RE: Medical news

From: Russell Blackford (
Date: Wed Jul 04 2001 - 19:25:30 MDT

For some reason this failed the first time I sent it. I'll try again:

Merriss quoted

> If a strong
>and seemingly reasonable message is getting out in numerous local forums,
>and in wider forums whenever one of us has the clout to be heard there,
>this must have a gradual effect in countering the anti-life-extension.

then said

These things are true. But, are there local chapters
of Extropians? Are there other orgnizations like it?
If so, do they compete too much (a house divided and
all that)? Do you have a printed newsletter (my
graphic arts background is clamoring to be heard)? Do
we have anyone pestering drug companies and the
government besides Pearson and Shaw? I truly don't
know, and am not asking just to make a point or two.

I'm not the person to answer these questions, being new to the list myself.

However, I do know that it is possible for individuals to make an
incremental difference to such political debates. Moreover, there is some
virtue to different individuals putting slightly different positions rather
than a lot of carbon-copy activism.

One line of attack is this. Democratic governments will seldom pass sweeping
new laws without some process of consultation with the public. Okay, so we
can make submissions.

Here in Australia, a parliamentary committee was set up to look at the issue
of human cloning and it called for submissions. Lobby groups, research
organisations, and many individuals made submissions. They are listed

... and many of them can be downloaded. My own submission can be found there
at the top of the list, coz I was quick to get it in and they appear to be
in date order. It is downloadable.

Now, my submission is a fairly simple one, and you may not agree with all,
or any of my analysis. However, a few points:

(1) I have considerable professional experience in writing such submissions.

(2) It is a sufficiently good model that I was later approached by one
(reputable) university asking if I minded them using it as a model in a
course where students are introduced, among other things, to what is
involved in writing submissions to government on ethical issues, etc.

(3) It seems to have had *some* impact on the minds of the committee members
in that, when I read the transcript of one of the two public hearings
conducted after submissions were received, some of the questions being asked
suggest that my analysis was at least being absorbed.

None of this means it's a perfect submission or that it will ultimately have
any significant impact in itself. The relevant government committee has now
been stalled for a long time but is expected to produce a compromise report
in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, the Australian parliament passed a crude
anti-cloning law last year - it probably has the effect of banning only
reproductive cloning and it may even fail to do that, for technical reasons
that I won't bother you with.

What I can say confidently is that it is possible for individuals to make
*some* impression on the public consultation process and that I have offered
you a reasonably good formal model of how a simple submission to government
can be structured. I haven't tried to work out how the issues relating to
other forms of research bans might be analysed, and some of the issues in
this case were purely local, in that we were all reacting to a particular
Australian report. But it would not be difficult for individuals to do their
own analysis of almost any issue along similar lines.

In this process, it is better if individuals do their own analyses and final
formulations. Government officials pay scant regard to anything that looks
like multiple copies of a single, organised template. OTOH, a forum like
this certainly provides a resource for ideas and drafts.

In addition, it is possible to get out material in the print media taking a
pro-technology position. I have written a number of articles of 4000 to 6000
words on such subjects in a prominent intellectual journal here. One of
these was on life extension - in homage to Karl Popper and Virginia Postrel,
I called it "Life Extension and its Enemies". Last week, I posted some
fairly daunting material on the list, which was in answer to an anti-cloning
article I came across in _The Journal of Law and Medicine_. The material I
posted was a short extract, dealing with "human dignity", from an 8500-word
philosophical article that I wrote in reply. My latest good news is that the
Journal has now accepted this for publication. All such activities help
break down the impression of an anti-technology consensus. Damien has
managed to get material published here in places with much larger audiences
than any of these.

The moral is that if we are all doing these sorts of things (and there are
apparently over 300 of us on this list) it will have a significant overall
impact. We *do* need to sound reasonable and fairly likeable, bracketing off
issues as we go so as not to create unnecessary side issues. Of course, I
can't expect literally all 300+ of us to do all this. Not all of us have
professional writing skills; conversely, many of us doubtless have other
creative talents and skills that could be deployed against the
irrationalists and luddites. Or we may be able to persuade others with
skills and clout to be active in this cause.

I am happy to mail any of my material to any individuals who may wish to use
it as a resource, with appropriate attribution if it is quoted or relied on
in close detail.

And, all that said, I'm not suggesting that other people are on the list are
not doing these things already. Many of us are, no doubt, and if so it's not
up to me to teach you how to suck eggs. I am, however, happy to share
resources and ideas.

I'll think separately about Reason's proposals and reply to them later.



Russell Blackford


PS If anyone goes to the site I posted, have a look at Professor Julian
Savulescu's submission, number 254 on the list. I recommend this *highly* as
a resource for those interested in stem cell research etc.

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