Tory MP Edward Leigh thinks Britain is almost a “rogue state”. Why? Because parliament has voted in favour of medical research using human-animal hybrid embryos:
Leigh, who has tabled an amendment to the bill that would stop hybrid embryos being created for research, said that the legislation would put Britain in a league of its own in international terms.
Leigh said 21 other countries had specifically banned the creation of hybrids. “In these terms, in terms of embryology research we will almost be like a rogue state,” he said.
Leigh said that he was concerned about the government’s proposal because it would tear down the “ultimate boundary between human and animal”.
He acknowledged that people defended using hybrid embryos on the grounds that this could produce advances in medicine. But he insisted that there was “no overwhelming body of scientific evidence” proving that these advances would actually happen.
“The reason the public have been misled, cruelly in many cases, into thinking that this type of research could lead to early cures is because of exaggeration, or misleading information, or hyperbole,” he said.
If other countries — no doubt plagued by religious fundamentalists — ban this research, so much the better. It’ll mean that biotech will move from those benighted countries to Britain, thus strengthening an important industrial/scientific sector which is very important for the UK economy. And it’ll also a matter of values — it’ll show that Britain stands for rationality instead of superstitious religious nonsense.
To take Leigh’s points one by one:
- There is no “ultimate boundary between human and animal”. Humans are, biologically, just another species of animal. The only thing that makes our species different is that some members of it think we’re separate from the rest of nature. Indeed, the fact that you can produce hybrids of humans and other animal species demonstrates the basic similarity, as does the face that much useful research on human medical conditions has been done by studying other species — for example mice or chickens.
- Of course we can’t prove that medical research will lead to further advances. The whole point of scientific research is to discover stuff we don’t yet know, and we won’t know what we’ll discover until we’ve discovered it! What we can say is that in the past science has lead to great advances, not just in medicine but in other areas of practical endeavour as well. It’s entirely possible that advances in biology will lead to cheaper and more plentiful food, to cheaper and carbon-neutral fuel, to many industrial processes being more efficient, in short to enabling the whole world to live at the standard of living that the rich countries do now. The religious under-mentalist scum can opt out of that future for themselves if they wish, but they mustn’t be allowed to prevent it happening for the sane fraction of humanity too.
- “the public have been misled … into thinking that this … research could lead to early cures”. Leigh implies that it’s worthwhile to save lives from disease if we can do so in 10 years time, but not in 30 or 50 years time. But that’s bollocks. A baby or child alive today is likely to be alive a half-century from now. Shouldn’t we care what happens to that person? Of course we should.
Leigh and the religious fundamentalists who think like him are filth; in fact they are the biggest current threat to the human species. Whether they prevent life-saving scientific research, or fly planes into buildings full of people, incite their followers into religious-nationalist fervour, prevent women from living full and independent lives, or are merely puritanical killjoys banning gambling or alcohol, they exert their malign influence everywhere.