ‘disciplines’ that have come along in recent years one of the more irritating is bioethics (typified perhaps best by the waste of taxpayer dollars that was George W. Bush’s fatuous “Council on Bioethics”). Writing on Reason‘s blog, here’s Ron Bailey with another example of bioethicists at work:

The Washington Post is reporting that privately funded researchers have now managed to use human eggs to produce lines of stem cells for the first time. To achieve this, the researchers installed the nuclei of skin cells in unfertilized human eggs. However, this means that the cells so produced contain three sets of chromosomes. The goal of a lot of embryonic stem cell research is to create tissues that are suitable for transplant by being genetlcally matched to specific patients. This technique does not do this, but may be a step in that direction. Of course, this new research is once again stirring ethical debate, and the Post reports one of the sillier comments:

“They have created human embryos. They are abnormal, but they are still human embryos,” said Daniel P. Sulmasy, a professor of medicine and ethics at the University of Chicago. “Anyone who is opposed to the deliberate creation and destruction of human embryos, as I am, would be opposed to this research.”

Since there is no way that these triploid “embryos” could develop into babies, one is left to wonder on which chromosome Sulmasy thinks the gene allowing for the installation of a human soul must reside?

“Bioethics” is simply someone’s opinion draped in fancy language. And it’s frequently not that well-informed. To the scrap heap with it.



  • Sam Schulman · October 7, 2011 at 2:22 am

    You miss a distinction here. Don’t you think it’s refreshing to see a “bioethicist” saying no once in a while? Most of them earn their bread by finding reasons to justify anything that occurs to a scientist with a grant, a doctor with a handsomely insured patient, or a hospital administrator with an uninsured patient. That’s the waste of money.

  • Geoff · October 7, 2011 at 10:56 am

    I have to disagree with Sam’s comment above. I almost never see a bioethicist saying yes to technology or scientific research. Usually they seem to imagine themselves playing the role of the village priest that is at the head of mob of pitchfork-and-torch-carrying.peasants storming the castle of the mad scientist in a horror movie. They always seem to be focusing on ridiculous, murky, vague “worries” about where technology is headed. Usually these worries seem to have some religious basis, but because almost all of the bioethicists are trained in philosophy, they at least recognize that directly bringing up religion is a big embarrassment in any serious discussion, so they tend to resort to a bunch of weaselly obfuscations. Just look at some of the stuff the superstitious charlatan Leon Kass that Bush put in charge of his terrible bioethics council has written if you don’t believe me.

    At least when the government is handing out grants to scientists, there is some kind of return in terms of knowledge about something real, unlike the usual government behavior: wasting money on stuff that has no possible return at all, or, even more commonly, expanding its own role as a busybody interfering with our lives for things it has decided are for our own good. Just like bioethicists want it to, incidentally.



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